These are terms most of us are familiar with as believers. Whether we fully understand the differences between them and their function is another matter. I have personally had confusion about them. This last week we celebrated the Festival of Weeks (Shavuot), the biblical holiday during which the Lord poured out His Spirit on the believers who were gathered in Jerusalem as described in the first two chapters of Acts. In this season we feel that God is calling us to seek even more to be “clothed with power from on high” as Yeshua exhorted His followers in Luke 24:49. The kingdom of God is not of persuasive words but of power (I Cor. 4:20), and to bring in the final harvest, we need the power of Spirit just as much as those who were stewards of the First Fruits harvest two-thousand years ago! Therefore, understanding the role and ministry of the Holy Spirit is essential.
Born of the Spirit – A New Creation – God’s Living Temple
Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again…no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.
Being “born again” has become a Christian catchword for a person who has accepted Yeshua as their savior. The concept comes from Yeshua’s discussion with the Pharisee Nicodemus in John 3 during which He explained that a man must be “born from above” or “born of the Spirit. When an individual accepts Yeshua’s atoning sacrifice for their sins and submits to Him as Lord, their own spirits are purified and reborn from above, and the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in the sanctified born-again spirit of the believer. This is the “new creation” that the Apostle Paul speaks about in 2 Corinthians 5:17. So what in us has become a new creation exactly? Our spirits.
“Do you not know that you yourselves are God’s temple, and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?”
Our physical bodies and souls have not yet been made a new creation, as Paul points out earlier in the chapter, stating that our mortal “bodies groan” to be clothed with immortality (2 Cor. 5:2-5). The “indwelling” of the Holy Spirit in our spirits is therefore the “seal of our salvation” (Eph. 1:13-14) and a “guarantee” for the day that death will be swallowed up by life when we are raised in glory to receive spiritual bodies (1Cor. 15:44).
Though we continue to struggle against sin in our souls and physical bodies, we do so with increasing victory, thanks to God’s grace and promise that rivers of living waters will flow from within us by the Holy Spirit (John 7:37-39) which water the “dry land” of our souls and bodies, allowing us to produce the fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). This is what Ezekiel prophesied!
And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.
The Holy Spirit dwelling within us convicts, guides, teaches, helps, encourages, imparts revelation and understanding of God and His love for us, helps us in our weakness and empowers us in the struggles of the flesh. That is amazing! But God has another special Holy Spirit gift for us, one so important that He does not want us to try to do anything for His kingdom without it.
Baptism in the Spirit – Outpouring of the Spirit
Before He ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of His Father, Yeshua told the believers to wait in Jerusalem for the gift promised by the Father:
“Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
This “baptism” or “filling” by the Spirit was something different from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit they had received as born-again believers in Yeshua. This was something that they experienced with their souls and intellect in a direct way. When the Holy Spirit came upon them during Pentecost, they received supernatural power which manifested in their physical bodies (speaking in tongues) and their souls (receiving wisdom to witness with boldness and power):
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
From that point on, the followers in Yeshua went forth proclaiming the gospel in power, signs and wonders. On the first day of receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit, Peter proclaimed the gospel in the Temple and “3,000 were added to their number that day” (Acts 2:41). After that, the numbers continued to grow. Thus began the harvest of souls—and how fitting that God commissioned it on the biblical holiday of First Fruits!
Not a One-time Thing
Many have a powerful experience when they are first baptized in the Holy Spirit, like with my wife: when she was a college student there was a call in her congregation to come forward for prayer to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit, something she had determined she would absolutely not do. But she felt like someone pushed her out of the chair, and before she knew it, she was up front receiving prayer. Her experience was powerful and she was surrounded with a strong feeling of God’s presence that stayed with her for days on end. For me and others I know, it was a much less dramatic experience, something that came during personal prayer when I was asking for the baptism in the Spirit. However, the baptism or filling with the Spirit is not a one-time event. How do we know that? Yeshua exhorts us to ask, seek and knock in order to receive more of the Holy Spirit:
“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened…If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”
-Luke 11:9-10, 13
The Apostle Paul tells us to pursue love and desire more of the gifts of the Spirit, particularly those that bless and encourage others:
Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries. But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men. He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church.
-1 Corinthians 14:1-4
The Holy Spirit is an incredible gift that God wants to give us. Can you imagine letting someone know that you have prepared a precious and wonderful gift for them, but they never ask for it? Even worse, they don’t even want it? The gift of the Spirit fills us empowers us to witness to others, fills us with the goodness of God, draws us closer to Him, and leads us to glorify Him (Eph. 5:18-19). We cannot worship God without the Spirit.
Once only for the few, now for everyone who believes
During the Old Testament period, the Holy Spirit would “fall” on or “fill” certain individuals, as was the case with the Old Testament prophets. During the time of Yeshua’s birth and life there were prophets, like Anna and Simon on whom the Holy Spirit rested (Luke 2:25), and Elisabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, was “filled” by the Holy Spirit when she saw Mary the mother of Yeshua and prophesied. However, that all changed with Pentecost when the Holy Spirit fell on all the believers in Jerusalem, just as the prophet Joel foretold when he wrote that God would pour out His Spirit on all flesh, not just a select few.
This year as we celebrated Shavuot (Pentecost) at Tiferet Yeshua, we feel God encouraging us to ask for more us His Spirit, more of the gifts, because the harvest is great and He wants to send us out “clothed with power from above” just like the first century believers who stewarded the greatest revival in history!
by Gil Afriat
“Now in the twelfth month, that is, the month of Adar, on the thirteenth day, the time came for the king’s command and his decree to be executed. On the day that the enemies of the Jews had hoped to overpower them, the opposite occurred, in that the Jews themselves overpowered those who hated them.”
The central narrative of Purim is summed up in a Hebrew phrase from the book of Esther – v’nahafoch hu – “and the opposite occured” or “it was turned upside down”. The Purim principle of V’Nahafoch Hu highlights the dramatic reversals in the story: what Israel’s enemy planned for destruction was suddenly turned into their own destrction and Israel’s salvation.
The theme of the “dramatic reversals” in the story of Esther begins with Haman and Mordechai the Jew – Haman desired praise and the king’s favor, but he was forced by the king to give it publicly to Mordechai, the Jew he despised. Haman then concocted a plan to get Mordechai sentenced to death for his faithfulness to worship only the God of Israel and had a large gallows constructed for that purpose, where, ultimately, he was hanged instead of Mordechai.
The Purim story of dramatic reversals prophetically points to the most dramatic reversal in all history. But, before we get into that, understanding the roots of the conflict will show us how deep they are and how determined God is to remove them.
The Roots of the Struggle – Mordechai and Haman
First let’s look at what the Bible says about Mordechai. Ester 2:5 describes him as “…a Jewish man from the tribe of Benjamin…son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish.” The fact that Mordechai is described as the son of Kish should make us think of another biblical character: Saul, the son of Kish:
“Now there was a Benjamite, a powerful man, whose name was Kish son of Abiel, the son of Zeror, the son of Becorath, the son of Aphiah of Benjamin. And he had a son named Saul, choice and handsome, without equal among the Israelites—a head taller than any of the people.…”
1 Sam 9:1-2
The Bible shows us that Mordechai is from the family of King Saul, either descended from the same forefather or perhaps even a direct descendant.
Now let’s look at the personal identification that the book of Esther gives of the villain, Haman. Ester 3:1 describes him as the “… son of Hammedatha, the Agagite.” This title given to Haman points us to another place in the Bible where we get more information about his background:
“Then Saul attacked the Amalekites all the way from Havilah to Shur, near the eastern border of Egypt. He captured Agag king of Amalek alive, but devoted all the others to destruction with the sword.…”
1 Samuel 15:7-8
Here we discover that Haman is a descendant of Agag king of Amalek. Saul, from whose family Mordechai is descended, and Agag king of Amakek had serious issues with each other. The prophet Samuel had sent King Saul into battle against the Amalekites, because, as 1 Samuel 15:1-3 describes, the time had come to destroy Amalek, the ancient enemy of the children of Israel.
Who is Amalek?
The Amalekites were the first nation to attack the children of Israel in the desert after their exodus from Egypt. Unprovoked, the Amalekites ruthlessly attacked the weak and the weary Israelites who were at the back of the procession. Ultimately, the children of Israel defeated Amalek in battle, but God commanded Moses to record their treacherous attack for posterity.
Israel had many enemies – so why was God so adamant about wiping out Amalek specifically? As a people, the Amalekites had most likely become completely corrupted by darkness, and for that they received God’s judgment to be wiped out entirely. In Exodus 17:16, God promised to wage war against Amalek in every generation and ultimately to wipe out the memory of Amalek from the earth. Clearly, God did not mean he would be fighting the Amalekites throughout the generations, because they no longer exist as a people. However, God uses Amalek to represent Israel’s spiritual arch-enemy: Satan. The struggle against “Amalek”, in the symbolic sense, is the ultimate battle for the hearts of mankind: God created us with a free will to choose between good and evil, to choose the ways of God or of Satan, i.e., Amalek. When God told Saul that he rejected him as king, it was because he had kept the Amalekite king Agag alive – essentially, Saul had compromised with Israel’s most deadly spiritual enemy – Satan.
Israel’s Battle against Amalek and a Picture of the Cross
A day before Israel’s battle against Amalek, Moses said to Joshua: “Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands.” The next day, when Moses stood on a hill overlooking the battle and raised his staff over his head, with Aaron and Hur holding up his arms on either side, Joshua and the Israelites succeed in overcoming Amalek. The image of Moses holding his staff over his head, shows us a very literal picture of the cross. The figure of Joshua, (Hebrew Yehoshua) who is the leader of Israel’s armies fighting Amalek, is also a picture of Yeshua, Commander of the amies of Heaven.
A Hand upon the throne of the LORD—Yad al kes Yah
Exodus 17:16 makes an interesting and somewhat puzzling statement, one that is translated in multiple ways.
“And Moses built an altar and named it The LORD Is My Banner. He said, ‘A hand upon the throne of the LORD. The LORD will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.’”
The most literal translation of the words is: “A hand upon the throne of the LORD.” While translators of the Bible have given this phrase different meanings, I see this verse as speaking of the future Messiah who would wage the ultimate war against Amalek for the hearts of mankind. Yeshua the Messiah is described as Yemin Adonai – the right hand of God. We know that the Messiah sits at the right hand of the Father’s throne –the Messiah is the Hand upon the throne of the LORD.
The battle against Amalek in the book of Esther and the Grand Reversal
Saul’s compromise with Amalek, essentially with sin, fell to his descendant, Mordechai, about six hundred years later. Mordechai was not a king with an army to fight Amalek: though just a lowly Jewish subject to the Persian king, he was humble, faithful and uncompromising. Mordechai’s battle begins when he refuses to bow to Haman:
All the royal servants at the king’s gate bowed down and paid homage to Haman, because the king had commanded that this be done for him. But Mordecai would not bow down or pay homage.
This enraged Haman so much that he came up with a scheme to destroy Mordechai and his people, building a grand gallows especially for Mordechai. Eventually, Haman is hanged on his own gallows. Haman is publicly humiliated and Mordechai is praised. The king could not nullify His own decree to kill the Jews that Haman had legislated, but he decreed a new law that gave “the Jews in every city the right to assemble and protect themselves; to destroy, kill and annihilate the armed men of any nationality or province who might attack them and their women and children, and to plunder the property of their enemies.” (Esther 8:11)
Purim’s dramatic reversal foreshadows the most dramatic reversal in history
The most dramatic reversal in history is accomplished by Yeshua on the cross: from seeming defeat by the forces of darkness with His death on the cross and descent into Sheol, Yeshua reversed it in His resurrection, overcoming death and the powers of darkness:
I was dead, and behold, now I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of Death and of Hades.
Yeshua’s earthly ministry began after he was tempted as a man and refused to bow down and pay homage to Satan. Mordechai refused to bow down and pay homage to Haman. There was a death sentence and a gallows waiting for Mordechai. Satan thought he overcame Yeshua by seeing Him crucified on the cross. But it was not Yeshua who was ultimately put to death there on the cross: sin, Satan’s power, was put to death on the cross.
…having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
Haman had to make a public spectacle of himself by leading his hated enemy, Mordechai, through the streets on the king’s horse, wearing the king’s robe and proclaiming, ‘This is what is done for the man the king delights to honor!’” (Es. 6:9). After Haman is hanged on the gallows he had prepared for Mordechai, Mordechai rises to become the king’s chief advisor. After Satan is defeated on the cross that he thought would defeat Yeshua, Yeshua rises to be above all power and principality and sits to the right hand of the throne of God the Father. That is the most dramatic reversal in all human history. The story of Esther and the “dramatic reversals” in it encourage us and point to the ultimate reversal that the Messiah would bring about on the cross.
Though we are saved – the battle continues!
In the Spirit, the “Nahafoch hu” was completed for us when our spirits were born again, made holy, and we are seated in heavenly places with Yeshua above every power and principality of darkness. But in the realm of our souls and our bodies, the situation is different – there we are still engaged in a process to battle against our spiritual enemy to attain that “great reversal” in ourselves, another way of describing the process of sacntification and victory over the enemy. Just like the Jews in Esther were empowered and backed up by the king to “destroy, kill and annihilate” their enemies, we have been empowered by the High King of heaven to battle our ancient enemy in our hearts and minds unto victory!
For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
2 Corinthians 10:3-5
by Gil Afriat
Watching the main Israeli news coverage of Russia’s attack on Ukraine, I was struck by how vastly different the Israeli perspectives are from the West’s. The most startling fact is that the vast majority of Israeli experts have reached a sobering consensus on Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine: it represents a dramatic change in world order. Furthermore, such a new world order, they contend, places Israel in a precarious position.
The West Thumbs its Nose at Russia
The battle for Ukraine is not actually about Ukraine: it is a power struggle between Russia and the West. For years Putin has been trying to get the West to pay attention to him and respect him. In response, the West has largely written him off as a backwards autocratic dictator who suppresses the press, imprisons or kills off political opponents and stifles personal freedoms (all of which is true). At the same time, through the enlargement of NATO, the West has been expanding into Russia’s zone of influence which Russia calls a provocation. Ukraine, a country bordering Russia that wants to free itself from Russian tentacles, has been seeking NATO membership which would guarantee Ukraine military protection by the West should they be attacked by a non-NATO state. For Russia, it would mean the deployment of NATO long-range missile systems at their back door.
In 2021, Putin asked US President Biden for legal promises that Ukraine would not become a NATO member. Biden refused Putin’s request, and NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg boldly declared in response that:
“Russia has no right to establish a sphere of influence.” (AXIOS, 01Dec21)
To Putin, a proud man dedicated to Russia’s dignity and securing his country’s strategic interests and resources, those were fighting words. The ones who would pay the price would be the Ukrainians.
What works: Military Action or Economic Sanctions?
Europe is unwilling to enter large-scale military conflicts. The US has become war-adverse because they still have the bad taste of costly military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq in their mouths which, to a large extent, ended badly. Instead, the West believes in the “soft power” of economic persuasion.
Russia, on the other hand, has been steadily building up and modernizing its army and is willing to use it to achieve diplomatic ends because it knows that no country in the West will try to intervene militarily. According to economic experts, sanctions, even the toughest ones, can take years to have any real effect. According to Alistair Milne, professor of economics and Swift system expert:
“The uncomfortable fact remains that economic sanctions, if they are to be more than symbolic, necessarily impose costs on both sides and might have to be imposed for a long time. Russia has spent a decade preparing for the current war and any consequent economic sanctions.” (The Conversation, 28Feb22)
This week, a leading political analyst in the US called Putin “irrational, isolated and not connected to reality”. On the other hand, Israeli analysts are calling Putin one of the smartest and most savvy leaders in the world. The difference in the assessment is stunning. So, which one is true?
The Potential New World Order
With one voice Israeli analysts are saying the same thing: Russia’s military aggression is signaling a new world order. The Russians, along with other nations, have had their eyes on the Western-led world order and see that its leader, the US, is becoming more isolationist and has been weakened by deep internal conflicts largely led by progressive liberal agendas. According to Dr. Uzi Rabi, Director of the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, the US has been pulling back from robust international engagement for the last ten years, and, in the absence of American power, Russia and China have been gathering strength. Top Israeli political analysts agree that the new global power dynamic that is emerging is bad news for the world: who are the members of the new global power club? Russia, China and Iran.
Russia’s Army on Israel’s Northern Border
“…the Russians are our neighbors to the north, and it is important that we manage the delicate and complex situation there smoothly…”
-Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennet, Oct. 20212
Every month or so, I hear the roar of Israeli fighter jets over my home in central Israel, and I know that the next day I will most likely see in the news that Iranian arms convoys or other Iranian military installations in Syria have been bombed. What many people are not aware of is that back in 2015, Russia intervened militarily to save its old cold war ally, Assad in Syria, which it achieved with great success. Since then, Russia controls the Syrian airspace and maintains a strong military presence in Syria. In the meantime, Russia does not want to allow Iran to overrun Syria as it once did, and here its strategic interests dovetail with Israel’s: keeping Iran at bay. Israel has been maintaining a very delicate and important cooperation with the Russians in Syria which allows Israel to keep Iran’s military ambitions in check through targeted airstrikes.
If Russia comes out of its military campaign in Ukraine mostly unscathed, it will most likely start flexing its muscles more in the Middle East. While Israel’s sympathies and identity is with the West, it also has a very complex and nuanced strategic relationship with Russia. Because of this tectonic shift in the world order, Israel will have to find the right formula to be able to walk between its sympathies for the West and its ideals and Russia’s growing power and influence in the region.
We see this as continued birth pangs, and our prayer is the God’s perfect will be done to prepare all believers to stand firm during these times of shaking and to be light in darkness!
by Tamar Afriat
by Gil Afriat
The Festival of Tabernacles (Sukkot) is unique among the biblical holidays in that God commands us three times to be joyful before Him during this holiday.
Two times in Deuteronomy 16:13-15:
“You shall observe the Feast of Tabernacles seven days… And you shall rejoice in your feast…Lord your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, so that you surely rejoice.
And also in Leviticus 23:33-40:
…and you shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of beautiful trees, branches of palm trees, the boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days.
The Feast of Tabernacles is unique in its insistence that we be joyful during this holiday. We are commanded once to be joyful during the Festival of Weeks (Pentecost). What about the other biblical holidays?
Passover, the Day of Atonement and the Day of Trumpeting: Serious and Solemn
Passover and the Day of Trumpeting speak about suffering and trials, albeit suffering and tribulation through which come salvation and redemption. It is difficult to be joyful through suffering and trials, like a woman in labor; no woman is joyful when experiencing painful contractions. But when the baby is born, there is then great joy! In the same way, Passover points to the sacrifice of the Messiah, the terrible suffering of God on our behalf, to redeem us and bring us from death to life. The Day of Trumpeting (Yom Tru’ah) points to the days of tribulation in the end times before the Lord returns, to God’s judgements during that time and to Jacob’s trouble during that time from which he will be saved.
The Day of Atonement is a solemn day of “afflicting our souls” and repentance. Prophetically, it points to the period during the great tribulation called Jacob’s Trouble when the people of Israel will cry out to God for mercy in repentance and mourning and will receive a collective revelation of Yeshua the Messiah, “the One they have pierced”. (Zechariah 12:10)
The Festival of Weeks\ First Fruits (Shavuot\Bikkurim) – Joy!
The Torah (Genesis to Deuteronomy) commands us to be joyful on the biblical festival of Weeks\First Fruits which is firstly an agricultural holiday: on this holiday the first fruits of the early harvest were brought into the Holy Temple. It was on this holiday in the New Testament when the first Jewish believers were gathered in Jerusalem that the Holy Spirit fell on them, revealing to us this holiday’s prophetic meaning. So the Festival of Weeks is a joyful agricultural celebration, a celebration of the joy of the Holy Spirit and the First Fruits of the gospel which went forth unto the nations after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
Tabernacles\Ingathering (Sukkot\Aseef) – A Much Greater Joy!
Three times the Torah commands us to be joyful before the Lord on this festival. Like the Festival of Weeks, Tabernacles is an agricultural holiday called Ingathering:
“Celebrate the Festival of Harvest (Weeks) with the firstfruits of the crops you sow in your field. Celebrate the Festival of Ingathering (Sukkot) at the end of the year, when you gather in your crops from the field.” ~Exodus 23:16
If the Festival of Weeks prophetically pointed to the firstfruits of the gospel, then the Festival of Tabernacles points to the final harvest when God the Father says to the angels in heaven, “Gather the wheat into my barns!” However, this holiday is not only pointing to the great and final harvest. Tabernacles points to the greatest joy imaginable in this creation: the beginning of the Messianic Kingdom here on earth, the redemption of all creation and a return of all things to their proper place under the rule of Yeshua the Messiah here on earth.
The Thousand-Year Messianic Kingdom
Revelation 20:1-6, Isaiah 11:1-10
When Yeshua returns at the end of the great tribulation and destroys the Antichrist and all his armies, He will then rule and reign here on earth for a thousand years, together with resurrected believers who “shall be priests of God and of the Messiah, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.” (Rev. 20:6) What will this kingdom be like? The prophet Isaiah gives us a detailed picture in chapter 11 which shows the King Messiah ruling the nations in justice, wisdom and the knowledge of God. It is interesting to note how the prophet Isaiah describes the King Messiah as the “Root of Jesse”, that is, the source of the Davidic lineage as God His creator, and as “a branch…from the stump of Jesse”, that is Yeshua as a man directly descended from the Davidic lineage.
Tabernacles – The Greatest Joy Imaginable
The greatest joy that we can know is Yeshua reigning and ruling over the earth in justice, truth and love, filling the earth with peace and the knowledge of the LORD. During this thousand-year Messianic kingdom, the prophet Isaiah describes creation being restored to its proper order, in Edenic peace and innocence, with all people living how God intended: under the kingship of His Son, in justice, peace, and the knowledge of God.
This is such a great and profound joy, all nations will continue to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles in the Messiah’s kingdom:
“Then the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, the Lord Almighty, and to celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles.” ~Zechariah 14:16
But God is inviting us to participate in that joy now, ahead of time, during the Feast of Tabernacles, to look ahead with joy and anticipation to that amazing time when the Tabernacle of God will be with us here on earth. This is the greatest joy conceivable to us in this world – Yeshua the Messiah, here on earth, ruling and reigning with His cherished Bride, the redeemed believers, and seeing the earth and all its peoples filled with the knowledge of the Lord: this joy is every heart’s deep desire to return to the beauty and innocence of the Garden of Eden and man and woman’s intimate communion with God.
by Gil Afriat
The fall biblical holidays are upon us, the first of which is the Day of Trumpeting, commonly known as Rosh HaShanah. All the biblical holidays point us to Yeshua, no less this important holy day. God commands the children of Israel to observe this day this way:
“‘On the first day of the seventh month hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work. It is a day for you to sound the trumpets.” ~Numbers 29:1
“‘In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a sabbath-rest, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation.” ~Leviticus 23:24
As the bible passages describe, the Day of Trumpeting begins on the first day of the 7th month of the Hebrew calendar, not the first—meaning this day is actually not Rosh HaShanah (the New Year). The biblical New Year is in the spring on the first of the Hebrew month of Nissan. The tradition of calling The Day of Trumpeting the New Year (Rosh Hashanah) was a later unrelated rabbinic addition.
The bible describes the Day of Trumpeting (YOM TRUAH) as a holy day which is to be a day of trumpeting and a memorial of trumpeting. Beyond those descriptions, God does not give us a lot of information about this holiday.
Because this is the information we are given, let’s try to understand the meaning of “trumpeting” and “a memorial of trumpeting”
Insights into Trumpeting: Numbers 10:1-7
“The Lord said to Moses: ‘Make two trumpets of hammered silver, and use them for calling the community together and for having the camps set out.’” ~Numbers 10:1-2
This passage lays out that there are two different kinds of trumpeting:
Trumpet calls (T’KIAH) are to gather the camp together at the entrance of the Tabernacle. Trumpeting blasts (TRUAH) were to send out the camps on their way.
Another Meaning of Trumpeting (TRUAH – trumpet blasts):
“When you go into battle in your own land against an enemy who is oppressing you, sound a blast on the trumpets (TRUAH). Then you will be remembered by the Lord your God and rescued from your enemies.” ~Numbers 10:9
In this passage, God tells us that when the enemy comes against our land, we should sound the trumpet to be remembered before the LORD our God, and He will send us rescue and salvation. This brings us back to how the bible originallydescribes this holiday: Trumpeting(TRUAH ) and a memorial of trumpeting (ZIKARON TRUAH).
We know that all the biblical holidays point to the Lord Yeshua. The spring biblical holidays are connected to the events surrounding His first coming.
Passover – Yeshua was sacrificed as the perfect Passover Lamb
Shavuot (Pentecost, Festival of First Fruits ) – the Holy Spirit was poured out on the first believers in Jerusalem, the first fruits.
With the clue from the passage in Numbers about sounding the trumpet when the enemy comes against our land, we can connect The Day of Trumpeting with the return of the Lord.
The Fall Holidays and the Second Coming
The fall holidays, first and foremost the Day of Trumpeting, are connected to the Lord’s second coming. The Bible informs us that in the end times the antichrist will arise to oppress all the nations and force them to worship him as God. We also know that he will gather many armies to attack Israel.
Joel 2:1-2 describes this:
Blow the trumpet in Zion;
sound the alarm on my holy hill.
Let all who live in the land tremble,
for the day of the Lord is coming.
It is close at hand—
a day of darkness and gloom,
a day of clouds and blackness.
Like dawn spreading across the mountains
a large and mighty army comes,
such as never was in ancient times
nor ever will be in ages to come.
Further on in this passage, the prophet describes the antichrist armies coming upon the Land of Israel like a burning fire. Before them, the land is like Eden, behind them, it is desolation. When this happens, the prophet tells us to blow the trumpet (shofar) in Zion, to call out to God for deliverance and salvation. A memorial of trumpeting – this is what this holiday is pointing to: trumpeting to call for deliverance and salvation from our enemies.
There’s something else that is connected to TRUAH (trumpeting) if you recall we discovered in Numbers 10: sending out the camps. What camps will begin moving in response to our trumpeting on this holiday? The camps of the host of heaven under the leadership of Yeshua, the Commander of the hosts of heaven, will begin to move on this day when the Trumpet is sounded in Zion as a cry to God for help.
The Heavenly Armies on the Move: Revelation 19:11-21
“I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war… The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations.” ~Revelation 19:11, 14-15
In Revelation 19:11-21 we see a clear picture of Yeshua leading hosts of heaven to destroy the antichrist, the kings of the earth and the armies they lead. Where will this great battle take place? In Jerusalem. The bible tells us that the Lord will descend upon the Mount of Olives to destroy the armies of the antichrist encamped against the city in Zechariah 14:
“I will gather all the nations to Jerusalem to fight against it; the city will be captured, the houses ransacked, and the women raped…Then the Lord will go out and fight against those nations, as he fights on a day of battle. 4 On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south.”
The Lord will descend upon the Mount of Olives, it will be split in two, its halves moving north and south, opening up a valley where the refugees of Jerusalem will flee, and He will destroy all the armies of the antichrist.
“Then the Lord my God will come, and all the holy ones with him.”
Notice that not only are all the armies of heaven are with the LORD Yeshua. He is also accompanied by the “holy ones”, believers who have been raptured will return together with Him to rescue Jerusalem and the people of Israel.
“The Lord will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one Lord, and his name the only name.”
That will be the day that the blessed thousand-year reign of the Messiah will begin here on earth, His kingdom of justice, truth, and peace, when all creation will surrender to the love and righteous of our Lord God and to Yeshua the Messiah. He will be enthroned on the Temple Mount and will reign over Israel and the whole earth from Jerusalem.
The Day of Trumpeting – A prophetic act until that day comes
Each year when we observe the day of trumpeting, we are prophetically calling out “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD”. As we observe the Day of Trumpeting, we are prophetically declaring that day when all the inhabitants of Jerusalem will see Yeshua coming in the clouds and cry out to Him whom they have pierced (Zechariah 12), the Son of David and the Son of God! May our hearts seek Him in this season and be sensitive to hear what the Spirit is saying to the Bride: God wants to prepare us to live in deeper levels of love and holiness, to be His witnesses now in these challenging times and in periods of greater trials and tribulations that will come upon us in the last days.
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate.”
The destruction of the Second Temple in 70 AD on the 9th of the Hebrew month of Av was a profoundly momentous historical and spiritual event which the Roman general Titus himself perhaps recognized: he reportedly refused a victory wreath, claiming that he was just the vehicle through which the Jew’s God was punishing them. Indeed, the siege of Jerusalem that led up to the destruction of the Temple was a long, drawn-out nightmare for all those trapped in the city. The proportions of their suffering are staggering and recall Yeshua’s prophetic exhortation a generation earlier to the women of Jerusalem who were mourning for Him as he bore His cross through the city:
“Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. For the time will come when you will say, ‘Blessed are the childless women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ Then “‘they will say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us!’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us!'”
The Great Jewish Revolt – The Beginning of the End
In AD 66, rival Jewish rebel groups began a revolt against the Roman occupation of Jewish lands. Some of the rebels were driven by the desire for political freedom from Rome, some were driven by messianic fervor for a full physical and spiritual redemption. When the Romans succeeded in putting down the Jewish rebellions in the north in the Galilee, the rebel groups fled south to Jerusalem where, instead of focusing on the Romans, they began fighting each other.
In the spring of 70AD, the Romans legions commanded by Titus began the siege of Jerusalem during the festival of Passover. His calculations for timing were brutal: Titus had allowed the Passover festival to continue unhindered with pilgrims streaming in from all over the country for the feast. That was the moment Titus began his siege: outside the city were four Roman legions, inside were Passover pilgrims, city inhabitants and three rebel factions vying for control with increasingly cruel violence.
A House Divided
The Jewish resistance in Jerusalem had no chance to withstand four Roman legions, and eventually they would have been overcome. However, the cruelty that the rebel zealot factions inflicted on each other increased the number of causalities and the suffering of the people way beyond what the Romans could have done on their own. The Jewish in-fighting made the Roman’s job easier, and Titus decided to let the Jews destroy themselves. His calculation proved right: at the beginning of the siege, zealot factions burned a stockpile of grain that could have lasted the city for years. This insane act quickly brought on starvation and suffering and hastened the fall of the city.
“Weep for Yourselves”
The vision of suffering and desolation that Yeshua had seen a generation before came to pass. The account of the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus describes the situation in Jerusalem at the beginning of the Roman siege: there was the constant noise of the rebel zealots fighting each other mingled together with the sound of weeping and mourning over the dead. In his book, Of the War, Josephus describes how the misery of starvation eventually changed the sound of the city:
The upper rooms were full of women and children that were dying by famine, and the lanes of the city were full of the dead bodies of the aged. The children also and the young men wandered about the market places like shadows, all swelled with the famine, and fell down dead, wheresoever their misery seized them. As for burying them, those that were sick themselves were not able to do it; and those that were hearty and well were deterred from doing it by the great multitude of those dead bodies…A deep silence also, and a kind of deadly night had seized upon the city.
Crucifixion and Desolation
One of the most startling things to imagine about the destruction of the Temple in 70AD is how Jerusalem looked toward the end of the three-month Roman siege. According to Josephus, Jerusalem was a stately, beautiful city surrounded by richly wooded hills. During the siege, the Romans had cut down all the timber on the hills for fifteen kilometers in order to use in constructing bulwarks, battering rams and also for crucifying people. Anyone caught escaping the city, whether man, woman or child, was crucified atop a great siege bank that had been built up around the city.
At one point, as many of five hundred people a day were being caught trying to escape and crucified opposite the city walls. Inside the city was death from starvation and murder. Outside the city were thousands of crucifixions. Beyond that, barren hills where all the trees had been cut down. It is a scene that calls to mind some of the most harrowing images of the holocaust.
On the 9th of the Hebrew month of Av, (4th of August), Titus’s forces breached the city walls from the north and commenced a great slaughter of those left inside. Many of the survivors fled to the Temple for protection where they met their end. According to Josephus, a river of blood flowed down the Temple stairs. Before setting fire to the Temple, the Roman legionaries made pagan sacrifices on the Temple’s holy alters. Afterwards, they took nearly 100,000 Jewish captives who were sold into slavery all across the Roman empire.
Seenat Cheenam – Baseless Hatred
Years ago, our family took a tour of the temple tunnels in Jerusalem which was led by a young orthodox guide. After detailing the destruction of the Second Temple, she added, “The Romans did not destroy the Temple. We did it with our baseless hatred.” She was echoing the consensus rabbis had reached several generations after 70 AD: the Jewish rebellion had been a bad idea, and the destruction of the Temple was not due to Roman military superiority but rather “seenat cheenam”, baseless hatred among the Jews.
After our tour of the Temple tunnels, we asked the young woman who had been our guide a pointed question: Considering the fact that the First Temple was destroyed and the people exiled for seventy years because of worshipping other gods and sacrificing their children to Molech, did it make sense to her that the zealots’ hatred for each other was cause for the destruction of the Temple and a two-thousand year exile? She did not know what to say. “Seenat Cheenam” (baseless hatred) was the reason the rabbis had given her. What other reason could there be?
If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason ’
In the Hebrew translation of this verse, Yeshua says: seenat cheenam sanuni, quoting Psalms 35 and 69. Yeshua did in fact agree with the assessment of future rabbis that “seenat cheenam” (baseless hatred) was the reason that the Temple was destroyed and the Jews exiled—but with one key difference: it was the rabbis’ “baseless hatred” of Yeshua, the Messiah of Israel, that led to the Temple’s destruction and a two-thousand-year exile. Not the hatred of rival zealot factions.
Beauty for Ashes
As we observe the solemn date of the 9th of Av, a divine date on which my nation has suffered so much, I feel the same sense of sadness and heaviness that I feel on Holocaust Remembrance Day. The holocaust of Jerusalem in 70 AD was brutal and desolating, and it marked the beginning of the end of Jewish rule in the Land and the beginning of a two-thousand year exile. In Israel today, we are living a miracle: there is Jewish rule in the Land of Israel for the first time since 70 AD. And just like during that time, there are also Jewish followers of Yeshua living in the Land today. So while there is sadness in remembering how much suffering there has been, there is joy remembering God’s faithfulness to His promises in His Word to relent from His anger, to return us to our Land, and to pour out His Spirit upon us!
by Tamar Afriat
Shavuot – Harvest, Heavenly Fire and the Great Commission
This year on the evening of May 16th begins the biblical holiday of Weeks (Shavuot in Hebrew). Shavuot is a little known but important biblical holiday which is filled with significance for all believers! By looking at the different aspects and traditions from this holiday, we get a clearer picture of God’s wonderful redemptive plan for Israel and for all the nations.
Weeks is the festival that marks the start of the wheat harvest in Israel:
“And you shall observe the Feast of Weeks, of the firstfruits of wheat harvest…” -Exodus 34:22
God commanded Israel to observe this holy day by going up to Jerusalem to bring a sheaf from their wheat harvest to the Temple:
“When you come into the land which I give to you, and reap its harvest, then you shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest.” -Leviticus 23:10
All biblical holidays have a literal and agricultural meaning for the ancient Israelites, and they also have a future symbolic\prophetic meaning. In John 4 Yeshua says to His disciples, “I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” The harvest He spoke about was the harvest of people into the kingdom of God.
Weeks is also known as the holiday that the ancient Israelites would offer the first fruits in temple before the Lord as described in Deuteronomy 26. This aspect of the holiday reminds us to always give back to God the first fruits of the abundance He has given us as a sign of thanksgiving and worship.
Today Israel’s modern agricultural communities (kibbutz) make great celebrations during the festival of Weeks with dancing, singing and special ceremonies to present the first fruits of their crops, including the babies who were born in the year before.
Giving of the Law – Mount Sinai
According to rabbinic sages, Moses received the law on Mount Sinai on the festival of Weeks which falls on the 6th of the Hebrew month Sivan. While the Bible makes no mention of the specific day on which the Ten Commandments were given to Moses, it does state that it happened in the month of Sivan.
In Hebrews 12, the Apostle Paul describes Mount Sinai burning with fire when Moses received the law, a sight which terrified the great mixed multitude gathered there and even Moses himself. Paul then points to another mountain and a new covenant, to another divine moment that is filled with joy for all nations (Hebrew 12:22-24)
Giving of the Holy Spirit – Mount Zion
According to Acts 2, the Holy Spirit was poured out on the first believers in Yeshua when they were gathered on Mount Zion in Jerusalem to celebrate the festival of Weeks:
“Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.” -Acts 2:2-3
Immediately after receiving the Holy Spirit, the Apostle Peter began proclaiming the gospel to the many Jews who were gathered for the feast of Weeks in the Temple, and a great many believed—becoming the “first fruits” of the harvest that Yeshua had declared was ripe and plentiful (John 4:32). The festival of Weeks jump-started the great commission!
Shavuot Heart Focus Today
Each year we celebrate this holiday as believers in Yeshua with thankfulness in our hearts for the gift of God’s provision and for the gift of His Holy Spirit. We also celebrate this holiday with longing for and prayers focused on the end-time out outpouring of the Holy Spirit which will lead to the completion of harvest.
by Tamar Afriat
During this last year of historic global shaking, we are pausing to reflect more during the biblical holidays because we understand this important reality: significant biblical events and holidays have an “in-time” component as well as a future, end-time prophetic component. The events described in the book of Esther and the holiday of Purim are no exception.
Purim is rich with lessons and morals to reflect upon, and this year’s Purim is imbued with added significance: exactly one year ago, Purim was the moment that the covid-19 pandemic blasted into Israel, sending the nation into a draconian lockdown. I have felt the somber significance of this date as the starting point for a very challenging year, and I have been asking God to speak to us about what He wants us to learn from this. I believe there is an important lesson here and, ultimately, a message of hope.
The 2020 Purim Effect – the holiday’s problematic side
Looking back over the past year, it is impossible to ignore the fact that Israel’s covid-19 crisis was jump-started by Purim celebrations which turned into mass infection events. At a recent press conference, Prime Minster Netanyahu went so far as to say:
“Last year Purim caused an outbreak that forced us to close the country.”
Since then, we have observed all our holidays in a subdued and even mournful way: each holiday the government ordered everyone to stay home to observe the holiday with only the nuclear family.
Ad lo yada – not knowing the difference between good and evil
Considering that Israel entered the new covid-19 reality on Purim, what could possibly be an “in time” lesson from this moment? It is important to point out the fact that Purim is the one biblical holiday that Jews, both orthodox and secular, observe in an unholy manner. Anyone who has been to a traditional Purim celebration will know that there is lots of food and alcohol, and things can get wild. In orthodox Judaism, the Purim principal of celebrating ad lo yada (until you don’t know), a statement from the Talmud, means you should get inebriated to the point that you don’t know the difference between evil Haman and righteous Mordechai.
In my younger days, I remember vodka shots served at the entrance of an orthodox synagogue in Jerusalem where we were going to hear a traditional reading of the Esther scroll. To be fair, every year rabbis try to reign in excessive Purim revelry and encourage temperance. However, with a green light from the Talmud, reckless abandon reigns even at many religious Purim parties. Purim is a high point for the party culture among secular Israelis who join the holiday revelry with raucous costume parties.
A Reflection Point
As I reflected on what God might want to tell us about the biblical timing of this pandemic with Purim, the principle of ad lo yada –being in a state of not knowing good from evil—struck me. Blindness to sin in the world should not surprise or shock us. What should disturb us is compromise with sin in our own lives. Personally (and for many others) this has been a terribly painful and confusing year, and, in reaction, my flesh has been crying out in frustration, depression, anger, confusion—just wanting to have the world back to the way it was. It has felt like a spiritual boot camp, and God has been showing me things about myself I was ignorant of or making allowances for.
As we approach the one-year Purim anniversary of when covid sent us into lockdown, I feel God in His grace lovingly reminding us to ask Him to search our hearts (Ps. 139:23-24). This year Purim’s dark side (ad lo yada) prompts us to ask ourselves challenging questions: in what ways have we been blind or made allowances for sin in ourselves? In what ways have we been in a spiritual stupor and lost sight of our basic calling to be light to a dark world? In what ways do we look just like the world? These are hard questions I have been asking myself. When it comes to questions like these, I always ask God to do the leading because He does it with love, grace and mercy. And we have the promise that He is faithful to complete the good work that He started in us. (Phil. 1:6)
2021 – Hope for a Purim Reversal (v’nahafoch hu)
One of the central themes of Purim for Jews is what we call in Hebrew v’nahafoch hu which literally means “it is turned upside down”. Purim is a story of dramatic reversals, of events being radically turned around and reordered in a moment by divine intervention, of death turned into life, of sorrow turned into joy. The book of Esther describes the Hebrew month of Adar, the last month in the biblical Hebrew calendar, this way:
…the month which was turned from sorrow to joy for them,
and from mourning to a holiday.
The fast of Esther (Ta’anit Esther), which we observe the day before Purim, highlights the holiday’s opposites and reversals – from fasting and mourning one day, to extreme joy and celebration the next. While Purim 2020 marked the beginning of Israel’s entrance into the covid-19 nightmare, we have hope that Purim 2021 will be a v’nahafoch hu moment, turning the direction of events to come out of this pandemic with the lessons that God wants us to learn and with the fruit that He wants to produce in us. As we come to the end of the biblical calendar year, we have something to look forward to: a new year and Passover, the holiday of redemption, are waiting for us right around the corner with a promise of hope and a new beginning!
by Tamar Afriat
On December 20th Israel kickstarted its COVID-19 vaccination campaign and, within two weeks, has vaccinated nearly 2 million people, making it the world leader in vaccinations per capita. Not everyone sees that as a positive statistic. In fact, we have received emails from abroad and calls from worried congregation members raising concerns about the COVID-19 vaccine, that it might even be the “mark of the beast” spoken of in the book of Revelation.
Whether the COVID-19 vaccine is safe and ethical, each person must decide for themselves by careful research and prayerful consideration. Careful research means do not take the word of social media posts just because it is not mainstream media. Check claims, sources, and the credentials of the people making them. Whether the COVID-19 vaccine is a candidate for being the mark of the beast is something we can get to the bottom fairly quickly. But, before addressing biblical information regarding the “mark of the beast”, I think we should take a look at where we are at this unprecedented moment in our lifetimes.
If you had asked me a year ago if I thought that end time events might occur during my lifetime, my answer would have been “No”. Today I’m not so sure.
We are in the midst of the greatest global crisis since World War II. The period between the end of World War II and the outbreak of COVID-19 was the longest sustained period of growth and prosperity the world has ever known. The last fifteen years in Israel, a country which has lived through cycles of war and struggle since its founding in 1948, have been its most peaceful and prosperous ever.
Without any warning, this microscopic virus appears, and suddenly the world is on its knees. In addition to the health dangers, the pandemic’s effects on us are multifold: isolation, fear, confusion, depression. Add to that mix many hours spent at home in isolation, looking for answers in the vortex of the internet and social media, and voila`: truth becomes a fluid concept and fear nourishes far-flung ideas.
BIBLICAL TRUTH vs THE INTERNET VERSION (is the COVID-19 vaccine a candidate for the mark of the beast?)
In order to have the mark of the beast (the antichrist), the beast has to be on the scene first, right? The Bible is clear on important issues, and being able to recognize the antichrist is very important. According to Revelation 13, he is a charismatic leader who will
- miraculously survive a fatal head-wound which will cause many to worship and fear him. Rev. 13:3-4
- be given “authority over every tribe, people, language and nation” 13:7
- exercise his authority for 3 1/2 years 13:5
- be boastful and blaspheme God, heaven and the host of heaven 13:6
- will be given authority to persecute and kill the people of God. 13:7
However, the beast is not the one who makes people take his mark.
The Second Beast – the false prophet
The false prophet, according to Revelation 13:11-18, is the beast’s PR man and more who:
- forces people to worship the beast
- performs miraculous signs and wonders
- gives “life” to an image of the beast and kills those who refuse to worship it
- forces all people to take the mark of the beast to be able to “buy and sell”
What will happen to those who take the mark of the beast? Revelation 14:9-11 is abundantly clear: they will be thrown into the lake of fire.
PUTTING THE FACTS TOGETHER
Considering the specific identification that the book of Revelation gives, are there any two characters on the world stage right now exerting that type of influence and power globally? Not by any stretch of the imagination. With such important issues, God would not give us information that is highly symbolic and requires extrapolation, just like prophesies of Messiah’s first coming were specific and literal.
KNOW YOUR GOD AND USE LOGIC
God created us in His image and honored us with the freedom of choice. He is the God of life, but He gives us the freedom to choose between life and death:
I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live (Deuteronomy 30:19)
God would NEVER let people choose death without their knowledge, meaning: you cannot accidentally take the mark of the beast! It will be a choice, a tough choice, but a clear choice, nonetheless. Tricking people into choosing death is what satan does. Not God.
BE ALERT & OF A SOBER MIND 1 Peter 5:8
The events of this last year have proven how quickly and utterly things can change, and what those radical changes and pressures have revealed in society and, more importantly, in the Church, is distressing. In the attempt to grapple with these challenging times, some have fallen down the rabbit hole of trying to figure out who is the wizard behind the curtain pulling the strings on the “new world order”. The Apostle Paul exhorts Timothy to “command certain people not to…devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies” because they “promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work—which is by faith.” (I Timothy 1:3-4)
One of the main “signs of the times” is the deception of believers and the great falling away. (Matthew 24:24-25) Spending more time in His Word and in His presence, being connected to a local body of believers is how to keep from being deceived, not by spending hours on end on the internet trying to figure out the next move of the kingdoms of this age.
Despite some troubling trends that have come to light in the Body of Messiah this past year, I am also filled with great hope because I know that God is showing us, in His great mercy, the things in us that hinder His love. I have also seen many believers clinging to Him and His truth more than ever, despite many challenges. God is preparing the Bride to be able to endure and be light in the darkest hour of history, to be a vessel of love, hope and mercy to a lost and dying world. And that is something to be excited about.
by Tamar Afriat
On October 26th, the Knesset Finance Committee, chaired by ultra-orthodox Knesset member, Moshe Gafni, unanimously denied our petition to receive tax exempt status as guaranteed by law for our congregation, Tiferet Yeshua in Tel Aviv. Our petition was considered along with that of a non-profit belonging to the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
For years now, we have been in the process to receive tax exempt status (article 46) so that our members who subsidize the congregation with their monthly tithes can receive tax reimbursement at end of the year. Article 46 is a right that all religious organizations in Israel and the West enjoy, whether synagogues, churches, mosques, or Buddhist temples. Tiferet Yeshua’s request went through the proper channels of the Tax Authority which granted us “proper standing” status which, according to the law, entitles us to tax exemption.
However, from the moment our article 46 petition arrived at the Finance Committee, it has been in limbo because, according to Finance Committee chair Moshe Gafni, Tiferet Yeshua will receive article 46 rights “over my dead body.” The Supreme Court and the Tax Authority have repeatedly sent our case back to the Finance Committee for re-evaluation, where it is continually denied. The reason? We are Messianic Jews. If we were willing to register our non-profit as a Christian church, no one would bat an eye. However, because we dare to continue calling ourselves Jews, since we dare to assert that we are Jewish followers of a Jewish Messiah, we are denied our rights under the law.
We were not surprised by the Finance Committee’s decision chaired by ultra-orthodox parliament member Gafni who has made it his mission to discriminate against us on religious grounds. Gafni did an excellent job in preparing the committee members to vote against us, despite the recommendation of the Tax Authority to grant us tax exempt status. The flash-point issue that unified the committee against us was the “conversion of minors”. Spurious allegations were made that we aim to “convert” minors, which is against the law in Israel. Tiferet Yeshua completely abides by the law in regard to minors and financial coercion to faith, and the committee produced no concrete evidence to the contrary.
What was surprising for us about the vote was the fact that all of the Finance Committee members, from the left to the right of the political spectrum, joined together to unanimously vote against us. The decision against us brought together extreme ultra-orthodox parties with moderate and even liberal parties from the opposition, parties which are ordinarily at odds with each other. It is particularly surprising that parliament members from the opposition voted against us, like Yair Lapid of Yesh Atid, a well-known firebrand against the ultra-orthodox religious parties.
Lapid made a special effort to come to the session in person to express his opposition to Messianic Jews. We fully expect to be labeled “dangerous missionaries” by the ultra-orthodox, but it was a bit of a shock for us to hear liberal politician Yair Lapid label us “a danger to Israeli society”. There is very little real religious persecution here in Israel, and we are thankful to be living in the only real democracy in the Middle East. However, this vote in the Finance Committee against our congregation reminds us that religious discrimination is alive and well in Israel, even beyond what we imagined.
Congregation Tiferet Yeshua is comprised of Israeli citizens to whom the State of Israel and the people of Israel are dear to their hearts, law-abiding citizens who fulfill their civic duty to the State, serve in the military and pay taxes, in contrast to the ultra-orthodox who do not serve in the army, spend their time in religious schools subsidized by the State, and are currently breaking the law en masse by flouting covid-19 restrictions. We see a reflection of spiritual hostility in this vote, and we know that our battle is first and foremost spiritual. We want to emphasize that our main goal as a congregation is to bring glory and honor to our Lord Yeshua here in Israel, which is far greater in importance to us than being granted article 46. God is sovereign and will take care of all our needs as long as we faithfully follow Him in love. We will continue to petition for our rights and would appreciate prayers for us in those efforts.
“If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.“
by Gil Afriat, Tiferet Yeshua Senior Pastor and Moti Cohen, Tiferet Yeshua Associate Pastor