“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.”
When speaking of the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD on the 9th of the Hebrew month of Av, most people generally think of the physical destruction and burning of the Temple by Titus and his Roman legions. It was a profoundly momentous historical and spiritual event, which Titus himself even recognized; he reportedly refused a victory wreath, claiming that he was just the vehicle through which the Jew’s God was punishing them. Perhaps during the three-month long siege Titus had witnessed enough of the wretchedness and suffering of the people of Jerusalem to be able to celebrate it as a brilliant military victory.
Indeed, the siege of Jerusalem that led up to the destruction of the Temple was a long, drawn-out nightmare for 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 Beginning of the End
The revolt against Roman occupation of Jewish lands began in 66 AD led by rival Jewish rebel groups. Some were driven by the desire for political freedom from Rome, some by messianic fervor for a full physical and spiritual redemption. After being defeated in campaigns in the Galilee, these rebel groups fled to Jerusalem where they began fighting each other, plunging the city into chaos.
The Romans legions commanded by Titus began the siege of Jerusalem during the festival of Passover with wicked calculation: Titus had allowed the Jewish festival to continue unhindered, and the population of the city had swelled with pilgrims arriving from all over the country for the feast. Then Titus began his siege, trapping Passover pilgrims together with the city residents: outside were four Roman legions. Inside, 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. Eventually, they would have been overcome. However, the cruelty that the rebel zealot factions inflicted on each other made the lives of the people far more miserable and increased the number of causalities beyond what the Romans could have done. Plus, it made the job much easier for the Romans. In fact, Titus decided to let the Jews destroy themselves. His calculation was 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 beyond the Roman’s actions and hastened the fall of the city.
“Weep for Yourselves”
The vision of suffering and destruction that Yeshua saw a generation before came to pass. The account of the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus describes the situation at the beginning of the siege: there was constant noise, the sound of the rebel zealots fighting each other together with the sound of weeping and mourning over the dead.
Eventually, the stench of death covered the city, and the misery of starvation changed the sound of the city. It was complete quiet. In his book Of the War, Josephus writes:
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 is how Jerusalem looked toward the end of the three-month siege. According to Josephus, Jerusalem was a stately, beautiful city surrounded by richly wooded hills. During the siege, all the timber was completely cut down on the hills for fifteen kilometers 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 built up around the city.
At one point, as many of five hundred people a day were being caught trying to escape and were crucified opposite the city walls. Inside the city there was death from starvation and murder. Outside the walls surrounding the city were literally thousands of crucifixions. Beyond that, barren hills whose trees had been cut down. It is a scene that calls to mind 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 who were left inside. Many fled to the Temple for protection. According to Josephus, a river of blood flowed down the Temple stairs. Before they set fire to the Temple, the legionaries made pagan sacrifices on the holy alters. Nearly 100,000 captives were taken and sold into slavery across the Roman empire.
Seenat Cheenam – Baseless Hatred
Years ago, my husband and I were on a tour of the temple tunnels led by a young orthodox woman. After detailing the destruction of the Temple, she added, “The Romans did not destroy the Temple. We did with our baseless hatred. That’s why we were in exile for two-thousand years.”
She was echoing the understanding the rabbis had reached several generations after 70 AD: the rebellion had been a bad idea, and the destruction of the Temple was not due to Roman military superiority but due to “seenat cheenam” or baseless hatred among the Jews.
We told her that baseless hatred of the zealots fighting against each other did not make sense as the cause for such a total destruction of the Temple and for a two-thousand year exile: the first Temple was destroyed and the people exiled for only seventy years for worshipping other gods and even sacrificing their children to Molech. She did not know what to say. “Seenat Cheenam” 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, Yeshua says: seenat cheenam sanuni, quoting Psalms 35 and 69. Yeshua agrees with the assessment of future rabbis that because of “baseless hatred” 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 to the great 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 a sense of sadness and heaviness just like 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. It would not return until 1948. I find that fact overwhelming. In Israel today, we are living a miracle: Jewish rule in the Land for the first time since 70 AD. And just like during that time, there are also Jewish followers of Yeshua living in the Land, a part of the people. How can anyone not be encouraged and excited considering those facts? How can we not be filled with awe and wonder at how good and faithful our God is!
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
We find ourselves at the end of the fall holidays celebrating Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles. Sukkot crowns the biblical holiday season because it is the last biblical holiday of the Hebrew calendar year. It is one of the three pilgrimage festivals (shalosh regalim) in the Hebrew Bible:
- Passover (Pesach)
- Weeks (Shavuot in Hebrew, Pentecost in Greek)
- Tabernacles (Sukkot)
On these festivals, the Bible commands the people of Israel to go up to the Temple Jerusalem in order to worship in the Temple. During these three festivals, the people of Israel were commanded to:
- Show themselves before the Lord in the Temple
- Bring offerings
- Rejoice before the Lord
Each of the three pilgrimage festivals of Passover, Weeks and Tabernacles has a three-fold meaning:
The prophetic meaning of Passover and Weeks was fulfilled with the crucifixion and resurrection of the Messiah on Passover and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the festival of Weeks (Pentecost) which marked the beginning of preaching of the gospel of the kingdom from Jerusalem to the nations.
That leaves the feast of Sukkot, the third of the three fall feasts (Yom Teruah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot) which point to the culminating events of the end times. As the last of all the biblical holidays, Tabernacles deserves special attention. Let us delve into the special meaning of this holiday by looking at the three aspects of the pilgrimage holidays mentioned above: historical, agricultural, and prophetic
Tabernacles: Historical Aspect
“‘So beginning with the fifteenth day of the seventh month… Live in temporary shelters (sukkot) for seven days: All native-born Israelites are to live in such shelters so your descendants will know that I had the Israelites live in temporary shelters when I brought them out of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.’” (Leviticus 23: 39, 42-43)
For Jews, spending time in the sukkah we erect in our yards or apartment courtyards is supposed to remind us of the time we were completely dependent upon Him in the desert for our sustenance when we dwelled in sukkot—temporary dwellings.
The Desert Parable:
The desert is a harsh place for anyone to survive, let alone a whole nation with all its livestock. The Israelites found themselves in a situation when there were no “trappings of life” to lull them into thinking that they did not need God. If He did not provide for and protect them each day in a substantial, supernatural way, they would not survive. How easy it is for us to forget that we are completely and utterly dependent upon the goodness of God who “causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous”! Our comfortable modern lives allow us to think all that we have is by our own efforts alone.
Tabernacles Agricultural Aspect:
“Celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles for seven days after you have gathered the produce of your threshing floor and your winepress…For the Lord your God will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your joy will be complete.” (Deuteronomy 16: 13, 15)
In the agricultural calendar, it is the final harvest, the ingathering. It is the end of the harvest season when people gather in the fruit of their labor in the fields before the winter rains come, starting the cycle over again.
The Agricultural Parable
For believers the symbolism is blaringly clear: this holiday signifies the final great harvest that will take place in the context of the end times tribulation:
“I looked, and there before me was a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one like a son of man with a crown of gold on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand. Then another angel came out of the temple and called in a loud voice to him who was sitting on the cloud, “Take your sickle and reap, because the time to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.” So he who was seated on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth, and the earth was harvested.” (Revelation 14: 14-16)
Tabernacles Prophetic Aspect
Right now the Spirit of God, the Shechinah—the manifest presence of God—dwells in the redeemed whom the Apostle Paul refers to as “tents” or sukkot. (2 Corinthians 5) Prophetic scripture reveals that the Lord Yeshua is returning to dwell or tabernacle among all people at the end of the great tribulation:
“’Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion! For behold, I am coming and I will dwell in your midst,’ says the Lord. ‘Many nations shall be joined to the Lord in that day, and they shall become My people. And I will dwell in your midst. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent Me to you.’” (Zechariah 2:10-11)
Prophetic scripture describes how the Lord Yeshua will return at the culmination of the great tribulation, He will defeat the armies of the antichrist (Revelation 19), descend upon the Mount of Olives and enter into Jerusalem (Zechariah 12) at the invitation of the leaders there (Matthew 23:39), will be crowned king in Jerusalem and establish His kingdom here on earth for one-thousand years, His saints ruling and reigning together with Him. (Zechariah 14, Revelation 20)
Sukkot points to the ultimate fulfillment of the prayer Yeshua taught us, “Let Your kingdom come.”: Yeshua the Messiah Himself establishing His Kingdom here on earth, when every knee will bow and every tongue that Yeshua is Lord. The feast of Sukkot in the one feast that will continue to be of special significance in the Lord’s millennial kingdom for all the nations:
“And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.” (Zechariah 14:16)
The Bible commands us three different times to rejoice during Sukkot: it is the holiday which crowns all the biblical holidays and points to the day when our Lord Yeshua will be crowned King in Jerusalem, and His Kingdom will fill the earth. That is truly a reason to rejoice!
When lining up the end-time events described in the book of Revelation with the description of end time events in the book of Joel, it becomes clear that the first two fall feasts, the Day of Trumpeting and the Day of Atonement mirror the progression of the great and terrible day of the Lord just before His return, when the armies of the antichrist descend upon the land of Israel and surround Jerusalem.
Day of Trumpeting (Joel 2: 1-11)
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.
In the above passage of Joel, the sounding of the trumpet is an alarm to assemble the people together because a horrible and fierce enemy has invaded the land—it is the “last” Day of Trumpeting. It is also the moment that the Lord Yeshua appears in the sky with the voice of the trumpet and the those who are in the Lord are raptured:
“Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His [elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”
Day of Atonement (Joel 2:12-17 )
Blow the trumpet in Zion,
declare a holy fast,
call a sacred assembly.
Gather the people,
consecrate the assembly ~Joel 2:16-17
In this passage, the prophet Joel is calling all the people to declare a holy fast, to weep, mourn and cry out to the Lord to save them—which sounds like the Day of Atonement. While this passage clearly speaks about the Day of Atonement, it also calls for a trumpet to be blown in Zion, which makes one think that it might be referring to the Day of Trumpeting since no trumpets blown on the Day of Atonement. Well, yes and no: there are no trumpets blown on the Day of Atonement except for once every fifty years during the Jubilee year:
“‘Count off seven sabbath years—seven times seven years—so that the seven sabbath years amount to a period of forty-nine years. Then have the trumpet sounded everywhere on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement sound the trumpet throughout your land. Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you; each of you is to return to your family property and to your own clan. The fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you.'”
If the last “Day of Atonement” at the Lord’s return takes place in the Jubilee Year (which we believe it will!) it adds another powerful dimension of prophetic meaning to this “last” Day of Atonement when a trumpet will sound declaring salvation, liberation and restoration.
All Israel Will Be Saved
Joel 2 describes a fierce and mighty army attacking the Land of Israel—the great and terrible day of the Lord. The prophet Zechariah describes the same day when all the nations of the earth are gathered against Judah and Jerusalem: at that critical moment when Israel is surrounded by enemies, God tells the prophet Zechariah:
“I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son. On that day the weeping in Jerusalem will be as great as the weeping of Hadad Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. The land will mourn, each clan by itself, with their wives by themselves…”
Here Zechariah describes the moment when Paul’s Romans 11:26 prophetic declaration that all Israel shall be saved comes to pass. Israel will go through terrible tribulation and suffering, but Israel will also be the only nation in the earth that collectively accepts the Messiah and is saved. Joel 2 describes that final moment: “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
So, if the Day of Trumpeting marks the Lord’s appearing in the sky and the rapture, and the Day of Atonement marks Israel’s calling a fast and solemn assembly to weep and mourn over “the one they have pierced”, then the Feast of Tabernacles can be none other than Yeshua’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem where He will tabernacle with His people!
by Tamar Afriat
Reopening a Spiritual Well
In Judaism, prayers, blessings and corporate readings of the Word in synagogue services and holiday ceremonies are almost exclusively sung. The reason is found in the ancient traditions and commands given to Israel in the Hebrew scriptures (the Old Testament). In fact, most biblical information about worship is found in the Hebrew scriptures. When Israelis come to faith in Yeshua there is something special that happens in connection to worship: an ancient spiritual well is reopened, uniting hearts formed by cultural traditions based in biblical revelation with the Holy Spirit!
The Tabernacle of David – A Surprising Revelation
The first biblical revelation of how God wants His people to worship Him was given to King David. Even before the Holy Temple was built in Jerusalem, David had received deep insight about how to come into God’s presence: he appointed Levites to worship regularly in shifts in the tabernacle that he erected for the Ark of the Covenant. As I Chronicles 16:4, 5 describes:
And [David] appointed some of the Levites to minister before the ark of the Lord, to commemorate, to thank, and to praise the Lord God of Israel…with stringed instruments and harps…
The Levites were doing something dangerous! They were entering God’s presence—something which could kill instantaneously if not done properly (I Chronicles 13:9-10)—without the blood of atoning sacrifices. In Solomon’s Temple, only the high priest could enter God’s presence (the Holy of Holies) in a carefully prescribed manner after atoning sin sacrifices were made once a year on the Day of Atonement. So how did the David allow the Levites to enter God’s presence without atoning sacrifices? He understood that pure worship from an adoring heart is holy and allows one to enter God’s presence.
Day and Night Worship in The Holy Temple
David passed on God’s commands regarding prayer and worship to his son, Solomon who ultimately employed 4,000 full-time paid musicians and singers to worship the Lord day and night in the Temple. Why so much music and singing? It is one of the primary ways God created us to interact with Him: the Holy Spirit touches the human heart through music in a dynamic way. Even though both the Holy Temples were destroyed, Judaism retained this ancient tradition of approaching God through song in its liturgy. Jewish liturgy, however, is missing the essential ingredient which even rabbis admit departed with the destruction of the Temples: the Shekinah—the manifest presence of God through His Holy Spirit. After two-thousand years it has returned to dwell in temples not made with hands where the incense of worship is rising again from the alters of adoring hearts.
A new generation of Israelis drawing from an ancient well
Modern Israel is a young country, and the Israeli Body of Messiah is even younger. A generation ago, Messianic Jewish youth might have to travel hours to visit one of the few other families of believers in the Land. Today, there are Messianic communities in nearly every town in Israel, and there is a generation of native Israeli worshipers, filled with the Holy Spirit, who are drawing on deep spiritual wells—their Hebrew traditions and sensibilities of how to come before God and expressing the unique Israeli sound—a blend of middle eastern and western music traditions. In the last ten years, there has been explosion of new Messianic music by talented Israeli worshipers. Considering how small the believing Jewish community in Israel is, it is amazing that there are so many anointed, high caliber worshipers, like Sarah Lieberman, Shilo Ben Hod, Brigitta Vecksler, and Keren Silver, among others, who have the call of God on them to be the repairers of the fallen tabernacle of David in this ancient Land and who are bringing their unique voices and anointing to the international worship community.
Raising up the Tabernacle at Tiferet Yeshua
Ari and Shira Sorko Ram who founded congregation Tiferet Yeshua had the vision to establish anointed teams who would raise a standard of Spirit-led worship in Hebrew. The worship leaders at Tiferet Yeshua have also trained in the intercessory worship model pioneered by the International House of Prayer in Kansas City which teaches the discipline of being grounded in the Word of God and develops the confidence to follow the Spirit into prophetic worship—the spontaneous declaring of God’s Word in song. Every service, the Lord meets us and ministers to our hearts in a new way through anointed moments of prophetic worship!
by Gil Afriat
It is starting to look like the corona virus pandemic is the most significant shaking the world has seen in the past few decades, if not the most significant since the Second World War. In Israel, the infection rate is again soaring and the government is re-imposing temporary lock-downs in areas with high infection rates and rolling back restrictions it loosened only a month ago. Experts are saying this could be our reality for the foreseeable future. The economic fallout could be disastrous and long-lasting. The destabilizing effects on governments is clear to see already: which politicians and leaders will rise because of corona, which will fall?
Since it all began, I have heard different voices saying that God would never cause something like this to happen. Others have said that the corona virus is a plan of Satan. In all times, but especially in times like these, we look to the Word of God to guide and speak to us. To the question, “Who is doing the shaking?” Hebrews 12:26-27 tells us:
…but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven.” Now this, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain.
Looking to the Bible for direction, it is clear that God is doing the shaking, not the enemy. There is no instance in the Word in which Satan causes plagues to hit the earth. Quite the contrary—we see time and again in the Word that it is God who sometimes sends plagues and pestilences as a judgement on the earth:
When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
II Chronicles 7:13, 14
But if you will not listen to me and carry out all these commands, and if you reject my decrees and abhor my laws and fail to carry out all my commands and so violate my covenant, then I will do this to you: I will bring on you sudden terror, wasting diseases and fever that will destroy your sight and sap your strength.
Leviticus 26: 14-16
However, if you do not obey the Lord your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come on you and overtake you… The Lord will afflict you with the boils of Egypt and with tumors, festering sores and the itch, from which you cannot be cured.
Deuteronomy 28:15, 27
There are other instances in the Word in which God sends a plague as a judgment of sin: Numbers 17:6-15, 2 Samuel 24, 1 Samuel 5, Numbers 16: 47-50 The pages of the book of Revelation are filled with plagues sent by God as judgement.
Why would God use a plague to judge the earth? First and foremost, because of the flawed nature of the human heart: people tend to seek God more readily when they find themselves in trial and tribulation. When people are able to continue peacefully in their day to day lives of abundance and comfort without God, they may never know that they are on the fast track to destruction.
Trial and tribulation are a tool that God sometimes uses to wake people up, to cause them to seek Him. Looking at the present sufferings in that light, this pandemic can be seen expression of God’s grace and love in that He is shaking the very things that may be hindering many from seeking Him. God is more concerned about our eternal destiny with Him rather than keeping us comfortable in our temporary lives here on earth.
Is every plague a judgment from God? Not necessarily. However, an event on the scale we are currently witnessing in which every government and economy around the world has been brought to its knees, it is clear that God is doing something.
I do not want to minimize the real struggle many are experiencing right now. People are going through real and painful difficulties right now, some of which I have experienced in my own family. At Tiferet Yeshua congregation we are counseling and supporting people who have fallen into very difficult financial difficulties because of this crisis. But in all this, God is our very present help in trouble, and we can have confidence that He will carry us through if we cling to Him. We also want to partner with Him in what He is doing by praying for and witnessing to the lost, being a help to those who are in need, and cleansing our own lives from the things that hinder His love in us.
The Three-Fold Symbolism of Passover and Pentecost
By Gil Afriat
Passover is the first biblical holiday of the year: the biblical year starts on the 1st of Nissan (generally coincides with March-April) and Passover falls on 15th of Nissan. God gave us a total of seven holy days during the year—not a coincidental number at all—3 in the spring, and 4 in the fall. In biblical times, each holy day had a three-fold meaning: past, present and future. They provide a way to remember His wonders, love and grace toward us in the past, to celebrate His goodness and provision in the present, and to look forward to the holiday’s larger messianic fulfillment in the future. Let’s take a closer look at the deeper meaning of the spring holidays of Passover and The Festival of Weeks (Pentecost) which so beautifully point to the first coming of the Lord and His message of salvation.
1st day of Passover: Yeshua’s crucifixion
On the night of Passover, God visited the 10th plague on the Egyptians, killing all their first born. It was the same night that the Israelites had sacrificed a lamb at twilight and put its blood on the doorposts of their homes so that the angel of death would “pass over” them on his way through the land slaying the first born of every family. Furthermore, they had eaten this lamb along with bitter herbs and unleavened bread before being led by Moses out of Egypt and into freedom. Yeshua was crucified on Passover, and it is by His blood that we escape spiritual death—enslavement to sin— to enter into freedom led by the Spirit of God.
2nd Day of Passover: Baptism
Exodus 12 explains that after the first day of Passover, which is a holy day on which no work is done, everyone may return to their regular daylily activities for next five days (while continuing to abstain from leavened products). However, on the last day of the Passover week, God commanded Israel to observe another holy day on which no work is to be done. According to Jewish tradition, crossing of the Red Sea happened on the 7th day of Passover. Paul points out the symbolic significance of the Israelites crossing the Red Sea:
For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. ~1 Cor 10:1-2
After accepting the sacrifice of the Messiah Yeshua as atonement for sins, the believer must “pass through the sea”, that is, immerse in water which is, as 1 Peter 3: 21 says, “…not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” Water baptism is an essential step for every believer to state their surrender to Yeshua in identification with His death, burial and resurrection.
Festival of Weeks (Pentecost): Baptism of the Holy Spirit
Seven weeks after the 1st day of Passover, God commanded the people to bring the first fruits of their harvest to the temple in Jerusalem. Acts 2 tells us that it was during the Festival of Weeks that the Lord poured out the Holy Spirit on all the believers gathered in Jerrusalem to celebrate the festival. It was from that moment that the early believers began to witness in power and the gospel began to spread—the great harvest had begun.
Having been “clothed with power from on high” which the Lord prophesized in Luke 25, Peter stood in the temple and witnessed to the worshippers who were there from many nations. His message deeply convicted them and they asked him, “What shall we do?” Peter’s reply was:
Repent, be baptized…And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Repentance through His blood (1st holy day of Passover), surrendering to Him (2nd holy day of Passover) and empowerment by His Spirit (Festival of Weeks) compose the essential message of salvation which the three spring holidays so wonderfully illustrate in such a deep and meaningful way.