CM2000: 28 December, 2000
Plenary: Celebrating God at Work in the Biblical Heart of the 10/40 Window


What God is Doing
Among the Messianic Jewish People

Reuven Berger

I have been living in Israel for the past 30 years. I was born into a family of Jewish parents who were immigrants from Nazi Germany and Austria. A large part of my family was killed in the Holocaust. My brother and I were both raised as orthodox Jews. In 1967, my brother, Benjamin had a divine encounter with Jesus at a time when he had ceased to believe in God. The Lord revealed Himself to Benjamin as Yeshua (Jesus), the Holy One of Israel, and told him that we were living in the time when God was returning to Israel and was beginning to reveal Yeshua again to many Jews. On the eve of the Feast of Tabernacles 1970, Jesus also revealed Himself to me in a powerful way and the veil was removed from my heart. Some days later, God spoke directly to my heart and told me to come to the land of Israel. It was like the call of Abraham to leave all and to follow Him to the land of my fathers.

When I came to Israel in 1970, there were hardly any Jewish believers in the land. But God, at that time began to speak both to me and to my brother, who soon joined me, about the physical and spiritual restoration of Israel. In the last 30 years, the number of congregations and home groups in Israel has grown considerably. A survey that was made almost two years ago reports that there are 69 congregations and within these congregations 130 home groups and 12 independent home groups. The numbers have increased since this report was made. It is difficult to fully estimate the number of Messianic believers in the land today for not all attend congregations or house groups. An acceptable estimate would be around 7,000 believers. An average congregation is about 60 members and a larger congregation could be over 250 members.

In the mid-1970s and sporadically in the 1980s, the Messianic congregations have known a measure of persecution. This is mostly from the religious Jewish community and then only from the more radical anti-missionary groups. There have been efforts in recent years to legislate severe anti-missionary measures, but none of these proposals have actually become law.

Since the end of the First Century A.D., Jewish believers have been seen as traitors to the Jewish faith and as heretics. This was the result of the decision of the Sanhedrin of Yavneh, when it was decided that all Jews who believed in Jesus the Messiah, would be officially excommunicated from the household of Israel. This decision was confirmed by the High Court of Israel in the Esther Dorflinger case in the mid-1970s, The ruling was that Jews who believe in Jesus as the Messiah had joined themselves to a foreign religion, could no longer be considered Jews and were not entitled to return to Israel according to the Law of Return.

One needs to add as well, that historic Christian persecutions against the Jews has strengthened the sentiment among Israelis that the Christian religion is an enemy of Israel. This in part explains hostile Israeli feelings towards Messianic believers who are often seen as traitors to their people. These sentiments however, have undergone some transformation in recent years. This is because many Gentile Christians have shown to Israel another face of Jesus. These genuine believers have shown a face of mercy, repentance, love, and servanthood. A growing number of Israelis have had personal contact with believing Christians who come to serve in Israel or visit here for different Christian events. Israelis have also heard and read about Christians who have a genuine love for the People of Israel. Also, through contact with Messianic Jews who, in spite of their faith, have continued to be identified as Jews, many prejudicial and erroneous concepts have been altered. There is still a long way to go.

The Messianic Jewish Movement is the beginning of the fulfillment of the spiritual restoration of Israel. Paul said that the natural must come first and them the spiritual. Israel was chosen to be God's people and God is working with Israel first in the natural and then in the spiritual. The strength of the Messianic movement is that it is prophetic and God inspired. It is non-denominational and indigenous and has substituted many traditional Christian elements such as the Gentile calendar in favor of the cycle of Biblical feasts. The Jewishness of the Gospel and its direct relationship to Israel is becoming more clear and relevant. The weakness of the movement is the weakness of youth and a narrow scope of revelation. This, however, is changing as the local Body matures.

One cannot disconnect the Messianic movement from the testimony of the Word of God concerning Israel's physical and spiritual restoration in the end times. The return of the nation to the land has various aspects and stages. Israel returns to her land in disobedience and unbelief as a sovereign act of God (Ezekiel chapter 36) and through a process of grace and judgments, God deals with His people in the land to bring them to repentance and salvation (Hosea 5:15- 6:3, Joel 2, Isaiah 4, Ezekiel 36 & 37). God's whole dealing with His people is to take them off the foundation of rabbinical Judaism and Zionistic Humanism and bring them to the sure foundation of Messiah Jesus and New Covenant faith (Isaiah 28, 16 and Jeremiah 31:31).

The reunification of Jerusalem in 1967 fulfills the promise of Jesus in Luke 21:24 that the times of the Gentiles are being fulfilled. This does not mean that God is finished with the Gentiles. It means that Israel as God's firstborn son (Exodus 4:22) may now take his place amongst the nations, even in his unredeemed condition. It also means that redeemed, Messianic Israel may now take an appropriate place within the Church of Jesus. The prophetic, redemptive future of the nations is related directly to the salvation of Israel (Romans 11: 12 and 15). The healing of the divisions of the Church is related to the healing of the original break between the Gentile part of the Church and believing Israel, according to the pattern of Romans chapter 11 shown in Paul's symbolic use of the olive tree. The Church will never be able to fulfill her ultimate call until the original division between Jew and Gentile in Messiah is healed and the Messianic Body in Israel takes its place in a reconciliatory, prophetic and priestly ministry. It is essential that there be an incarnational expression of the mystery of the cultivated olive tree in the revelation of the "One new man" (Ephesians chapter 2). This expresses the continuity and faithfulness of the one redemptive plan of God in relation to Israel and the nations. Since Abraham, Israel is called to be God's witness people-both in her redeemed and unredeemed condition.

The future blessing of the nations is connected to the redemption of the firstborn. Israel, the "firstfruits" is a prophetic and priestly sign and promise for the remaining harvest. God will deal with Israel through judgments to bring the nations to His ultimate goal of salvation. Israel is also God's tool of redemption for the whole world in the Millennial Kingdom, when Jesus takes His throne in Jerusalem and the creation will be delivered from corruption to the liberty of the sons of God. This can only happen as the firstborn, Israel, comes into the full revelation of the only begotten Son of God. And the Lord shall be King over all the earth. In that day the Lord shall be One and His name shall be One (Zechariah 14:9).

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