EARLY MESSIANIC BELIEVERS
Israel at the time of Messiah had already been split up. In the 8th century B.C., the Northern Kingdom (House of Ephraim) was taken captive by Assyria and scattered over the earth. In the 6th century B.C., the Southern Kingdom (House of Judah) was taken Captive by Babylon for 70 years. Some of the House of Judah (the Yahudim) returned to Jerusalem (Yahrushalayim) and rebuilt the City and Temple. These are the recognizable part of Israel, the Jews (Yahudim) of today. The Southern Kingdom consists of only 2 of the 12 tribes of Jacob: Judah and Benjamin. The other 10 tribes are scattered over the face of the earth and have been assimilated into the various cultures where they found themselves. Most of these are not even aware of their heritage. However, our Father knows exactly who they are.
What existed in Jerusalem at the time of Messiah’s first advent was primarily the House of Judah. Their religion had evolved from the simple following of Torah to a very intricate system of man-made religious laws designed by rabbis (the Pharisees) to keep the “lay people” far away from breaking the instructions of Torah. These are often referred to as “Fence Laws” because they were designed to put a fence around Torah as a safety margin. Unfortunately, they became a burden to the people. This is what Messiah was preaching against when He was here - the Pharisees and their burdensome fence laws and traditions, not Torah. He is the Living Torah!
The first members of the Body of Messiah were Jews and for the first 15 years after Messiah’s ascension, the body consisted of mostly Jews. They still practiced Torah obedience (minus the fence laws), observed the biblical “holidays” (moedim) often referred to as “The Feasts of the Lord”, the commandments (including the 4th commandment) and the dietary instructions. The early church was a sect of Judaism. They were believers in YHWH and Yahushua Messiah and were known as the Natsarim.
The “freedom in Christ” that they experienced was the release from the burden of the fence laws and the tyranny of the Pharisees. The fence laws were a heavy load and were quite difficult to remember and do. There were thousands of them. That is what Messiah was talking about when he said:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
What was he saying? He was saying that his yoke (the Torah) is not a burdensome thing, that it is easy to obey – especially with the help of the Holy Spirit (Ruach HaKodesh). Therefore, the new believers in Messiah (the Natsarim) still obeyed Torah but were relieved of the burden of the fence laws.
Keeping the Commandments
The early church continued to keep the Sabbath, go to the synagogue (house of instruction) to preach the Good News, meet together in homes, celebrate the Moadim (appointed times), observe the dietary laws to maintain good health, teach and observe the Torah. The Messiah did not come to create a new religion! The Natsarim understood that animal sacrifices were no longer necessary for the atonement for sins since Messiah had been sacrificed once and for all to take away the sins of the world. They understood what had been fulfilled and what were instructions for living a righteous life while on this earth.
Messiah’s instructions to His disciples before He was crucified were simple:
"If you love me, you will obey what I command." John 14:15
"Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” John 14:21
Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me." John 14:23-24
What was He teaching? Some Christian prosperity doctrine? Dispensationalism? Feel good sermonettes? No! He was teaching his word, the Torah. Messiah is the living Torah. It was not something difficult for the average man to understand. There were no great theological theories to consider. Just pure Torah. The Pharisees didn’t like it because they just lost control over a bunch of believers. The Roman government didn’t like it because they knew that the Natsarim had only one King – Yahushua HaMashiach (Yahushua the Messiah).
There is a great misunderstanding in Christianity regarding the demographics of “God’s chosen people.” This has come about by many devices, starting with the doctrines of some early "Church Fathers", the dictates of Constantine I, and includes Schofield and the doctrine of Dispensationalism. Those whom YHWH considered His people were the ones who believed in YHWH and were obedient to His commands. Initially, they were the genetic descendents of Jacob, son of Isaac, son of Abraham. As time went on, there were many foreigners and sojourners who joined up with them and lived among them. These foreigners and sojourners believed in YHWH and practiced a Torah obedient lifestyle consistent with their Hebrew brothers.
In the early years of the growth of the new body of Messianic believers (the Natsarim), the preaching was directed first to the Jews. They were part of Elohim’s chosen people and it was inherently easier for the Jews to understand the message since they had been raised on the Scriptures and many had been living a Torah-obedient lifestyle. There wasn’t a lot of new theology to learn, just some things to forgo – such as the fence laws, the animal sacrifice ordinances and the like. As the apostles moved outward from Jerusalem, they began to encounter the Gentiles who worshiped a pantheon of false gods. The primary religion of the day was the Babylonian sun-god worship known as Mithraism, named for Mithra the sun god, another form of Tammuz worship.
By the time of Messiah’s advent, Israel had been divided, the Northern Kingdom had been captured and scattered about the earth (the 10 lost tribes), the Southern Kingdom had been captured by Babylon and held as captives for 70 years, then returned to Jerusalem to rebuild their former life. The Rabbinical Orthodoxy (Pharisees) had already set up their dominion and had established their fence laws (Talmud). The Southern Kingdom is also called the House of Judah (Beth Yahuda). The people are called the Yahudim. An individual was a Yahudi and is still called that in some languages today. The letter “J” was not in use until around 1520 A.D. The title, “Jew” only began after that time. The title of Jew obscures the name of our Creator which is imbedded in the title of Yahudim. The written word of YHWH (the Torah, the Prophets and the other writings such as Psalms, Proverbs, etc.) were the only Scriptures known at that time. The unfortunate translation of the Hebrew word Torah into Greek as Law (nomos) gave a new nuance and meaning to it. Its true meaning is “Instructions”. They are YHWH’s gift of revelation on how to live a righteous life on this earth and enjoy the blessings of YHWH. They apply to everyone who considers himself a “child of God”. Whether you are a Jew or a Gentile believer in Messiah, the Torah is your guide and standard.
Scripture tells us that when a Gentile (non-Hebrew) becomes a believer, he is a wild olive branch grafted into the Olive Tree, a symbol for Israel.
If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not boast over those branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.” Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but be afraid. For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either. Romans 11:17-21
So, all believers in YHWH and His Messiah, Yahushua, are part of Israel. The Two House doctrine among Messianic believers suggests that the House of Judah is comprised of the “Jews” and the House of Ephraim or House of Israel is comprised of Gentile Messianic believers in Yahushua Messiah. In any case, all true believers in Messiah are grafted into the Olive Tree of Israel and are part of Israel and partakers in the promises to Israel. Deuteronomy 28 talks about the promises of blessings for obedience to Torah and the curses for disobedience.
Our Heavenly Father has graciously given us His Constitution of His Kingdom (Torah) and has also given us His Holy Spirit to enable us to live by that Constitution.
So Why Aren't We Doing It?
If you ask a typical Christian why he doesn’t live by the commandments of Yahushua, you will probably get an answer like, “What do you mean? I keep his commandments.” Oh, really? What about the 4th commandment? What about the “Feasts of the Lord”? The church has been apostate for so long that it doesn’t even know that it is apostate. It has chosen to believe the lie of Satan, and so is given over to the Strong Delusion and has reasoned away the truth with man-made doctrine. They have become really comfortable with the lies and pagan practices that characterize the Christian church today. These are lies that have been handed down by our fathers for centuries.
The Harlot of all religions, the Roman Catholic Church, marks the fork in the road where things took a turn for the worse. We need to look at the history of the church and see what took place and how we might get back on track. This process is what is known as The Restoration and is the Holy Spirit’s latest work. It was foretold by the prophets that it would take place just before the “day of the Lord”.
He [Yahushua] must remain in heaven until the time comes for Elohim to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets. Acts 3:21
Let’s continue on and see what took place long ago to throw the train off the tracks…