The Messiah our Lord Jesus was Jewish yet in Israel for the most part His name is not welcomed, not only in Israel but also in Jewish communities around the world. To this day by and large in Jewish communities the followers of the Messiah our Lord Jesus are persecuted for the sake of His name. Did not the Messiah Himself say to His disciples who were also all Jewish; “Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil because of the Son of man” (Luke 6:22).
He also expressed His love for His own that rejected Him as their Messiah and Passover Lamb when He said “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.” (Romans 12:14). Even as He hung on the cross He said to His father in Heaven; “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34)
When Stephen was being stoned to death at the orders of the religious Jews overseen by Saul before he was saved, Stephen prayed the same prayer the Lord Jesus had prayed on the cross; “Lord Jesus receive my spirit.” Then he fell down on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he said this he fell asleep.” (Acts 7:59-60).
When you read through the gospels, the Book of Acts and the entire New Testament you find that the enemies of the New Covenant believers in the Messiah our Lord Jesus were from unsaved Jews and for the most part from the religious hierarchy and religious orthodox Jews. The common people by and large gladly heard the words of the Lord Jesus and the apostles but their minds were hijacked by the wicked and unprincipled Jewish religious leaders who would often turn the people against not only the Lord Jesus, but also against His followers.
This pattern of persecution of God’s servants from the Jewish religious leaders is found in Israel’s history where the true prophets were marginalised, imprisoned and others killed for their faithfulness to God and to His Word, and that at the hands of their fellow Jewish brethren, primarily the religious leaders, and by many spiritually backslidden apostate kings of Israel.
Last year Messianic Jewish Believers in the Lord Jesus who live in Jerusalem experienced this persecution firsthand when a group of Orthodox Jewish men entered the building where a Messianic congregation holds services. Dancing and clapping, they shouted: “Your missionaries, we will follow you everywhere you go until you are thrown out of this country! We crucified Yeshua. Yeshua is Dead.” We see this malevolence clearly in the Book of Acts when the apostles and the first century assemblies of New Covenant believers experienced this kind of persecution from the religious Jews.
Yeshua or YESHU ישו?
Today in Israel most religious Jews and even secular Jews believe that the name of Yeshua (Jesus) is a name to be cursed and refer to him as YESHU ישו (without the final “a”). Most believe that this is His name; they don’t realize that it is a derogatory acronym meaning “Yemach Shemo Vezichro,” which translates into English as “May his name and memory be obliterated.” Currently, out of the 7 million Jews in Israel, there are approximately 15,000 who follow Yeshua (Jesus), which are often described as Messianic Jews. That means that 99.8% of the Jewish people in Israel do not believe Yeshua (Jesus) is the Messiah.
Some Messianic ministries have received recognition and awards by the Israeli government for their contribution to the nation’s poor and underprivileged, and for honourably serving in the Israel Defence Forces. But not all Messianic Believers are accepted or even tolerated in their schools, workplaces, the army, various social settings, or the neighbourhoods where they live. They are sometimes targets of violent attacks, socially, verbally, and even physically. Over the years, a number of Messianic congregations and Bible bookstores have been set on fire!”
Religious people regardless of their religious persuasion all fall into the same category in that they all attempt to reach God by a works based righteousness, an endeavour that produces a form of self-righteousness that falls far short of the righteousness God requires for anyone to enter into His presence.
Salvation and the righteousness that comes from God through faith in the Messiah our Lord Jesus is a gift from God, a supernatural work from the blessed Holy Spirit that brings to birth God’s supernatural life deep down on the inside of a person when they put their trust in the Messiah our Lord Jesus to save them from the power and penalty of sin.
As it is written; “But when the kindness of God our Saviour and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not by the righteous deeds we had done, but according to His mercy, through the washing of new birth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. This is the Spirit He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus the Messiah our Saviour” (Titus 3:4-6).
And again it is written; “No one will be declared righteous in His (God’s) sight by observing the law; rather through the law we become conscious of sin. But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus the Messiah for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:20-26).
Abel: The Spirit of Righteousness
From the time of Cain and Abel onwards we see down through history even to the present day how the spirit of religion mitigates against the Spirit of God. Abel knew by the revelation of the Holy Spirit that he needed to bring to God an offering of an innocent animal and that only through the shedding of its blood could he be declared righteous in God’s sight.
Abel knew from Adam his father that only God could provide the garment of salvation and righteousness that Abel couldn’t, and by faith he was justified before God. It was not the blood of the innocent animal that took away Abel’s sin because we know from God’s Word that “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4).
Abel’s sin was atoned for by the blood of the Messiah when the Lord Jesus shed His blood upon the sacrificial altar of the cross. God could pardon sin in the Old Testament period because of the sacrifice His One and only begotten Son would make in the future, a sacrifice that would take place in time down here on earth but one that from God’s perspective spanned all of eternity (Ephesians 1:4-5) (Hebrews 10:5). The Messiah our Lord Jesus is the Passover Lamb sacrificed for our sins (1 Corinthians 5:7).
In time as we know it down here on earth, the sacrifice of the Messiah to atone for Abel’s sin was still in the future, yet Abel knew intuitively by the Spirit of God and from what Adam his father had told him that God required a substitutionary sacrifice for his sin and that innocent blood would have to be shed to atone for his sin.
Adam and Eve had sowed fig leaves to try to hide their nakedness, a type of a works based righteousness but it was not sufficient to atone for their sin. God would have to do for them what they could not do for themselves. God had clothed Adam and Eve with animal skin to hide their nakedness, a type of the garment of righteousness that comes from God. An innocent animal had to be killed to atone for Adam and Eve’s sin. Abel was aware of this fact.
Even the prophet Isaiah understood this gift of righteousness that comes from God when he wrote; “I will rejoice greatly in the LORD, my soul will exult in my God; for He has clothed me with garments of salvation and wrapped me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom wears a priestly headdress, as a bride adorns herself with her jewels” (Isaiah 61:10).
This righteousness from God has been revealed in the Messiah our Lord Jesus whose righteousness is credited to our account spiritually by God when we put our whole trust in Him to save us. We are clothed and wrapped around with His righteousness making us fit to enter God’s eternal kingdom (Romans 3:21-24) (Philippians 3:7-9). This Biblical truth annuls any works based righteousness that man seeks to produce to make himself or herself acceptable to God (Romans 1:10-18) (Psalm 14:1-3) (Isaiah 53:1-3) (Ecclesiastes 7:20).
The law is perfect and good but no one can keep it all and this is why we need the righteousness that comes from God and is received by faith in the Messiah (Romans 3: 19-24). The problem is not with God’s law but with us because we have violated it by our sin and rebellion (Romans 3:23).
So then, Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. By this faith he was put into a right standing with God, and God in eternity credited the righteousness of His Son to Abel’s account spiritually speaking (Genesis 4:4)
As we read in the Book of Hebrews; “By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous when God gave approval to his gifts. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead” (Hebrews 11:4). What Abel did still speaks to us today because it was an act that was accepted by God in eternity where the past, the present and the future do not exist as it does down here.
Time vs Eternity
In eternity there is no past, present of future but the reality is that the blood of the Messiah which would be shed in time was an eternal reality and available to Abel and for all of the Old Testament saints who would walk in the same faith that Abel had even before the time when the Word of God Himself our Lord Jesus the Messiah became flesh and tabernacled among us, and became that perfect atoning sacrifice for sin once and for all time (John 1:14) (Hebrews 1:3; 7:27;8:1; 9:11-12, 26-28; 10:10-12).
Cain: The spirit of Religion
Cain on the other hand offered up to God the fruit of his own hands, a form of his works based righteousness that sought to circumnavigate God’s eternal requirement of the shedding of an innocent animal’s blood to atone for man’s sin. The ground itself was cursed through the fall (Genesis 4:12). Cain’s offering represents a religious spirit which offers to God a works based self-righteousness which will never be acceptable to God because all have sinned and fallen short of it, forfeited heaven and true happiness, and inherited eternal hellfire from which there is no reprieve, but an eternal and conscious torment (Psalm 14:1-3; 53:1-3) (Romans 3:9-18) (Isaiah 66:24) (Revelation 14: 9-11).
Eternity is a very long time and our life in this world is like a drop in the vast ocean of eternity where time does not exist. It is like a vapour that appears for a little while, and then vanishes away (James 4:14). Cain was not spiritually reborn deep down on the inside by the Spirit of God and neither could Cain accept a substitutionary sacrifice for his sin because of his pride and sense of self-righteousness.
God wanted Cain to change his attitude but Cain would not have any of it but persisted in offering to God a works-based righteousness that did not meet God’s standard of righteousness which can only come by faith, and Abel knew this deep down on the inside, whereas Cain did not. In fact we are told in God’s Word that “Cain was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And for what reason did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil, but his brothers deeds were righteous” (1 John 3:12).
Under the Curse of the Law
And so in light of this fact it is little wonder that we see religious orthodox Jews by and large hate and persecute Jewish Messianic believers in Israel today. While the unsaved world at large hates the Messiah our Lord Jesus and those who follow Him as He said they would, that hate is compounded by those who are Jesus’ brethren in the flesh and the ones He came to save from Satan’s power and from the grip of sin and its eternal consequences in the lake of fire (Matthew 1:21). Religious Orthodox Jews who reject the Messiah and His sacrificial substitutionary death to atone for sin labour under a works based righteousness, and are still under the curse of the law.
The Curse was Broken at the Cross
However, when the Messiah died on the cross He bore that curse. As it is written; “The Messiah redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us. For it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” He redeemed us in order that the blessing promised to Abraham would come to the Gentiles in the Messiah Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit” (Galatians 3:13-14).
When any Jewish man, woman or child or a Gentile for that matter repent of their own works based righteousness, confess their sin and unbelief in the Messiah our Lord Jesus, and accept Him as the Messiah and His atoning sacrifice on their behalf, that curse over their life is broken by the Messiah’s blood applied to the altar of their heart by the Spirit of God Himself (Hebrews 9:14). They are circumcised in heart which is the mark of all who have faith in the Messiah for salvation and are fellow citizens in the Israel of God and members of God’s Household (Romans 2:28-29) (Jeremiah 31:33-34) (Ephesians 2:19).
When a Jewish person becomes a Messianic believer they do not cease to be Jewish but come into the fullness and reality of what it really means to be the seed of Abraham. They do not have to join a Gentile Church or deny their Jewish heritage! Besides salvation is of the Jews! (John 4:22). The Old Testament prophets were all Jewish, the Lord Jesus was Jewish, the apostles were Jewish and the first century assemblies of New Covenant believers were all Jewish at their very roots. The whole Bible itself is Jewish!
Spiritually grafted into Israel
Gentiles who believe in the Messiah are spiritually grafted into the Commonwealth of Israel and partake in the blessings of Abraham (Amos 9:11-12) (Acts 15:13-18) (Romans 11: 17-18) (Romans 4:11-25) (Ephesians 2:11-22). The Messiah only has one bride and one body which is the Israel of God! (Ephesians 2:14-18). There is only one flock and one shepherd (John 10:16).
Abraham, the father of faith was the spiritual father of faith for the nation of Israel because He also believed in the Messiah and rejoiced to see that day in the future when His Messiah would become a flesh and blood man. This was attested to by the Lord Jesus Himself and the religious Jews wanted to stone Him because He clearly identified Himself as the “I AM” who spoke to Moses and revealed Himself to Abraham (John 8:56-58). In John’s gospel seven times the Lord Jesus identified Himself as “I AM” making Himself God and equal with God.
Even Job, who lived before the time of Abraham had the same hope of seeing His Messiah in the flesh (Job 19:25-27). In the Old Testament period the pre-incarnate eternal Messiah revealed Himself to God’s people personally before He became a flesh and blood man. We have these accounts recorded for us in the Old Testament Spirit-breathed Word of God (2 Timothy 3:14-17).
A Great Debt Owing to Israel
Gentile New Covenant believers owe a great debt to Israel and when they come to faith in the Messiah our Lord Jesus they become the children of Abraham, however, when any Jewish person comes to faith in the Messiah for them it is life from the dead! (Romans 11:15).
Make no mistake!
God has not finished with Israel as a nation and at the very end of this age when the Messiah returns and destroys all resistance to His Messianic reign on earth He will sit on His rightful throne at Jerusalem as the King of the Jews! In that day, when the Jews still living on earth look upon Him whom they pierced, there will be tears of repentance and unbridled unspeakable joy for the Passover lamb Himself who has been sacrificed for their sin (Zechariah 12:10-13). The reconciliation and reunion Joseph had with his wayward brothers in the Book of Genesis foreshadow the ultimate reconciliation and reunion the Messiah will have with his brothers and sisters in the flesh.
Among them will be multitudes of Orthodox religious Jews who will weep uncontrollably for the one they have despised and rejected. In that day all Israel will be saved! The deliverer will come from Zion; He will turn and banish godlessness away from Jacob and affirm the New Covenant made through His atoning blood with the House of Israel and with the House of Judah when He takes away their sins forever, for God’s gifts and His call are irrevocable! (Romans 11:25-29). In that day the whole world will know that “Salvation is from the Jews!”