Judaism Is Still in Denial … Of What & Why?
The good news about the Good News (Gospel) is that tens of millions of Gentiles and tens of thousands of Jews have accepted Messiah Jesus as their personal Savior and Lord in just the past 50 years or so.
The not-so-good news: Despite the stark reality that the Temple and the Levitical Sacrificial System ceased to exist in 70 A.D., most Jews hold on to some form of Judaism—Ultra-Orthodox, Orthodox, Conservative, Reformed, Liberal, or even secular (Jewish identity without religious overtones). Yet, there’s no workable way to circumvent the fact that Old Testament sacrifices (in and near the Tabernacle, then later the Temple) were an integral feature of the Law of Moses—required by the Lord as the Hebrew Scriptures explain in extraordinary detail.
Contemporary Judaism is still in denial that without sacrificial shedding of blood there can be no atonement for sin. Thus, redemption (of which they’re never sure of) for today’s Jews involves a variety of practices, principles, and promises that not all Rabbis agree on, i.e. those which are essential or just recommended. Such as observing Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement … a few days from now on September 19th) for sins to be forgiven and for each Jew to remain inscribed in the Book of Life. However, the Biblical Day of Atonement required animal sacrifice (as did all the other sacred festivals) plus the Scapegoat on Yom Kippur. See Eye of Prophecy article: Yom Kippur / With or Without Atonement? Posted 10-15-16.
Even more consequential: Denial that the New Covenant prophesied by Jeremiah has already come to pass; two thousand years ago, when Israel’s Messiah was crucified (shedding his blood), buried, but then arose from the dead. A once-for-all sacrifice to permanently replace the Levitical system as the ultimate avenue of atonement.
Through the ages, God’s punishment of his special possession Israel and his chosen people the Jews has been severe. For the very reason that they are his chosen people. To whom much is given, much is required. To the extent that some Jews have said (paraphrasing): “Do we have to be so chosen!” Or, in one of my favorite films (top five), Fiddler on the Roof; the main character’s playful (yet solemn) request of God. Said Tevye, the milkman:
“I know, I know. We are Your chosen people. But, once in a while, can’t you choose someone else?!”
(Scene from Fiddler on the Roof, released in 1971; Tevye–played by actor Topol–in the foreground)
So, too, were God’s bountiful blessings equally serious (generously good, sincerely special) in prospering and protecting Israel when they as a nation trusted Him to provide their needs and obeyed his commandments, all of which were fair and just.
In Leviticus Chapter 26, we find the blessings of God for obedience; but also, four phases of God’s (seven-times over) punishment of Israel for disobedience … each stage harsher than the one before. With, however, the same reason for God’s increasingly tough discipline of his people: “And if, In spite of all this, you still disobey me (verse 18); If even then you remain hostile toward me and refuse to obey me (verse 21); And if you fail to learn the lesson and continue your hostility toward me (verse 23); If in spite of all this you still refuse to listen and still remain hostile toward me” (verse 27).
The final consequence was, by far, the worst: “I will scatter you among the nations… Your land will become desolate and your cities will lie in ruins” (Leviticus 26:33).
That is precisely what happened some 600 years later when Assyria conquered and exiled Israel’s ten northern tribes; only after several prophets warned Israel to return to the Lord. Warnings that fell on deaf ears. Then 136 years later, Babylon crushed the remaining two southern tribes (Judah and Benjamin), utterly demolished Solomon’s Temple, and marched most of the survivors to Babylonia.
Nonetheless, through the prophet Jeremiah, God promised that the exiled punishment of the southern kingdom would last only 70 years, which is exactly the lapse between Judah’s deportation to Babylon and completion of the 2nd Temple in 516 B.C. In his mercy, God had given his people another chance to trust, and obey him. Which they did … sort of, intermittently and only for a few decades.
By 400 B.C., they had (as a nation … most Jews) again abandoned the Lord in heart and spirit, having become legalistic. Not sincerely loving and faithfully following the Lord; rather that of lip service through rote sacrifices based more on pagan-like superstitions and wrong suppositions (just do the sacrifices and God is obligated to protect and prosper us). See the book of Malachi. Followed by 400 years of silence until the Lord spoke to Israel once again, stirred the people’s conscience, and prepared the way for Messiah through John the Baptist.
The Jewish leaders sent priests and Temple assistants to interrogate John.
“…Are you the Prophet we are expecting?”
“Then who are you? We need an answer for those who sent us. What do you have to say about yourself?”
“John replied in the words of the prophet Isaiah: ‘I am a voice shouting in the wilderness. Clear the way for the Lord’s coming!’” (John 1:21-23).
“The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He is the one I was talking about when I said, A man is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me’” (John 1:29-30, also see Micah 5:2).
Not Once, But Twice
Then in 70 A.D. the unthinkable happened. For a second time—incredibly on the same calendar day (9th of Av) when Solomon’s Temple was demolished—the 2nd Jewish Temple was destroyed.
Once again, the Jews were evicted from the Promised Land of Israel, this time by the Romans. As they eventually realized: this dispersion would be far more austere and longer-lasting than their first exile. God’s discipline administered seven-times over continued until the Gentile domination of the Jews (which was the means of chastisement) would come to an end. Which took place in the miraculous Six-Day War of 1967; Jerusalem was liberated, and the Holy City reunited with the Holy Land of reborn Israel.
Moses wrote about this more devastating exile, as also contained in Leviticus 26. From this additional prophetic description, it’s evident that the Lord is not restricting Israel’s punishment to what would inevitably happen to them at the hands of the Assyrians and Babylonians.
“And for those of you who survive, I will demoralize you in the land of your enemies. You will live in such fear that the sound of a leaf driven by the wind will send you fleeing. You will run as though fleeing from a sword, and you will fall even when no one pursues you… You will die among the foreign nations and be devoured in the land of your enemies. Those of you who survive will waste away in your enemies’ lands because of their sins and the sins of their ancestors” (Leviticus 26:36-39).
In conclusion of this long-term punishment, the Lord states: “…At last the people will pay for their sins, for they have continually rejected my regulations and despised my decrees” (Verse 43, italics for emphasis).
From the passage and in historical hindsight, we know that this scattering among the nations was different than (in addition to) the Babylonian captivity for at least two reasons: (1) Length of time vastly longer than the 70-year Babylonian captivity. However, encoded in Leviticus 26 was the precise duration of this discipline, discernible only by realization that the seven times over (four separate phases) represented an actual measurement of time. (Please see Eye of Prophecy trilogy: Seven Times Seven to the 4th Power, followed by The Omega Generation. Posted 1-25-14 through 2-15-14).
(2) Harshness of the punishment that exceeded anything experienced during the seven decades in Babylon. During the Babylonian exile, the Jews were treated with relative kindness by their captors. The Babylonians certainly did not demoralize their Jewish captives. Nor in their captivity were they devoured by the Babylonians, i.e. deprived of property, persecuted, or randomly killed just because they were Jews, or killed at all. Nor did the Jews (other than growing older) “waste away” in Babylon.
Not so after the Diaspora inflicted by the Romans. Jews were banished to multiple countries (that part of Leviticus says, many nations as opposed to just one nation—which would be Babylon). Although some prospered, for nearly 2,000 years they collectively were mocked, bullied, harassed, oppressed, mistreated, and murdered in the aggregate millions by Muslims, Crusaders, Eastern European and Russian pogroms, Inquisitions, and the most horrendous of all—the Holocaust.
As painful as it is, God’s chosen people the Jews must ask themselves: Why did the second destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple result in a bitterer and longer (by far) punishment than the exile to Babylon? For that matter, what might the Jews have done so wrong in the first century that would result in God withdrawing his protection of them, and for so long.
Many Jewish scholars (rabbis) contend that the factional disunity among 1st century Jews is what (exclusively) caused their demise. However, that same kind of dissension existed before the Babylonian captivity. Furthermore, the Old Testament prophets are clear that it was Israel’s defiance of God and rejection of his prophets (messages) that led directly to the nation’s punishment at the hands of Babylon; not internal disunity—which was only a by-product of disobedience. It was also rejection of God’s final Prophet, greater even than Moses, that precipitated the devastating Diaspora at the hands of the Romans. This Prophet was also Israel’s final High Priest and ultimate King. He was none other than the long-awaited Messiah.
(Depicts Roman destruction of 2nd Jewish Temple & Jerusalem)
Moreover, what are the repercussions absent their Temple and the Levitical Sacrificial System? If Judaism is to be practiced properly as found in the Law of Moses, these (and other) questions need to be addressed with a great deal of uniformity among today’s Jews … which they have not.
Is There a Correlation Between Israel’s Rejection of the New Covenant & the Loss of the 2nd Temple?
The answer is Biblically and historically crystal clear: because Israel as a whole (although thousands did believe) rejected their Messiah … Jesus of Nazareth. This was even more evident after the Temple was destroyed, because they had missed or ignored Daniel’s prophecy that not only would it be razed again, but Messiah would arrive before the Temple’s demolition.
Here is an excerpt from Eye of Prophecy article: Who is Messiah? (Posted 3-29-14; also detailed in a few subsequent articles).
“After this period of sixty-two sets of seven, the Anointed One (Messiah) will be killed, appearing to have accomplished nothing, and a ruler will arise whose armies will destroy the city and the Temple….” (Daniel 9:26).
This verse is quoted mostly for the benefit of God’s chosen people, the Jews, but also for Gentile unbelievers. Even if you ignore or overlook the historical evidence of Jesus’s claims to be the Messiah (Son of God), his teachings, his miracles, and his awesome, miraculous resurrection from the dead, this prophecy in Daniel came to pass in its totality when the Roman Generals Vespasian and Titus attacked Israel and Jerusalem under the direct orders of Nero Caesar. Of equally profound significance: this passage tells us that the Messiah will be killed BEFORE Jerusalem and the Temple are destroyed. If you have any regard for historical facts whatsoever; and especially if you are a Jew that believes that the Torah … for Christians what is called the Old Testament … is the Word of the true and living God, then you must agree that Messiah, himself, arrived on the scene of history before 70 AD.
In the Eye of Prophecy trilogy: Where is the Temple? (published 11-29 through 12-13-14), a thematic premise based on God’s Law given through Moses was stated and amplified in all three articles. As follows:
No Temple, no sacrificial offerings. No sacrifices, no atonement forgiveness of sins. No forgiveness, no redemption. No redemption, no right standing with God.
Here is an excerpt from Part I of that trilogy, which prefaced that premise (in italics):
But with this article … meant to dutifully challenge (with consideration, courtesy, respect, and even reverence) the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob with a poignant but probing question: Where is the Temple?
What happened to it? How can any Jew embrace and practice Judaism without the ancient sacrifices, which is the fundamental reason the Tabernacle and then the Temple was built in the first place? Did the loss of the Temple affect the very core of the Jewish faith? If so, how and to what extent? …has God also done away with the very heart of his redemptive plan for mankind through Israel—reconciliation and salvation by the sacrificial shedding of blood?
Where is the Temple? isn’t meant to be answered by a literal location. Because we know that the Temple isn’t (anywhere). It’s gone. But why? Was there a more far-reaching purpose why God allowed the Temples to be obliterated? …Who, if anyone; or what, if anything, has replaced the Temple for two thousand years?
In short, how can the Jewish faith function without adhering to the entire Mosaic Law; which clearly was an equally balanced two-tier foundation of: (1) Obedience to God’s Word … pillars of laws, commands, decrees, regulations. (2) Sacrificial Offerings … the cornerstones of atonement by, blessing from, and relationship with God … how (else) can a Jew or anyone be reconciled to God?
The answer is found in the New Covenant; however, to this day most Jews still deny that it has arrived. Although the 9th of Av is still mourned by millions of Jews, implications over loss of the Temple are not written about or discussed much at all even among observant Jews. Both religious and secular Jews long for Messiah to come, to bring about Israel’s final redemption, yet they differ as to what that redemption is or how and why it will come about. Nor is there much interest or effort in Judaism to match up this redemption with the New Covenant announced by Jeremiah.
(Please see the second-most visited Eye of Prophecy article to date: Where is Messiah … Is He Already Here? Posted 6-25-16).
The first century Apostle Paul—a devout Jewish Pharisee whose life was dramatically changed by his personal encounter with the risen Christ—passionately wanted his people to realize that the New Covenant had arrived. Wrote Paul:
“Dear brothers and sisters, the longing of my heart and my prayer to God is for the people of Israel to be saved. I know what enthusiasm they have for God, but it is misdirected zeal. For they don’t understand God’s way of making people right with himself. Refusing to accept God’s way (the New Covenant), they cling to their own way of getting right with God by trying to keep the law (Old Covenant). For Christ has already accomplished the purpose for which the law was given. As a result, all who believe in him are made right with God” (Romans 10:1-4, parenthesis mine).
Here is an excerpt from Part III of Where is the Temple? (In italics):
The Lord fully understands the natural bent of mankind: That of trying to earn God’s favor, trying to merit salvation and eternal life by performance, by innate worth, by good works; instead of simply agreeing with God and accepting his grace … the wonderful, matchless gift of God’s own Son as a substitutionary sacrificial payment for all the wrong things we have done.
Thus, God gave the Law for two reasons: (1) as dependable as the conscience of man can sometimes be, it is not constantly adequate or endlessly reliable to unerringly distinguish right from wrong. Hence, it was necessary to establish universally objective moral and spiritual laws (summarized in the Ten Commandments) so that no one would excuse immoral behavior by saying they didn’t know it was (for example) wrong to steal. (2) To give men and women every chance possible to earn their salvation by obeying these laws perfectly. But because no one has ever kept the Law in every point, the Law ended up sentencing us to everlasting death.
How sadly ironic: the only thing earned is physical and then spiritual death (separation from God forever). “For the wages of sin is death….” (Romans 6:23a).
As asked and answered by Paul, “Why, then was the law given? It was given alongside the promise to show people their sins. But the law was designed to last only until the coming of the child who was promised….” (Galatians 3:19) Paul goes on to identify this ultimate child of promise as Messiah Jesus.
Things to Ponder
Summarily revisiting the first heading of this week’s article: Judaism Is Still in Denial … Of What & Why?
Of what? Of the overwhelming evidence that the New Covenant (of Grace)—implemented when Messiah Jesus died on the cross and arose from the dead—was providentially connected to and resulted in the subsequent destruction of the Temple, because God’s people rejected their Messiah.
Why (still in denial)? Because Judaism still clings to the Law of Moses as the ultimate means of redemption, despite the cessation of the Old Covenant sacrificial system.
Yet, we must not as many have done—particularly through the insidious Replacement Theology that falsely claims the Christian church has replaced Israel physically—ever stop longing and praying for Israel’s final redemption. Beginning with one Jewish heart at a time, culminating with the entire remnant of Israel being saved.
“Did God’s people stumble and fall beyond recovery? Of course not! They were disobedient, so God made salvation available to the Gentiles. But he wanted his own people to become jealous and claim it for themselves. Now if the Gentiles were enriched because the people of Israel turned down God’s offer of salvation, think how much greater a blessing the world will share when they finally accept it” (Romans 11:11-12).
Again, the Apostle Paul says: “For since their rejection meant that God offered salvation to the rest of the world, their acceptance will be even more wonderful. It will be life for those who were dead!” (Romans 11:15).
*Footnote: Eye of Prophecy articles that have two or more parts (published in successive weeks) are normally planned. But not all of them. Originally this week’s article was not intended to be in two parts. As the author, it’s sometimes difficult to choose between the better continuity of one article (read in its entirety) that perhaps is too long. Versus extending the topic over two (or more) articles with the undesirable possibility that only one of them will be read.
I’ve chosen the two-part option with optimistic expectation that you won’t miss next week’s article. To even more fully grasp this all-important subject of salvation to the Jew first that is so intricately linked to what they think and have done about the loss of the Jewish Temple and Old Covenant Sacrificial system of atonement. And most of all: whether they recognize that their Messiah has already come as Savior, sent by his and the Father’s great love for his people (and the whole world). And will soon return … this time as King and Judge.