There is a lot of confusion concerning the Jews and the Goyim (gentiles/nations) and what the respective roles of each are in the plan of God. Even more importantly, there are questions about the community of salvation and who it consists of. Is there salvation outside the Jewish people and, if so, are it's characteristics and requirements fundamentally different than that of other nations? Has the 'Church' usurped the role of the Jew as the central player in God's historical drama, and if so, how are the two peoples to relate and what are their respective promises concerning this age and the age to come? What is God's plan for the Goyim, all those nations that are not the nation of Israel?
Even more important than this is the eternal destiny of each group. Do Jews have an advantage in securing eternal life? Do Gentiles need to become part of Israel to be ‘saved’. What about the countless millions of people who have never had the opportunity to hear about God, Israel or the Messiah? Are they condemned without opportunity and what does the answer to that question tell us about God? These are essential questions that will impact the way we live and our relationship with both God and our fellow man.
Let us begin at the beginning. When God created mankind, they were perfect and holy. Sin was not part of that world and God had perfect fellowship with Adam and Eve because they were holy, they were without sin, just as God is holy and without sin. Their disobedience resulted in their falling from that holy, perfect state. Death was the result, physical death. That is why God barred them from the Tree of Life, so they could not circumvent the sentence of death by eating from the tree and physically living forever (Gen 3:22). Death is the payment exacted from us for our sin; physical death (Rom 6:23). And after that one physical death, then comes the judgement (Heb 9:27). It is only when people read into the word death ‘eternal damnation’ that the ideas of Scripture get distorted. Qa,natos is used throughout the New Covenant Scriptures to describe physical death. The consequence of Adam and Eve’s disobedience was not instant and eternal separation from God. The Torah clearly shows positive interaction with God even after the fall. God spoke to Adam and Eve after their sin (Gen 3:9-17) and He accepted Abel’s offering (Gen 4:4) denoting fellowship with him and he spoke to Cain about his offering (Gen 4:6, 7). After the fall, these people had fellowship with God because they were righteous, even though they were no longer holy and perfect.
God’s conversation with Cain is instructive here. When His offering was not accepted, for whatever reason, he was upset, and apparently jealous of his brother since that is where he eventually directed his wrath. What did God say? “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door. It desires to have you, but you must master it.” (Gen 4:7) God expected Cain to be able to do what was right, to be able to master his desire to sin, and not to act on his jealousy and destroy his brother’s life. And if he did what was right, he would be accepted. Accepted for what? Fellowship with God. Although Adam and his descendents were not perfect (holy), because all sin and fall short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23) which is His holiness, they were accepted on the basis of their righteous behavior, what they did (Rom 2:13-16). Cain and Abel were born with a sinful nature (in a state that is less than holy or perfect), but they were not born wicked, none of us are. If we were, all the children who died before the age of accountability would be condemned. We are born with the ability to choose to be either righteous or wicked. Adam and his descendants sinned but their behavior was overwhelmingly righteous, therefore they were accepted. They fellowshipped with God and relied on His mercy, therefore they would be accepted and inherit a place in the o’lam haba, the world to come.
What was the basis for this relationship with God? It was the covenant God made with Adam and Eve after the fall in Gen 3. To Eve He said:
”I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth, in pain you shall bring forth children, Yet your desire shall be for your husband and he shall rule over you.”
and to Adam He stated:
“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it’, cursed is the ground because of you. In toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you and you shall eat of the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread, until you return to the ground, because from it you were taken, for you are dust and to dust you shall return.”
These verses and God’s previous conversations with Adam and Eve contain the basics of righteousness and God’s moral standards for the whole of the human race. The woman is to desire her husband and they are to bear children together. She is not to seek to escape this responsibility for the command of God is “be fruitful and multiply”. This creates the strong bond we have all seen between mothers and their children. She nurtures them and they grow up respecting her in an orderly family and her husband loves and respects her for her work in childbearing and child rearing. The woman is to submit to her husband’s authority and he is to use that authority the way God intended, following God’s example. He should love his wife and exercise his authority in that context, placing the highest value on her and being faithful to her. He is to work hard to provide for her and their children, and not try to escape his responsibility to do so. This creates mutual respect and a bond of love between a man, a woman and their children that will manifest itself outside the family in love and respect for our fellow human beings.
Within the family covenant God created with men and women to teach them how to live, there is no room for sexual relationships outside of the covenant for ‘the two shall be one flesh’. There is no room for the selfishness that motivates women not to have children or men not to work to provide for their families. Because we are created in the image of God, we are to follow His example in fulfilling these roles. As such, husbands will love their wives and not abuse their authority by being tyrannical nor will the wife attempt to dominate or manipulate her husband. When men and women love and respect each other in the roles God has assigned, children grow up in a loving, caring, secure environment and continue in the footsteps of their parents and fulfill the covenant God made with them.
Everyone is judged according to how well they fulfilled the terms of this covenant and will either be found in the Book of Life, or not. Everyone, past, present and future, will be judged according to what they have done. That has become one of the most important neglected and ignored truths of Scripture. Nowhere does the Scripture state that we are judged according to our profession or based on some short prayer we said or didn’t say. Both the nations of the world (Ecc 12:14, Prov 24:12, Jer 17:10, 32:19, Ps 62:12, I Kings 8:32, 39, Jude 14-16, Matt 16:27, I Pet 1:17, Rev 20:12, 13, 22:12) and those who profess to be His people (Eze 18:30, II Cor 5:10, Rev 2:23) will be judged based on what they did. If they lived righteously, their names will be found in the Book of Life. If they were wicked, their names will not be found.
Is this salvation by works? No, it is not. Judgement is based on evidence. Works are the evidence of faith (Jas 2:18). Just as judgement in a civil court is based on evidence, so is God’s. God has a standard, Torah (Scripture, specifically the five books of Moshe-Moses). There are parts of Torah that apply to everyone, as the covenant just described does and is contained within the Torah. When people do the things required of them in the Torah, whether according to conscience or according to the written Word, they are righteous in God’s sight (Rom 2:12-16). Why? Because the only reason to be righteous is the fear of God. If one does not believe in God, or believe that God has the will or power to reward or punish, what motivation is there for righteous behavior? The choice for unrighteous behavior is much easier to make because it serves our self interest. We can look out for number one, and only number one, and use and abuse others to gratify our desires and appetites. If, however, one fears God, one will desire to do what pleases Him. That person has a basic faith that will demonstrate itself in correct behavior. Those two things, faith demonstrated in works, will assure a person a place in the o’lam haba, the world to come. They will be judged righteous based on the evidence of their works, but the motive for their works is their faith and belief in God. This is faithfullness, a Jewish concept, in contrast to faith, defined as mental agreement to certain facts, which is a Hellenistic (Greek) concept.
Back to Genesis. Cain, as we know, did not master his sinful desire and murdered his brother. That moved him from the category of ‘righteous’ to that of ‘wicked’. He had done something that irreparably damaged another person’s life and that action had consequences far beyond his own life. He had committed a sin that was then worthy of eternal punishment. That is why he said that his guilt was more that he could bear (Gen 4:10-16). He would no longer be in the presence of God, his fellowship with His Creator was severed forever. Scripture gives us several lists of sins, behaviors we engage in, things we do, that disqualify us from the o’lam haba. These sins so disrupt other people’s lives that eternal consequences result. As Scripture expounds them, and in no particular order, they are as follows: Haters of God, the proud, boasters, the wicked, those who are covetous, homosexuals, liars, those who suppress the truth, the cowardly, the unbelieving, murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, the unrighteous, those who are malicious and full of envy and strife, the evil minded, those who gossip, backbiters, those who are undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful, self-seeking and disobedient to parents, those who live according to the flesh, fornicators, adulterers, drunkards, revilers, extortioners, false ministers, those who hate others, those who are unclean, jealous and contentious, those who reject authority and slander celestial beings, thieves, the ungodly, heretics, those who cause dissentions and the violent. (Rom 1:18-2:9; 8:13; I Cor 3:17, 6:9, 10; II Cor 11:14, 15; Gal 5:19-21; Eph 2:3; Jude 7, 8; Rev 21:8) Those whose lives are characterized by any of these things are condemned by their behavior, not just because they are offending God, but because the injuries they cause to other people have such far reaching effects and therefore merit eternal consequences. An individual who consistently engages in these kinds of activities obviously does not know God, nor does he care about knowing God (Rom 1:28). He is condemned by his actions and his lack of faith.
Each person has within himself the image of God and therefore a basic knowledge of good and evil. We call this a conscience. We all have the ability to follow our consciences, as did Abel, and do what is right, or ignore our conscience, as did Cain, and destroy our fellowship with God forever. We can choose to be righteous or wicked. Or we can be holy. That was, and is, still a possibility. There are individuals whose love for God and desire to serve Him breaks the power of sin in their life through the power of God’s Spirit at work in their lives and they abandon themselves totally to Him. Enoch was one, Noach was another. These men walked with God and were blameless in His sight; that is holy. (Gen 5:22-24; 6:9) They stood out among the men of their time because they were completely devoted to God and His ways. Not only did they abstain from evil, which is the mark of a righteous man, but they desired to do good, to serve both God and their fellow man, which is the mark of a holy man. Perfection is not just the negative, absence of sin, but the positive, full of goodness and righteousness. It is the Holy Ones who inherit the gift of eternal life in God’s intimate presence (Rev 20:6). The judgement has no power over them because they have already been judged and found worthy. That is why the second death cannot not apply to them, they are not part of the judgement in which one of the possibilities is the second death. This is the gift of God to those who serve Him with all their heart, mind, soul. and strength; that death would not have power over them. These distinctions between the holy, the righteous and the wicked will be very important as we continue to look at God’s design for the history of the world.
After the time of the flood, we see God’s plan unfolding for all the peoples of the world descended from the sons of Noach. The first appearance of the Goyim were at the Tower of Babel where God originally separated the one people that was then on the earth into separate Goyim (Gen 10:5). This was not just something God did on a whim or in response to the unforeseen circumstance of man's cooperation at the Tower of Babel. God created the Goyim, He gives them their inheritance and sets their boundaries (Deut 32:8). God watches over all the Goyim (Ps 66:7) and has a plan determined for the whole world, for all Goyim (Isa 14:26). It is important that we realize the context and the time frame of this particular move of God. This was before God called Avraham and established the Goy of Israel (which we will discuss later). God has a purpose and a plan for all the Goyim and salvation and righteousness are not the sole possession of any one of them, including Israel. Salvation may be 'of the Jews' but it is not in being Jewish, that is a physical descendant of Avraham, Yitzak and Ya’acov. Abel, Enoch, and Noach were all faithful in their generations before Avraham. Lot, Avraham's contemporary but not of his seed, was righteous (2 Pet 2:7). Naaman, the commander of the Aramean army, was healed by Elisha and vowed to serve only the God of Israel, and he was never a Jew (2 Kings 5). And certainly there were others who were not of Avraham's seed whom God touched and were given a place in the world to come.
We can see this especially in the life of Lot. Lot and his family were the only righteous people in Sodom. Were they righteous in God’s sight because they were justified by grace through faith? Was their trust in God credited to them as righteousness to the same degree Avraham’s was? Clearly not. Lot was one of the many individuals throughout history who feared God, did what was right and was accepted by God (Acts 10:34, 35, II Pet 2:7-9). He was not part of the covenant God had made with Avraham but he was accepted by God as a righteous individual. Although Avraham was holy and obedient to all of God’s commands on a level superior to all the men of his generation, there were men like Lot and the others previously mentioned who were righteous in His sight and worthy of His care and blessing.
How, then does God deal with the Goyim, those individuals and nations who are not of Avraham’s seed and not partakers in the covenant God made with him? First of all, some perspective is in order. The Goyim are just a drop in the bucket to God (Isa 40:15), before Him they are nothing, they are regarded as worthless (Isa 40:17). All the Goyim, whether they be small or great, whether they be empires or simple tribal groups, are simply pawns in the hands of the Almighty, blessed be He. For He is the One who makes the Goyim great, and destroys them, He enlarges them and disperses them (Job 12:23). He does, however, know each and every one, just as He knows each and every person, and He deals with them individually. He executes judgement on individual Goyim (Gen 15:14), for there are some Goyim that are more wicked than others (Jer 7:24). It is important that we remember this. God uses every nation to accomplish His purposes and they are powerless to resist. However, this is an issue separate from their righteousness or wickedness. He used Egypt and Babylon, both of whom were wicked, to further His purposes with Israel. He also used Persia, a nation whose leaders occasionally recognized God (Dan 6:25, 26), to punish Babylon and return Israel to their land (2 Chr 36:23). He used Rome and the Pax Romana to spread the good news about the Mashiyakh (Messiah). He uses America and Russia as well as all the modern nations to accomplish His purposes and...if this is truly the end of the age, to bring all prophesy to a conclusion and establish His reign on earth.
Knowing that the Goyim will be judged by God (Ps 9:19; 110:6; Isa 2:4; Mic 4:3), what do we know about this judgement and on what criteria is it based? We know, first of all, that God is fair and just and does not condemn the innocent or the ignorant. The Scriptures portray God as Judge and Prosecutor, bringing charges against the Goyim and executing judgment on them (Jer 25:31). The Goy He is judging cannot claim ignorance, for if God decides to destroy a Goy and it repents of it's evil at God's warning, God will have mercy (Jer 18:7, 8). We see this in the case of Nineveh in the book of Jonah. This corresponds to what Rabbi Sha'ul said in his letter to the Romans; individuals, as well as nations, are without excuse before God (Rom 1:19, 20). God communicates His righteousness to the Goyim and warns them to repent before He carries out His sentence of condemnation. He even disciplines the Goyim as He does Israel, to bring them to repentance before He punishes them in judgement (Ps 94:10). Here again we see that righteousness and salvation are available to all nations, as well as discipline and judgement. The Canaanites were wicked and God used the Israelites as His instrument of judgement. The people of Assyria were wicked but they repented at the preaching of Jonah and were spared God's wrath. One thing to remember about this type of judgement is that it is in the here and now, separate from the final judgment. These judgements are directed at whole nations for the sin of the majority, particularly the leadership. The individuals in those nations will be judged concerning their eternal destiny later, before the great white throne.
Take a close look at Ezekiel chapter 18 because this chapter has a lot to say about righteous and wicked individuals; who will die and who will live. The wicked can repent, as did many of the people of Nineveh, and they will live (Eze 18:21-23). This is what God desires and this was the reason He chose Avraham and the people of Israel. They were to call the nations to repentance and to teach them His truth. Jonah, as a representative of God and as one of the people of Israel, did that in Assyria. God does not desire the death of the wicked. He desires all to repent and live. But if one chooses to be one of the wicked, God will punish him and he will die. And the sins listed in Ezekiel 18 are of the type listed previously that disqualify one from the o’lam haba. Therefore the death referred to here is the second death. The wicked will be judged unworthy to participate in the world to come because of their actions. Everyone has the choice. The wicked can remain wicked and die or they can repent and live. It is God’s desire for everyone to choose life. He will even rescue a person from bondage to their sin when they cry out in faith (Isa 61:1). Individuals can do righteously and live or they can choose to do wickedly and die. Each is responsible for the choice he makes because he makes it knowingly, with an ‘instinctive’ understanding of right and wrong, of what pleases God and what does not.
How can they be without excuse, that they cannot claim ignorance? Because God does everything He does in the sight of all; He does things so all can see and acknowledge He is at work (I Chr 16:8). He brought Israel out of Egypt in the sight of all Goyim (Le 26:45; Eze 20:9). The Goyim are to know that it is God that makes Israel holy (Eze 37:28; 38:16; 39:27). David praised God among the Goyim (Ps 18:49) and the fame of Yerushalyim was spread among the Goyim (Eze 16:14). It was said among the Goyim that God had done great things for Israel (Ps 126:2). God's name is to be feared among the Goyim (Mal 1:14) and it is to be said among them, 'God reigns' (I Chr 16:31; Ps 96:10). Even Israel's punishment was a sign to the Goyim. They ask why God is angry with Israel (Deut 29:23) and they will know why Israel was sent into exile (Eze 39:23) as well as Who it is that restores her (Eze 36:36). Finally, the Lord lays bare His arm and all the ends of the earth will see His salvation (Isa 5:10) and His ways, and salvation, are to be known among all the Goyim (Ps 67:2). God has not done His work in a corner, hidden from the world. He has always desired all men to know Him and His ways. There is a misconception among 'Christians' that until the advent of the Mashiyakh, God only dealt with Israel; that the rest of the world was condemned. That would mean that God had decided to ignore the rest of His creation for thousands of years, never allowing them the opportunity to know the truth and repent. Even the world before the flood was given at least several decades to repent while Noach built the ark (Gen 6:3; 1 Pet 2:5). For God to condemn the rest of the world without the opportunity to repent is inconsistent with His character and with the Scriptures.
God’s desire is for everyone in the world repent and turn to Him; He desires none to perish (II Pet 3:9). HaSatan, on the other hand is actively trying to deceive the whole world (Rev 12:9). We have a struggle then, between El Shaddai and HaSatan for the hearts, minds and souls of men. ‘Christian’ doctrine, however, is confused in this area. What is the nature of the struggle? The ‘Church’ has historically asserted several ‘truths’. The first was stated above, God’s desire is that the whole world repent and turn to Him so that none perish. The second is that an individual’s personal confession of ‘Jesus’ as Savior is the only way to be ‘saved’ from the fires of hell. The third is that God’s work is perfect and void of even the faintest tinge of unfairness. To assert all three equally, if we are really honest, is impossible in reality. Thus there have been differing solutions to the problem of balancing all three truths, and most will emphasize one or two of the assertions at the expense of a third. John Calvin, for example, believed that some are destined to life and others are predestined to death and there was nothing one could do about it, the choice was made before birth and simply played out through one’s life.
“We call predestination God’s eternal decree, by which He determined within Himself what He willed to become of each man. For not all are created in equal condition, rather eternal life is foreordained to some, eternal damnation to others. Therefore, as any man has been created to one or the other of these ends, we speak of him as predestined to life or death.” The Institutes of Christian Religion
Martin Luther had this to say; “Of course, it seems to give the greatest offense to common sense or natural reason, that God, who is proclaimed as being full of mercy and goodness, should of His mere will abandon, harden and damn men, as though delighted in the sins and the great eternal torments of the miserable. It seems iniquitous, cruel and intolerable to think thus of God. It has given offense to so many and many great men down the ages. And who would not be offended? I myself have been offended at it more than once, even to the deepest abyss of despair, so far that I wished I had never been made a man. That was before I knew how healthgiving that despair was and how near it was to grace.” Discourse on Free Will
Of course such conclusions offend people, why wouldn’t they? If what these men, and many Christians believe is true, there are two conclusions that one can draw. First, and perhaps most offensive, is that God creates people for hell. If you are one of the unfortunate people God chose to spend eternity in hell, too bad. There is nothing you can do about it. Your good works, your prayers, your repentance, they’re all worthless. And that’s if you happen to be born in an area of the world where you have the opportunity to know about repentance and prayer and the God of Israel (and the truth is presented to you in the proper way, not with the point to the sword or with so much heresy attached that it is unrecognizable). If you were a Mayan before the arrival of the Conquistadors or a Hun in 50 C.E. or a Chinese peasant in the dark ages, too bad. If you lived in Asia during the time Rabbi Sha’ul was spreading the ‘Gospel’, God Himself decided you were not going to hear it and, well, tough. (Acts 16:6, 7) God decided you would be born in a place that He knew would not ‘hear the gospel’ in your lifetime so....too bad, off to hell you go when you die. The Scriptures themselves occasionally state that some people will not have the ‘gospel’ preached to them by God’s decree, thus, in the mind of the evangelical Christian, they are condemned to hell because God Himself did not allow them the opportunity to hear the truth and repent.
Some will bring in the argument that the hell of the person who is basically good but didn’t pray ‘the prayer’ is not as severe as that experienced by monsters like Adolf Hitler or Joseph Stalin. I would counter that eternal torment is eternal torment and it is little comfort to know that the anguish one person receives forever and ever is a little less severe than someone else's. It still makes God merciless and arbitrary with people’s lives and their eternal destiny. Evangelicals seem to have no problem believing in that sort of God, I suppose they are just glad it wasn’t they who were born without opportunity. They are, however, the guiltiest of all and the most worthy of the second death because through their inactivity they are allowing other people to be condemned. If it is really true that the only way to get to God and have a place in the world to come and escape the fires of hell is to pray the ‘sinners prayer’ and ‘accept Jesus in your heart’ then every person who has done that should spend every waking moment trying to convince other people to do those things. If they do not, they are guilty of sending people to hell for eternity. You be the judge, who is more guilty? The person who never repents because he didn’t know he had to or the person who knows the truth and doesn’t tell the other person to repent, causing him to spend eternity in hell? Read Ezekiel 33 for God’s answer. An individual who allows another to spend eternity in the torments of hell is the guiltiest of all and God should punish him even more severely. God’s ways may be higher than ours but the Scriptures, and our own sense of fairness and justice that are part of the image of God within us, make us very uncomfortable with this type of theology. Although many people profess a belief in it, very few actually live as though it is really true. Intuitively, most people don’t believe, correctly I might add, that God is of this sort of character.
Secondly, in this scenario, Satan really doesn’t have any work to do. Those that are predestined for death are already his and the elect can’t be deceived (Matt 24:24)....so why would he have to work to deceive the nations? The answer is, he wouldn’t, they are already deceived, except for the elect. If man is totally depraved and wicked at birth and it is only by God’s ‘grace’ that He chooses a few and predestines them for life, and since His will can’t be thwarted, HaSatan really has nothing to do, the rest are already his. This would include babies and children as well. ‘Christians’ seem to make exceptions for children, for some reason. But if we are depraved and wicked from birth, a child who dies without repenting or ‘accepting Jesus’, or being predestined for life, is condemned to the second death. That may seem harsh but it is the logical conclusion of the preceding statements. If one is willing to make exceptions for either the children or those who have never heard, then one is accepting the fact that there is another way into the o’lam haba other than the recitation of the ‘sinners prayer’.
The truth is we are all born sinners (Rom 3:23) and not in the perfect, holy state of paradise. People are not, however born wicked, that is a choice they make, the choice HaSatan is attempting to deceive everyone to make. If he can turn people from the fear of God and entice them to engage in the type of behavior that disqualifies them from the o’lam haba, making them worthy of the second death, he will have succeeded. God, on the other hand, is at work teaching people about Himself, His Truth and His Torah so they will act righteously in the fear of God and have a place in the world to come. That is what accountability is all about. Children who die before the age at which they can make the choice to be holy or wicked, an age determined by God for each individual, are righteous and worthy of life in the o’lam haba. We are accountable for what we know and by our ability to understand it. It is fair and just to be judged this way.
Part of this misunderstanding is due to a distorted sense of ‘election’ which says that God ‘chooses’ some people to be ‘saved’ and doesn’t choose others and then condemns them to everlasting hellfire. Scriptural ‘election’ looks a little different and if we look at how it is illustrated in the Bible, we will come to a better understanding of it. Sha’ul uses the illustration of the potter (Rom 9) to refer to election, a pattern used by several prophets, Jeremiah being the most notable (Jer 18). God has the right to make out of the same lump of clay vessels for common use and vessels for noble use. It does not say that he creates pots for the sole purpose of destroying them. That would be a waste of creative energy. If we go back to Jeremiah, we see that if a pot become useless for the purpose for which it was created (the wicked nation or person), God will destroy it. But Sha’ul is dealing with the common and noble vessels. The noble vessels refer to the remnant Israel, chosen and formed by God for purposes we will describe later. The Gentiles (and those of the seed of Avraham who are not faithful to the mosaic covenant) are the common vessels. This does not mean that they are of no use at all, their use is simply different. This is election by grace. We cannot choose whether God will use us for noble purposes or common. What we can control is whether or not we fulfill the purpose for which we were created. God has chosen many from Israel and some from the Gentiles for the noble purpose of fulfilling the covenants made with Israel. The rest of the world has a purpose to fulfill as well. If either group performs the way God created them to perform, they will be rewarded. If either group fails to perform the task for which they were created, they will be destroyed. God chooses people for a purpose, He does not choose to send them to hell or ‘heaven’; that they choose for themselves.
So what we need to do at this point is assert ‘truth’ three; God’s work is perfect and he is a perfectly fair and righteous judge. That is the kind of God we serve and worship. If God is good and loving, desiring that none perish, as well as just, punishing the wicked and rewarding the righteous, then what is necessary is a modification of assertion number two; ‘the only way to get to heaven is to confess Jesus as your personal Savior’. This is both the easiest and most difficult of the statements to modify. The easiest because the Scriptures do not paint the same picture of salvation the ‘Church’ has historically claimed...which is also what makes it the most difficult. It is not the purpose of this paper to go into the historical development of this theological position but several important observations can be made in this regard. First, aside from the Essenes, no major group in Judaism ever made the kind of exclusive claims for salvation that the ‘church’ has. This is an important consideration because the first century community that believed in Yahushua were mostly Jews or Gentiles who had a love for Judaism and it’s theological and religious system. Those who wrote the New Covenant Scriptures wrote them with the assumptions of this Jewish perspective, rather than the Greek or Roman philosophical paradigm that influenced the reinterpretation of the Messiah’s message in the late first and second centuries. The second observation is the political ramifications of the claim that the church was the gatekeeper for heaven. When the Roman ‘church’ began to flex it’s muscles as the primary leader of the Messianic community after the fall of Yerushalyim in 70 AD, it’s directives were backed up by threats of excommunication. However, excommunication means little unless people believed the Roman Church had the ‘keys’ to heaven and the correct interpretation of God’s will and the authority to show others how to get there. And when Constantine unified the empire under the banner of Christianity, the power of the Roman Church and it’s bishop were now the power of the Roman state. How do you keep the masses in line? Tell them they need to do what you say or they will be condemned to the eternal torments of hell and the power of the state can send them there immediately. Thus a position that has been held by the majority of Christians for almost 1900 years with great fervor, even though it’s not really Scriptural, is a difficult one to dissuade people from. How can something that has been claimed for so long by the vast majority be wrong? The same way Christmass and Easter and Sunday worship have been believed to be true and have been for so long, and people have such an emotional attachment to them, yet there is not a shred of Scriptural evidence to support their practice.
Some of you reading this are thinking, ‘what about the importance of belief and the Scriptures that say the Messiah is the only way to the Father (Jn 14:6) and that the Messiah’s name, Yahushua, is the only name under heaven by which men can be saved?’ Both those statements, being part of the Scripture, are true, but not in the way that most think they are true. The first thing we need to understand is that the way the word ‘salvation’ or ‘to save’ is used in Scripture is not the same way most ‘Christians’ use the word. For most people, salvation means salvation from the fires of hell or the gift of eternal life. This interpretation comes from the Greek and Gnostic influences that shaped (and distorted) Christianity in the second and third centuries. These pagan philosophies claimed that the material world was inferior or evil. Therefore the goal of man was to escape this world into the spiritual world and/or heaven. This idea led to asceticism and to an ‘other worldly’ focus not found in the Scriptures. God created the world and it was good (Gen 1) and one day the Messiah Yahushua will return and restore it to it’s original state. It is on this earth that people who have been judged worthy will spend eternity, not in ‘heaven’.
The Scriptures paint a different picture of salvation with a different emphasis. The Tenakh has a very holistic view of salvation. The Greek word used for salvation in the Gospels and Epistles is sw.|zw and in the Septuagint it is used to translate more than 15 words in Hebrew including h[wvy a form of which is the name of the Messiah, as well as mlv, shalom, which is used 68 times. The words translated ‘salvation’ in the Tenakh have a very practical, ‘this world’, emphasis. They refer to deliverance from enemies (Ps 80), from physical death (Ps 30), from illness (Job 33) and from all types of calamity (Gen 32, Isa 66). When it is used to translate the word ‘Shalom’ it refers to the restoration of peace, wholeness, unity and happiness. It is very, very rare to find any of these words used in the sense of deliverance from hell or the eternal wrath of God. Salvation in the Tenakh has a very earthly emphasis.
In reality, the Tenakh talks very little about the world to come, it doesn’t have a very ‘developed theology’ on the matter. The reason for this is that God’s primary concern is about this world and the here and now, not the hereafter. Although one’s eternal destiny is intimately related to how one lives in this present life, this present world is more than just a shadow or a dress rehearsal for eternity. This world is God’s primary workplace, it is His creation and it is what we were created for. Thus salvation and it’s related theological terms must be understood in this context, not in an ambiguous ‘heaven’. God desires to demonstrate His power through His ‘salvation’ and the restoration of peace and prosperity for those who are His in this world as a witness to all of creation of His character and Truth.
It is from this perspective that we need to understand the salvation described in the Gospels and Epistles. They need to be put into this context, a Jewish context, not a Greek one, and into the framework of messianic expectation in the first century. ‘Sozo’ is used similarly in the Gospels and Epistles. It describes ‘salvation’ from sickness (Matt 9:21, Jas 5:15), from physical harm and death (Matt 27:40, Acts 27:31), and from calamity (Matt 24:22). So we see that ‘salvation’ in the new covenant is not always related to one’s eternal destiny.
Actually, it very rarely refers to one’s eternal destiny. How can that be, you ask? What about ‘Call on the name of the Lord and you shall be saved’ (Acts 2:21, Rom 10:13) and ‘By grace you are saved..’(Eph 2:5). Those Scriptures are true, obviously, but from what are we being saved? From what did the writers, Rav Sha’ul and Shimon Kefa and Yochannan, expect their hearers to be delivered? Very rarely were they referring to eternal damnation in the fires of Hell. What they were referring to was the wrath of God being poured out on the ‘Day of the Lord’. How can we know this? Several pieces of evidence point to it. First is the fact that the Talmidim of Yahushua, because they believed He was the Mashiyakh, expected Him to immediately usher in the Messianic Age, to elevate Israel to headship among the nations and destroy the enemies of Israel (Acts 1:6). They were expecting the Messiah to return at any moment, right after the wrath of God was poured out on the world in the Day of the Lord. That is why in some of Sha’ul’s letters he needs to explain to his hearers that they did not miss it, that they will see the resurrection of their loved ones, that it will be an obvious event when He returns (I and II Thess). Because the Thessalonians believed in the imminent return of Yahushua, who would be bringing His reward with Him, they thought that those who had died had missed out, that they had not received their reward. After all, Yahushua Himself said He was the resurrection and the life and those who believe in Him would not die (John 11:25). Sha'ul tells them they did not miss it, they will receive it, even before those who are still alive (I Thess 4:13-15) For those that remain, they are to keep watch and encourage each other because when the wrath of God is poured out on the world, those who believe in the Messiah and live righteously will be saved (I Thess 5:1-11).
The Scriptures illustrate this point beautifully. The first is Kefa’s sermon in Acts 2. He quotes the prophet Joel, whose book is almost entirely about the Day of the Lord. By quoting Joel and telling his listeners that they need to call on the name of Adonai to be saved from the calamity that is the Day of the Lord, he is putting salvation in this context. When he tells them to save themselves from this perverse generation (Acts 2:40), he is telling them to separate themselves from those who don’t believe because just as calamity befell the unrighteous in Israel in years past, so it would again. It was from this discipline and wrath of God that they were saving themselves (Rom 5:9). When it is here on earth that believers are saved from the wrath of God, statements like ‘And if the righteous can scarcely be saved..’ (I Pet 4:18) make sense. God will supernaturally protect His own and they will be miraculously preserved amidst the chaos God will bring on the earth. This also explains how Sha’ul could make the assertion that whole households would be saved (Act 16:31) and wives would save unbelieving husbands (I Cor 7:16). This would be similar to how Rahab saved her household from Joshua’s army. Only she had ‘faith’ but all that were with her in her home were ‘saved’ from the ‘wrath’ of the army of Israel and the command of God to put every one to death. The members of one’s family or household may not believe as we do but they may be delivered from the wrath of God by our faithfulness.
As one looks through all the speeches recorded in Acts, there is nothing like what Christians consider evangelism today. Not once did Kefa or Sha’ul give an ‘invitation’ or ask everyone to close their eyes and raise their hands if they wanted to ‘accept Jesus as their Savior.’ No, their message was that the Messianic age was here, the Day of the Lord was rapidly approaching and people everywhere needed to ‘Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand’. In Acts 2 Kefa demonstrates from the Tenakh that the New Covenant has been manifested in them by the Spirit and that Yahushua is the Mashiyakh. Once he established both of these truths, he knew his hearers would know that those two things meant this present age was coming to a close and they needed to repent and receive the Ruach to enter into the newest covenant of God. Again in Acts 4 he defended his act of healing as a demonstration of the fact that Yahushua was the Messiah, the Ruach was being poured out in the Last Days and the leadership in Israel needed to accept this and repent if they wanted to be ‘saved’ from the wrath of God. Stephen’s speech in Acts seven is even more explicit. He exhorts the leadership in Israel not to be like their forefathers and reject every new work of God in their midst and end up like them, in captivity and slavery. Kefa, speaking to Cornelius’ Gentile household, told them of the death and resurrection of Yahushua the Messiah through whom they could be forgiven of sin and that He is the One who is going to judge the earth. He probably would have gone on but the promise of the Ruach was demonstrated in power among them, showing that even Gentiles have the opportunity to become one of the faithful of Israel and escape the wrath of God.
In Acts 13 we are introduced to Sha’ul’s first defense of the Faith. He follows the same pattern as did Stephen, tracing the history of Israel, demonstrating that Yahushua was the Messiah and that if they repent and believe these facts they will not end up under the wrath of God as their fathers did. The Philippian jailer, after experiencing the power of God wanted to know how to escape God’s wrath, and he was told to believe in Yahushua. In Athens, Sha’ul attempted to convince the philosophers about the existence of God and then he exhorts them to repent because Yahushua was coming on the day appointed by God to judge the earth. His defenses at the end of his life contain the same type of material. The Talmidim believed that God was about to usher in the Messianic age after the Day of the Lord and the proof of this was the resurrection of Yahushua and the pouring out of the Spirit. Those who desired to escape the wrath of God needed to repent and believe that Yahushua was the Messiah.....but this was all in the context of the history of Israel. The New Covenant did not replace the ‘Old’ but added to it, it was another step in God’s plan for Israel. There was no new religion; God was not discarding His people or their way of life, He was giving them new revelation and new tools with which to serve Him and accomplish His purposes. The Talmidim were the ones chosen by God to take this message to Israel and, much to their surprise, to the Goyim as well.
All this ties in with the idea of the ‘faithful remnant’ that weaves it’s way through the history of Israel and the words of the prophets. The followers of Yahushua saw themselves as the true remnant of Israel, the ones who were faithful to the whole, complete revelation of God, which now included the realization of the messianic hope. Kefa’s sermon in Acts 2 is a capsule of the truth given to them by the Ruach haKodesh. He quotes the prophet Joel in chapter 2 which deals with the day of the Lord. His hearers understood the reference to the Day of the Lord, the last days when several things will happen. The Messiah would come, the wrath of God would consume the world, the Spirit of God would be poured out as part of the New Covenant prophesied by Jeremiah and Israel would be delivered and take her rightful place among the nations. But it was the remnant that would be delivered miraculously from the wrath of God and the calamity that would envelope the world. The remnant of Israel did not bow to Baal during the time of Elijah (I Kings 19:18), it survived the invasion of Assyria (II Kings 19:30-31) and they returned to the Land under Zerubbabel in obedience to the Lord (Hag 1:12, 13). Zephaniah, in prophesying about the Day of the Lord discusses the remnant of Israel. God was going to cut off just about all flesh in the day of His wrath (v.1:18) but those who seek the Lord and do righteously will be sheltered from the Lord’s anger (v.2:3) and inherit the lands of their enemies (v.2:9). Zechariah tells us that to the remnant in those days the workings of the Lord will seem marvelous (v.8:6) because God will deal differently with that remnant than He did in the past (v.8:11). That is due to the fact that this remnant had slightly different parameters than did the previous ones because they operated under the newest covenant, in addition to all the previous ones.
It was in this context that Kefa spoke and Sha’ul wrote about salvation. It wasn’t that they believed only they were going to enter the o’lam haba. Rather, it was only they who were going to be miraculously spared the horrible calamities that would precede and accompany the Day of the Lord. This is why Sha’ul could say he desired to be cut off for the salvation of His people (Rom 9:3). He wasn’t condemning himself to hell in their place, even Sha’ul’s self-sacrifice had limits. He was however, offering the possibility of subjecting himself to the temporal wrath of God in the Day of the Lord to spare his people that horror. In Romans 9-11 Sha’ul explains a lot about the remnant and who it is. To become part of the remnant of Israel and be saved from the wrath of God one must have faith in the Messiah for it is His sheep who are spared (v.10:9). Not from hell but from the wrath of God on the Day of the Lord. Even Sha’ul puts it in this context when he quotes Joel in verse 13 of the same chapter.
Seen into this context, much of what Sha’ul has to say in Romans makes a lot more sense. In Romans 9, it is not that the physical seed of Avraham stop being so, but it is those who are obedient in the Messiah who are heirs to the promises of Avraham. The other part of the seed of Avraham still operates under the other, broader covenants but it is this messianic remnant that is ‘saved’ from the Day of the Lord and will inherit the promises of Avraham, receive the crown of eternal life and rule in the Messianic Age. In chapter 10, he describes the way in which we become the holy people of God, worthy of this deliverance. The righteousness of God is applied to us through the Messiah by our faith and confession of Him. This faith is available to all who hear and to all whom God calls. In chapter 11, he goes into detail about the remnant, the faithful of Israel whose numbers include some of those who are not of the physical seed of Avraham. When the full number of people from all nations have come into the remnant of Israel, they will work for the salvation and deliverance of all of the children of Avraham, a statement that only makes sense in the context of the Day of the Lord. After all, God has not simply condemned all His chosen ones to hell for two thousand years only to turn around and ‘save’ the last generation. But to say that all the natural children of Avraham in that final generation will come into the new covenant and be saved from the calamities of the Day of the Lord makes much more sense.
The thing that was so hard for Kefa and many of the other followers of Yahushua to accept was that Gentiles could now be delivered from the wrath of God as well. It was amazing to them to think that while only a remnant of Israel would be delivered, there were going to be Gentiles who would also be saved. After all, as we have seen and will see with many of the Scriptures, the Goyim were almost automatically placed under the wrath of God by virtue of their being Gentiles. Even worse was the fact that they no longer needed to be circumcised and go through the ‘official’ conversion process to obtain that salvation. They could become full-fledged members of the remnant of the house of Israel through faith, enjoying all the privileges as well as taking on all the responsibilities.
One of those responsibilities for which God chose Israel was dissemination of His truth. One of the primary roles of Israel is to be a nation of priests (Ex 19:6). And one of the functions of a priest is to teach people the ways of God. Israel as a nation was to teach the rest of the world about the ways of God, about righteousness and truth. They were to be an example to all the Goyim. God was going to show Himself holy among the nation of Israel in the sight of all the Goyim (Eze 20:41). To prove it, He was going to do works never seen in any other nation (Ex 34:10). He gave Israel the Torah, for the other Goyim did not know His laws (Ps 147:19, 20). For these things Israel was to be known among the Goyim (Isa 61:9) and the Goyim would call her blessed (Mal 3:12). Israel was to be the greatest among the Goyim (Jer 31:7) and have the most beautiful inheritance (Jer 3:19). For Israel this was the greatest privilege and the greatest responsibility. It was their job to teach truth to the world. They were to be the example of a nation that served God wholeheartedly, a nation God would bless beyond imagination, blessed in such a supernatural way that everyone would know that it was God at work in Israel (Deut 4:5-8).
They were to influence the world, not let the world influence them. Israel was not to walk in the customs of the Goyim (Lev 20:23; Jer 10:2), serve their gods (Deut 29:17) or learn their abominations (Deut 18:9, 14). They were to be separated from what God calls the 'filthiness' of the Goyim (Josh 23:7; Ezra 6:21). When Israel walks in the way of righteousness that God has set before her, the Goyim will be blessed and will glory in God (Jer 4:1, 2; Zech 8:13). The promise to Avraham, that all the Goyim would be blessed through him and through the nation he would found (Gen 18:18), was not only the blessing of the Mashiyakh but the blessing of the very words and truth of God which they were to bring to the rest of the world (Rom 3:2).
As we know, Israel became entangled with the nations around her and thus denied her mission and purpose. That is why Israel is judged so severely. When they do such things, God's Name is profaned among the Goyim (Eze 36:23). Why? Because God chose them as His special people in the sight of all and when they cease to act like those special people and are disciplined by God, they become a reproach and an object of cursing among the Goyim (Jer 44:8; Eze 5:14, 15; Neh 5:9). It becomes just the opposite of what God intended. The Goyim could say 'If this is the way God treats His special people, I want no part of it'. That is why Israel’s adherence to the covenant was so important. They were to draw people to God, not drive them away.
It is important to understand the various covenants made with mankind in general and Israel in particular. We have already looked at the covenant God made with all mankind through Adam and Eve. He added to that covenant at the time of Noach. At that time God gave man the authority to establish a system of justice for those who chose not to follow their consciences and act wickedly, including exacting the ultimate penalty, death. With these two covenants God showed man the way of righteousness and provided a means to punish the wicked so their ways would not pervade society as they had in the years before the flood. These covenants were complementary, one built on the other. If God has a way He wants people to act, He needs to provide for their punishment when they choose not to act according to that way, both in the temporal sense and in the eternal sense. One of the things we need to keep in mind is that when God makes a covenant or gives a command, He does not change His mind about it later (Ps 89:34, Mal 3:6, Jas 1:17). The covenants build on and complement each other, later covenants do not nullify earlier ones (Gal 3:15-17). The covenants were not various ‘tests’ or different ways God dealt with man in different eras, as the Dispensationalists claim. They are part of the evolving and maturing relationship God has with mankind. God knows everything, He knows how man is going to respond to His will. The covenants were for man’s benefit as he matured in his relationship with God. They were not tests or object lessons that condemned almost everyone prior to the appearance of the Messiah to hell because they couldn’t live up to it’s terms. That God would use and then condemn the people of the world from the time of the fall to the time of the Messiah to show the privileged few in His ‘church’ that no one could live up to His standard, or various different standards through several dispensations, is cruel, arbitrary and unworthy of God.
It is important to remember the complimentary and successive nature of the covenants God makes for our understanding of the covenants God made with Avraham and Israel. The covenants God made with Adam and Noach are the universal covenants that apply to all of mankind. The rest of the covenants described in the Scriptures are more restrictive in their scope. Their purpose was to develop a way to impart the knowledge of God to all the people of the world. To this end He chose Avraham and his successive generations to build a nation that would be the priests and teachers of the world (Ex 19:6). God began the process with Avraham. He told him that he would be the father of this nation and as such his name would be great (Gen 12:2). God’s special blessing and protection would be on him and his descendents and through the accomplishment of their mission, they would be a blessing to all the other peoples of the earth (Gen 12:3). And to accomplish this end God promised them the land of Israel (Gen 15:18, 19). This piece of real estate was given to them because it was at the crossroads of the nations and Israel could disseminate the truth of God to all the nations from this central position.
According to God’s plan, the descendants of Avraham grew into a multitude in Egypt and God delivered them from slavery and brought them back to the land of Israel (Gen 15:13-16). It was time for them to take their place and accomplish the purpose for which God had chosen them. To do that He made a new covenant with them, established a national ‘constitution’ and gave them the truth they were to disseminate among the nations. In the covenant with Avraham He promised the land and the mission. With the Torah He showed the descendants of Avraham how to live in the land and accomplish that mission. There was a moral code and a system of justice that all the nations could learn from. There was a system of religion and culture that was to separate the priesthood of Israel from the rest of the nations and provide a model for properly approaching and worshipping the Creator. God’s choice of the descendants of Avraham for this mission is uncontestable and irrevocable (Rom 11:29). He said He would never discard them for another people (Amos 3:2, Ezra 3:11, Jer 31:36). That was the unconditional part of the covenant made with Avraham (Rom 11:28). To the extent they were obedient to the terms of the covenant God made with them when they came out of Egypt, they would be blessed in the land. When they obeyed the terms of the covenant God would exalt them above all the nations of the earth, they would be blessed materially and spiritually and all the peoples of the earth would know that God’s name was upon them (Deut 28:1-14). They would be fulfilling the purpose to which God had called them. When they were disobedient to the terms, God disciplined them to bring them back into line so they could fulfill their purpose once again (Deut 8:5). The discipline of Israel is harsher because their responsibility is greater (Jas 3:1).
As we know, Israel, through much of her history, did not obey the terms of the covenant and was disciplined repeatedly. Why was this? Because they didn’t combine the teaching of God with faith (Rom 9:32). Many of them forgot it was only by the grace of God they were chosen. Too often they pursued the externals of religion and forgot that basic message. They held fast to some parts of the Mosaic covenant but broke many of the stipulations of the universal covenants. If they didn’t obey even the basic requirements of righteousness, God had no use for their religious expression (Isa 1:10-17). You see, the mosaic covenant was not a way of salvation, that was what the universal covenants were for. The Mosaic covenant was for the people of Israel to fulfill their purpose as the priestly nation of God. They did not remember the Sabbath or celebrate the feasts or wear Tzitzit (fringes) to ensure their place in the world to come but to ensure their place at the head of the nations so that they could fulfill the mission to which God had called them.
One of the few bright spots in their history was the empire built under David and Solomon. David was a righteous, holy man after God’s own heart and led the nation in following the terms of the Covenant. Because of that, they were blessed materially and spiritually. Israel became very wealthy (I Kings 10:23). The nations came to hear Solomon’s wisdom and the word of God was spreading among the nations (I Kings 10:24). This was a foreshadowing of the Messiah’s rule. That is why God made the covenant with the house of David (II Sam 7:16). The messiah would lead the nation in the ways of righteousness so they would fulfill the mission to which they had been called.
Several hundred years later, Israel was exiled from the land as punishment for their sin and for breaking the terms of the covenant. While they were in Babylon, God made the promise of a New Covenant through the prophet Jeremiah. It is important to understand the purpose of this covenant. Let’s look at it’s terms.
“The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their fathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke that covenant though I was a husband to them, declares the Lord. This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my Torah in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God and they shall be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor saying ‘know the Lord’ because they will all know me from the least of them to the greatest. declares the Lord. For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sin no more.”
All the covenants were instituted with sacrifices and the shedding of blood. This covenant was no different except that is was the blood of Yahushua, the Messiah, the Son of God that instituted it (Luke 22:20). It was this blood that cleansed them from iniquity and wickedness, from all the things that neither their own physical death nor the sacrifices prescribed by the Torah could provide atonement (Acts 13:39). It was through the sacrifice of Yahushua that God could forgive anyone who repented and called on the name of the Lord. Although it was one event in history it has application in all ages.
The death of Yahushua was the event that instituted the covenant. What, however, was the purpose of the covenant? It was to enable Israel to fulfill their mission. Because they had been disobedient, because they had not combined the Torah with faith and thereby pursued Torah wrongly, they had failed. Since it was obvious that they could not fulfill the terms of the covenant by their own power (it is not in the power of the natural man to do so!), God was going to write it on their hearts and minds. The purpose of this covenant was not to do away with the Torah but to enable people to know it and obey it by putting it in their inmost being. One covenant builds on another. God gave the mission and the land through Avraham’s covenant. He gave the Torah, the blueprint for the mission, through Moshe. And finally He was imparting the desire and ability to obey the terms of the covenant, and fulfill the mission through the power of His Ruach (Spirit), with this covenant instituted by the Messiah Himself.
Working our way back to the beginning of Jeremiah 31, we see that the covenant was made with the House of Israel. This was not a universal covenant like the ones with Adam and Noach, it was made with the people of Israel. If one wants to participate in this covenant, one must be part of the nation of Israel. And to be part of that nation means obedience to the covenants made with the people of Israel, both current and previous. It is a great privilege to do so because these covenants are a great blessing both now and in the world to come for Israel. However, those privileges carry with them great responsibility, the responsibility of fulfilling the terms of the covenant so one can fulfill the mission of teaching the world the truth. The good news, which we will go into in greater detail later on, is that since the institution of the New covenant, God has been actively trying to expand the priesthood of Israel to those who are not of the natural line of Avraham.
Even when Israel appeared to fail, God's word still went forth and His purposes were not thwarted. As the story of Daniel shows, God can even get the word out about Himself through a Goy king (Dan 6:25-27); none can claim ignorance, and all are judged. As to criteria, the first is obvious. God will pour out His wrath on the Goyim that don't acknowledge Him, and do not call on His name (Ps 79:6; Jer 10:25) or obey Him (Mic 5:15). The Goyim that ignore God's existence, do not differentiate Him from among other gods or live as if He does not have the authority to judge, as well as those Goyim who are at ease, confident in themselves rather than God (Jer 49:31; Zech 1:15), will not escape His wrath. This is the most obvious criteria. Those nations, or individuals, who ignore God and the basics of righteousness, stand condemned. Faith, the belief in God, and righteousness, the desire to do His will, are inseparable. Righteousness without faith is legalism, and is, in fact, pointless. Why choose to do what is right if there is no punishment for choosing wrong? Selfishness will then rule in the life of such an individual. Without faith it is impossible to please God for everyone who has faith believes God rewards those who seek Him and do His will (Heb 11:6). Faith without righteousness is just as invalid. One who believes God exists yet does not seek to know Him or obey Him is on the same level as the demons, who believe in God and tremble (Jas 2:19). This is why faith and works are inseparable and any Goy or Jew who does not live life with both at work is condemned already.
Second, God will judge the Goyim concerning His people Israel (Joel 3:2-12), His servants among the Goyim (Ps 79:10). God will judge those Goyim who oppressed His people, even those who were instruments of His discipline but went too far (Isa 10:5-19; Jer 50) Thus the way a nation treats the Jews and Israel as a nation will cause either blessing or condemnation (Gen 12:3). There have been many nations who have persecuted the Jews throughout history and God has judged or will judge all of them for it. This includes every European nation and many others throughout the world. HaSatan knows the importance of Israel in the plan of God, that is why he is so bent on their destruction. Anti-Semitism is inarguably the most pervasive and consistent form of prejudice; historically and presently. It's horrible consistency and the continual triumph of God and His people over it testify to it's spiritual nature. All individuals and their nations must make sure that it's insidious nature has not affected them. God knows the heart and He will judge, and judge harshly, those who hate His people.
The parable of the sheep and the goats concerns this judgement (Matt 25:31-46). This describes one of the major criteria by which nations and individuals are judged as to their eternal destiny. As we read the story we can identify several participants. First is the Son of Man, Yahushua, who does the separating, the One who judges who inherits a place in the kingdom and who does not. The first half of the parable describes a group who clothed, fed and visited Yahushua’s brothers and the second half of the parable describes a group of people that didn’t. Finally, there are these ‘brothers of Mine (Yahushua)’. First, this is not a judgement of believers. ‘These brothers of mine’ are those who are the true disciples of Yahushua (Matt 12:50). So these other people are judged according to the criteria of how they treated the true followers of the Messiah, the faithful remnant Israel. Those being judged do not know the Messiah or who His brothers are. After all, Yahushua’s disciples know their Master and they know they are serving Him by loving their fellow human beings. But some of these people, the ones who acted righteously, the ones who did good works, are welcomed into the Kingdom of God. Yahushua calls them His sheep. Their conscience, the voice of God within them, told them to honor their fellow man. They listened to the distant voice of the Shepherd even though they did not know Him in an intimate, personal way. They were unaware that the people they were blessing were particularly special, they didn’t single out Yahushua’s brothers so they could bless them and receive a reward. They were unaware they were doing anything especially significant. They simply had righteous character. Their service to their fellow man was an integral part of their lives, and as such, based on these works of service that were the extension of their righteous character, they were judged worthy of entrance into God’s kingdom. Those who did wickedly, who thought it was beneath them to help those less fortunate than themselves, were not.
We now have several criteria on which God bases His judgement of individuals and nations who are not his people. First is whether or not they do wicked things. Those who do the things in the list already given will not be among the sheep. But there are people who do not engage in that type of behavior who will still not find a place in the kingdom. That is because righteousness is not just that which one abstains from but also what one does. That is the second criteria, being proactive in helping our fellow human beings. Both things are based on a rudimentary faith that motivates one to overcome one’s selfish inclinations and do the things that are right. God rewards those people, he doesn’t condemn them to hell because they didn’t recite some particular group’s prayer. Death is the result of their sinful nature but God does find some people worthy of entrance into His kingdom. The number will still be relatively small because there are not many people who care much about what God thinks about their life or how they live it. Those whose attitude about God is caviler at best will experience His wrath.
How is God's wrath poured out? First, none will escape it, for He is angry with all Goyim (Isa 34:2) and all Goyim will drink of the cup of His wrath (Jer 25:15; Zeph 3:8). Nor will any be able to endure it (Jer 10:10). No nation, regardless of how powerful it is or what it’s past has been or what is written on it’s coins and inscribed on it’s monuments, will escape the wrath of God. No nation can claim the promises of God to Israel, including the United States. Regardless of what the Puritans thought, America is not the 'New Israel' and Washington is not Yerushalyim; it's more like Sodom! God will deal with America just as He dealt with Rome and Babylon and all the other 'world powers'. He accomplishes His purposes in various ways. In a subtle, or at times not so subtle way, the Lord foils the plans of the Goyim and thwarts their purposes (Ps 33:10). Other times He troubles them so they crush one another (II Chr 15:6). Sometimes a more direct approach is employed for at the voice of the Lord, the Goyim scatter (Isa 33:3). Finally, the Goyim that are determined to forget God are returned to Sheol (Ps 9:17). All of this is to show that God rules over the Goyim (II Chr 20:6; Job 34:29; Ps 22:28, 47:8; Jer 10:7), He has plans for them and He works through them for His purposes. He wants to establish His righteousness among all people and, at times, to demonstrate the consequences of persistent rebellion.
Since we are on the subject of God's wrath, we may as well look at some of the Scriptures that deal with the Goyim's part in the 'Day of the Lord'. This is a bit different than the previous paragraph that dealt with God's present dealings with the nations. The Day of the Lord is a time of doom for the Goyim (Eze 30:3) for God will shake the Goyim in the sieve of destruction (Isa 30:28). The Goyim will rage against the Lord and His Anointed (Ps 2:1, 2). God will gather the Goyim for destruction (Isa 5:25-30; 13:4). They will fight against Yerushalyim and be cursed (Isa 29:1-9) and destroyed (Zech 12:9; 14:2, 3) for God will subdue them with a relentless aggression (Isa 14:6) and they will perish out of His Land (Ps 10:16) with Israel herself inflicting vengeance on them (Ps 149:5-7). In this section we see that when the Day of the Lord comes upon the earth, it will not be a good day to be a Goy. In their pride, they will fight against God Himself and He will destroy many of them and drive them from His Land, Eretz Israel.
Why are the Goyim so cursed? What are the characteristics God so abhors that He must discipline and then destroy them? First of all, the Goyim serve idols (Deut 12:2, 30; Eze 20:32). They make up they own gods (II Kings 17:29, 33). Their idols are silver and gold made by the hands of men (Ps 135:15). At this point they have simply done a stupid thing, treating the created thing as if it were the creator. On this level idolatry is just that, stupid. To impart human or divine characteristics to an object a craftsman has just fashioned seems incomprehensible to the western mind yet it was the accepted practice in the ancient world, and it is still widespread today. For some reason people still believe that crystals, crosses, pyramids, good luck charms and the like have some type of power in them. However, such an action by itself would seem more likely to generate pity from God for these poor ignorant creatures, rather than wrath. But idolatry, because it moves the true God out of the picture, leads one down a path whose end is destruction. It is the practices associated with idolatry that evoke the anger of God for the actions of the Goyim are detestable (I Kings 14:24; II Kings 16:3; II Chr 36:14). These abominations included child sacrifice and male and female shrine prostitutes. II Kings 17 gives us a good picture of the religion of the Goyim Israel had adopted. They built high places, set up sacred stones and worshipped idols as well as the heavenly objects (vv. 9-12, 16). Wickedness was a characteristic of the life of the Goyim (v. 11). They sacrificed their children to these gods, practiced divination, sorcery and many other evil things (v. 17). Such wickedness defiles a Goy (Lev 18:24). It is the wickedness of the Goyim associated with their idolatry that brings the wrath of God upon their heads.
One other characteristic of the Goyim that Scripture teaches us is that the Goyim have kings rule over them (Deut 17:14; I Sam 8:5). God is the one whose rightful place is that of King but among the Goyim men have taken that role, and have often sought to usurp God's divinity as well. That is why so many ancient kings were worshipped as gods, from the superstitious Egyptians to the supposedly cultured and educated Romans. Although there is no record of Israel's kings taking such a step, God had desired Israel to be a theocracy, as He had designed the world to be originally. And one day God will take His authority back from the worldly usurpers.
Enough of the negative. God's desire is not to destroy the Goyim, but to draw them unto Himself so He can grant them a place in His Kingdom and encourage righteous behavior. That this is possible, and has happened, is witnessed to by several Scriptures. First, righteousness exalts a Goy (Prov 14:34). The writer of this proverb assumed that there were Goyim who were righteous and thus exalted. Two examples will be sufficient to prove this point. The first is that Abimelek's people were a righteous Goy (Gen 20:4) and then there is the previously mentioned example of a repentant Nineveh (Jonah). There are some Goyim that are even called by God's name (Amos 9:11, 12). There have been nations that have had godly principles at their foundation and whose leaders are godly men that bear the name of the Almighty. The United States was once such a nation. There have been others. They do not bear God's name in the special way that Israel does but their righteousness pleases God and they are a witness for Him. The Scriptures also assert the fact that the Goyim have a standard of righteousness that even Israel did not meet for a time (Eze 5:7). This is because God has made His salvation known and revealed His righteousness to the Goyim (Ps 98:2). Again, the Goyim are without excuse before God for He has made salvation available to them and made the basics of righteousness known to all. For He is not willing that any perish but that all repent and embrace Him (II Pet 3:9).
In the future the Goyim from the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord, and all the Goyim will bow down to Him (Ps 22:27, 72:11). God will make Himself known among the Goyim (Eze 38:23) and the Goyim will see God's glory (Isa 66:18; Eze 39:21). On Mt. Zion He will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all Goyim (Isa 25:7). This verse and the ones around it tell us that God will include all Goyim at his banquet, wipe away the tears from their eyes and remove the disgrace from his people and from all the earth. He removes the veil and they will see the truth. In this age there are many Goyim who think they have the whole truth and that they are the chosen ones of God. A veil covers their eyes because they seek truth in places other than Torah and Mashiyakh. The Muslim nations, the Buddhist nations and the Christian nations all have taken an incomplete knowledge of God and created a man made system around it and have proclaimed that they alone have the complete and final revelation of God and that their nation or people is, therefore, God's chosen. Of course, if everyone claims that, they can't all be right. In fact, none of them are. God has only chosen one people, Israel, and there is only one complete revelation, Torah, and only one Mashiyakh, Yahushua. All three things must be present for the whole and complete understanding of God.
Let's take a closer look at the end of this age, the new age of the Mashiyakh, and the Goyim's relationship to it. At that time God will make Himself known among the Goyim (Eze 38:23). They will see His glory (Isa 66:18; Eze 39:21), He will be exalted among them (Ps 46:10; 113:4) and His name will be great among all the Goyim (Mal 1:11). Then all the Goyim will fear the Lord (Ps 117:1). The important point to be made about these Scriptures, and the ones that follow, is that the world to come is not a Jews only club. It is comprised of many nations and peoples. Having said that, it is a Jews first club. Israel will have taken her place as first among the nations and will rule over the world under the Mashiyakh from Eretz Israel. Those who know the Mashiyakh and have been obedient to His Torah will be with Him, for they are the true remnant of Israel. Other righteous people who have relied in faith on the mercy of God demonstrated in the Mashiyakh to the best of their knowledge and understanding, will be those who comprise the rest of the nations in the world to come.
How will this be accomplished? God will beckon to the Goyim and they will bow with their faces to the ground before Israel (Isa 49:22, 23), rejoicing with her at the destruction of her enemies (Deut 32:43). Israel will still be a separate and special people in the age to come, and will have taken her rightful place as the head of all nations (Deut 26:19; 28:1). Israel will be given the lands of the Goyim (Ps 111:6; Isa 54:3) and their wealth (Isa 60: 11, 16; 66:6; Zech 14:14). God will punish the Goyim who will not serve Israel (Isa 60:12). That is not to say that the Goyim are not His people as well. God will summon Goyim He did not know, and Goyim who did not know Him will hasten to Him (Isa 55:5; 65:1), and the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord, and all the Goyim will bow down to Him (Ps 22:27; 72:11), acknowledging that their idolatry was wrong and will seek to be taught the truth (Jer 16:19-21). Many Goyim will be joined with the Lord and will become His people (Zech 2:11). God will actually send some of those who survive the Day of the Lord to many other Goyim and to distant lands to declare His glory among them (Isa 66:19). So one way He accomplishes His purpose, is to actually send some of the Goyim to declare His glory among other Goyim.
What characterizes the response of the Goyim to God's call? First, There will be strong people honoring Him, and ruthless Goyim revering Him (Isa 25:3). Although Israel will have ascended to the primary position among the Goyim, there will still be other strong and powerful nations, who will now be praising God (Ps 117:1). Although they will worship God in their own lands (Zeph 2:11), Yerushalyim will have a special and primary place in the worship of the Almighty, for she will bring God glory, praise and honor before the nations (Jer 33:9). Many powerful Goyim will come to Yerushalyim to seek the Lord (Zech 8:22) and come to the light of Zion (Isa 60:3). There they will honor His name (Jer 3:17), hear His Word (Jer 31:10) and learn Torah (Mic 4:2). God will shake all the Goyim and they will come and fill His house with glory (Hag 2:7; Ps 86:9), worshipping in the Temple (Isa 2:2). Righteousness and praise will spring up before all Goyim (Isa 61:11) and they will all come to Yerushalyim year after year to celebrate the feast of Tabernacles (Zech 14:16) for God, in the person of Messiah Yahushua, will be tabernacling among them.
There is a special relationship between the Goyim and the Mashiyakh in the plan of God which we will mention briefly. The Mashiyakh is a light to the Goyim (Isa 42:6) and He brings salvation to the ends of the earth (Isa 49:6). All the Goyim are blessed by Him (Ps 72:17) for they are His inheritance (Ps 2:8; 82:8, the equation of these verses is another proof that the Mashiyakh and God are one). While many Goyim will marvel at Him (Isa 52:15), they will all rally to Him (Isa 11:10, 12). He will bring mishpayt, the judgments of Torah, to them (Isa 42:1).
Now that we have listed and commented on all the relevant Scriptures concerning the Goyim, and Israel's relationship to them, we are ready to answer some of our original questions. First, it should be obvious that there is salvation, or a place in the world to come, outside the nation of Israel. There is a basic standard of faith and righteousness to which anyone in any nation can embrace and have a place in the world to come. Although the idea of 'heaven' as the place for the 'saints' is not really found in the Tenakh, the Scriptures point to the fact that there will be nations other that Israel in the coming age, thus a Goy can be 'saved' apart from membership in the nation of Israel.
The characteristics of this faith and righteousness are the same for the Jew as they are for the Goy. Each must rely on the mercy of God as demonstrated in Yahushua haMashiyakh and attain a basic level of righteousness commensurate with their faith. This righteousness will depend on their knowledge of the ways of God (this will vary greatly among the Goyim) and the dictates of conscience (with the Ruach haKodesh-Holy Spirit, as the influencing factor). The Jew goes beyond this by virtue of his birth and takes on the added responsibilities of his people and thus attains the greater privilege in the age to come. The real difference between a Goy and a Jew is that the Goy will abstain from evil, obeying the negative mitzvot, the “Thou Shalt Not's” of the Torah because he fears displeasing God. The Jew or Geyrim, on the other hand, obeys the positive mitzvot such as 'Remember the Sabbath Day...', as well as the negative, because he desires to please God. He doesn't just want God not to be angry with him and escape His wrath, but he wants to do the things which cause God to smile at him. In so doing he receives the greater reward, just as we reward our children for the good things they do but rarely reward them for not doing bad things.
Have these privileges, these rewards, been transferred to the 'Christian'? Has the 'church' replaced Israel as the heir to these promises and the central place in the world to come? The answer to this question in an unequivocal NO. God's gifts and calling are irrevocable (Rom 11:29) and only when the sun and moon cease will the descendants of Israel cease to be a Goy before God (Jer 31:35, 36). The Mashiyakh brought salvation to the Goyim in the sense that He made their faith effective through His sacrifice. He did not, however, make them Jews, for they continue to be Goyim, for the Goyim are also his inheritance (Ps 2:8; 82:8). One can only take hold of the privileges of Israel by taking on the responsibilities of Israel. For a Goy, this means becoming a Geyrim, a Torah obedient Goy (Isa 56:6, 7), or full conversion to the people of Israel. Through the Mashiyakh, full conversion, including circumcision, is no longer necessary, but the community of the Mashiyakh was to be the Torah obedient remnant of Israel (Matt 5:17-19). If one desires to claim His name, one should walk according to His words and His example, both of which are thoroughly Jewish and Torah centered.
The Christian, then, while a participant in God's salvation because of faith and righteousness, is still just a Goy who follows a religious system that is the invention of other Goyim. Salvation is through faith demonstrated in basic righteous action. Privilege is attained by shouldering the greater responsibility of Torah and the behaviors that set one apart from the rest of the world as one of God's special people, His priestly teachers.
Can a Goy, Christian or otherwise, become part of this special people and move from a position of looking at the city of the New Jerusalem from the outside to becoming an integral participant and resident of the Holy City? Is it possible, and if so, how? God has always had a plan and desired the Goyim to come to the whole truth about Himself as revealed to His servant Israel. The rabbis tell us that one of the reasons the Torah was given in the desert on Mt. Sinai was because God was telling the whole world that this is the whole truth, His whole plan. It cannot be tied to a specific geographic area or even exclusively to the people of Israel; it is available to anyone. Those who are not actual physical descendants of Avraham, Yitzakh and Ya'akov, but who desire to become part of the people of Israel and share in the responsibilities and privileges are called Geyrim, often translated sojourner or alien. But as we shall see, these were not just Goyim who happened to be living in the land or journeying with Israel. They were really the firstfruits of God's plan to bring all the world to Torah, particularly in the messianic age.
The most important point to be made here is that a Geyr is no different in the eyes of God than is the native born Israelite. The covenant was just as much for the Geyr as it was for the Israelite (Deut 29:10; Josh 8:33-35). The Torah was to be taught to them, just as it was taught to the native-born (Deut 31:12). The Geyrim will one day be truly united with Jacob (Isa 14:1, 2) and will have a permanent inheritance in the Eretz Israel (Eze 47:22). Adonai Himself promises to preserve the Geyrim (Ps 146:9). And God wanted to make sure that the people of Israel didn't look on them any differently either. Israel was to have one law for the native born and the Geyr (Ex 12:49, Lev 24:22). They were to love the Geyrim among them (Lev 19:34; Deut 10:18, 19). They were not to oppress the Geyrim (Deut 24:14; Jer 7:6) or be unjust toward them (Deut 24:17). The sojourners or aliens in any land were essentially at the mercy of those in whose land they dwelt. Israel found this out in the land of Egypt, something God wants them to remember (Ex 22:20; 23:9; Deut 23:8). Therefore, they were to treat the Geyr with the dignity and respect they gave the native born, remembering that the Geyr sacrificed a lot to become part of the covenant people of God. They had left their people, country, customs and religion to grab hold of something better. God did not want them hindered in any way or treated like second-class citizens. He knew their hearts and devotion and He would reward them just as He did the physical descendants of Israel.
The whole Torah was to apply to the Geyrim. All the festivals of Israel were to be celebrated by the Geyrim; Shabbat (Ex 20:10; 23:12; Deut 5:14), Pesach (Num 9:14), Shavu'ot (Deut 16:11; 26:11), Sukkot (Deut 16:14), and Yom Kippor (Lev 16:29). The Geyrim offer sacrifices at the temple (Lev 17:8; 22:18). They are not to eat blood but pour it out on the ground (Lev 17:10-15). The unintentional sin offering is to be presented by the Geyr (Num 15:26, 29), they give tithes (Deut 14:29; 26:12, 13) and may even be involved with the sacrifice of the red heifer (Num 19:10). The cities of refuge were for the Geyr as well as the native born (Num 35:15). Negatively, defiant sinners (Torah breakers) among the Geyrim are to be cut off from the people of Israel (Num 15:30). The Geyr who blasphemes is to be put to death (Lev 24:16), as well as the Geyr who offers his children to Molech (Lev 20:2). Adonai will not listen to the Geyr who sets up idols in his heart and separates himself from God, and He says he will cut him off from His people Israel, just as He would a native Israelite (Eze 14:7, 8). The point of all this being, all the statutes and ordinances in the Torah applied to the Geyrim as well as the native born (Lev 18:26).
The community is to have the same rules for you and the Geyr living among you; this is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. You and the Geyr shall be the same before the Lord: The same laws and regulations will apply both to you and to the Geyr living among you. Numbers 15:15, 16
The Geyrim were an important part of the life of Israel from the time of the exodus to the time of Yahushua. Israel left Egypt with many other people (Ex 12:38). Adonai reiterated to Joshua the fact that the cities of refuge were for the Geyr as well as the Israelite (Josh 20:9). The man who claimed to have killed Saul was a Geyr in his army (II Sam 1:13). The Geyrim were largely responsible for the construction of Solomon's Temple (I Chr 22:2; II Chr 2:17, 18). They participated in Hezekiah's great Passover festival (II Chr 30:25) and both Jeremiah and Ezekiel admonish Israel not to oppress the Geyrim among them (Jer 22:3; Eze 22:7).
This brings us to the time of Yahushua in the first century. In Him Adonai was bringing to completion His plan for the ages, especially as it regarded the Goyim. Matt 12 and Luke 2 define His mission as it impacts the world beyond Israel. Matt 12:18-21 quotes the previously mentioned Isaiah 42. Yahushua brings mishpayt (justice or the judgements of Torah) to the Gentiles. This means that a primary part of His mission as the Mashiyakh to the world was to teach Torah and it's application (Mishpayt) to the Gentiles. Luke 2:32 is part of the prophesy of Simeon over Yahushua at the time of His B'rit-Milah. In it Simeon says that Yahushua was to be a light for revelation to the Gentiles. A revelation of what? Of the Father Himself; His love, His person and His Truth contained in His Word, specifically the Torah (after all, Yahushua is the Torah made flesh!). It was God’s plan that through Yahushua and His Talmidim, and all those who would follow after, that these truths would reach the Gentiles (Matt 10:18). Yahushua ushered in the beginning of the Messianic age (not the Millennium) and many of the prophesies we have already looked at in this regard are now applicable. Adonai, now that revelation was complete in Yahushua, was going to make a concerted effort to bring the Gentiles the truth (Acts 13:47). But there is only one truth, the Gentiles were not to make it up on their own or mix it with the lies of paganism (Eph 4:7). God did not open His doors to allow pagans in and to scrap a system (and a people) which He had been developing for two millennia, but to give repentant Goyim the opportunity to become part of the commonwealth of Israel (Eph 2:12, 13; 3:6).
Much of what was said about the Gentiles in the Tenakh is reiterated in the B'rit Chadashah. They do not know God (I Thess 4:5), they worship dumb idols (I Cor 12:2) and offer sacrifices to demons (I Cor 10:20). They are sexually immoral, drunkards and consumed by lust (I Pet 4:3). The Gentiles do not have the revelation of Torah but the basics of righteousness have been planted in their hearts by God (Rom 2:14). God is the God of the Gentiles as well as the Jews (Rom 3:29) and now salvation (Acts 28:28), the power of the Ruach haKodesh (Act 10:45) and the blessings of the promise made to Avraham are accessible to them (Gal 3:14).
God was now calling the Gentiles out of their ignorance to the Truth. They were given the opportunity to convert to Biblical, Messianic Judaism and become part of the holy nation of Israel. Jews, you will notice in the B'rit Chadashah (New Covenant), are never described as having been 'converted'. Converted means to change one's beliefs and way of life. Jews did not do this. They already believed in the messianic prophesies, they needed only to accept the fact that Yahushua fulfilled them. They didn't change their way of life; the belief in a messiah was an extension of the Judaism they had always known, thus they epistrevfw, they repent or return to true faith. That is why Yahushua said it was the sick that need a doctor. There were righteous Jews who held to the covenant in faith and had their place in the o’lam haba. But there were also Jews who lived wickedly in sin who needed to repent because they were headed toward the second death. epistrofh,,, translated rightly as 'conversion', is used only in reference to Gentiles (Acts 15:3). Gentiles did have to change their beliefs and way of life, both of which were steeped in paganism, idolatry and immorality. They stepped out of that life, a life that was being lived in a way that would eventually lead to the second death, 'converting' to a belief in a Jewish Messiah, and then accepting the way of life He promoted, a life of obedience to Torah (Matt 5:17-20).
Adonai has specified several purposes for the Gentiles who now participate in the spiritual blessings and promises of Israel (Gal 3:14). Salvation was made available to the Gentiles to provoke Israel to jealousy (Rom 11:11). For what reason? So they could fulfill the purpose God had originally set before them, that they would be a light to the nations (Isa 60:3). There is, however, not a prophesy or verse in the Tenakh that indicates Israel was to give up the Torah or that God would exchange it for another. Thus the Gentiles who, at the end of the first and into the second century, discarded Torah, made the accomplishment of this goal nearly impossible. Jewish people could not accept a Messiah they were told had abolished the Torah. For their entire history Israel was told to obey Torah as one of the most important terms of the covenant Adonai had made with them. They were not going to give that up for a 'Gentile's Messiah'. So how were the Gentiles supposed to make Israel jealous? By demonstrating God's power through the Ruach haKodesh in the context of a Torah observant lifestyle. If a Jewish person saw a Gentile who was just as Torah observant as he was, yet was filled with the love that came through his relationship with the Mashiyakh and demonstrating the power of the Ruach as prophesied by Joel, he would want this better and more powerful expression of his faith. That is why the early community was so successful in Yerushalyim. Here were a group of Jews and Gentiles who clearly held onto the covenant with pride and joy through their Torah obedience, yet were filled with the love and power that the revelation of the Mashiyakh brought. Thus many Priests (Act 6:7), Pharisees (Acts 15) and common people (Acts 21:20) came to believe. If then, this was God's purpose for the Gentiles to be converted and saved, it should be obvious that Torah obedience is necessary for the completion of the mission of saving all of Israel (Rom 11:26).
One other way of identification that Rabbi Sha'ul emphasized was that of materially blessing Israel. This was the first step towards the fulfillment of the prophesy discussed previously about the wealth of the nations flowing to Israel. The Gentiles who partook of the spiritual blessings of Avraham and Israel's Mashiyakh, were to show their appreciation through their material giving (Rom 15:27). Had this happened on a large scale, it would have been Israel's first step toward attaining the position in the messianic age they were to have. This also would have facilitated the goal of provoking Israel to jealousy because they would have been impressed, as they were with Cornelius (Acts 10:2), by the giving of their resources to the Jewish people out of love, and in our case, appreciation. The giving of money is one way a Gentile can truly show identification with the people of Israel of whom he had become an intimate part through Yahushua haMashiyakh.
These types of identification were important because Gentiles had now become part of the righteous remnant of Israel that had existed since the time of the patriarchs. When the Scripture states that not all people descended from Israel are Israel (Rom 9:6) it is talking about the righteous faithful remnant and those who are not children of the promise. It is more than just birth that makes one a child of the promise, it takes faith demonstrated by obedience to the terms of the covenant. At certain times in Israel’s history, the children of the promise were in the majority and in leadership and Israel was actively fulfilling her mission. This was the case during the time of Joshua, David, and even in the time of Ezra. At other times, such as during the ministry of Elijah, the faithful remnant only numbered among the thousands. During these times there were many among the children of Israel who were not only disobeying the covenant with Moshe, but were also breaking the terms of the universal covenant and forfeiting their place in the world to come. That distinction is important because today the faithful remnant of Israel are the Torah obedient believers of Yahushua haMashiyakh. Many of the natural sons of Israel, the Jews of today, while righteous according to the universal covenants, are not obedient to the most current covenant God has made with the children of Israel and are following a man made religious system based loosely on Scripture. Rabbi Sha’ul strongly desired the salvation of his people, not from the fires of hell, but from the consequences of their disobedience to the covenant, consequences that were realized in 70 C.E. Salvation in the Scriptures means many things, not just the salvation of the wicked from the second death. It can mean salvation from the wrath of God or from a temporal enemy. As we have seen, in the writings of Rabbi Sha’ul it usually means salvation from death, physical death or the judgement of God on the Day of the Lord, and only occasionally does it mean having to undergo the examination of the great white throne judgement (Rev 20:11-13). Gentiles can have the assurance of eternal life as well through the new covenant and can participate in God’s work through the people of Israel.
This new work of God looks pretty good from the Gentile's end. Israel's end was just as important and, in some ways more difficult. It was hard for them to accept that Gentiles could become a part of the people of Avraham and be on equal standing before God, participating in all the promises and blessings just as the natural born son, particularly without a formal conversion process in which circumcision was essential. Since the time of the Babylonian captivity, most of the people of Israel had learned their lesson. No longer would they mix the worship of Adonai with Baal, they would no longer seek to become like the nations around them. But many of them had taken this to the extreme. They said all Gentiles were dogs (Matt 15:26) and sinners (Gal 2:15) who should not be touched, approached or dealt with on an intimate basis. They had constructed the temple to reinforce the Gentile’s inferior status in their eyes. They had set up the ‘middle wall of partition’ which was not Torah but the attitude of the Jews toward the Gentiles that kept them in a second class position (and the anti-Semitic views of the Gentiles also created a wall!). So when the Gentiles entered the early believing community through faith, some Jews had a problem forgetting their prejudices and fellowshipping with them, accepting them as equals in the sight of God (Gal 2:11-14).
Finally, if we look at the two places the “Great Commission” is given, we will see to what purpose the followers of Yahushua are called. In Matthew 28:18-20, His disciples are to use the authority He has given them to make other disciples among all the nations, and teach them to obey Torah. This is the first purpose for the remnant of Israel who follow the Messiah Yahushua, to expand the people of Israel. We have seen that God had always made provision for the Goyim to become part of His people but in this time following the revelation of the Messiah, God is calling His people to actively pursue this goal. The second mission is found in Luke 24:47. Repentance and forgiveness is to be preached to all nations. This is the ‘Gospel of the Kingdom’, the gospel Yahushua Himself preached, “repent for the Kingdom of heaven is near” (Matt 4:17). This part of the mission is to call the nations to righteousness so they will have the opportunity to escape the wrath of God and have a place in the world to come.
God has always had a plan for all the people on earth. He has chosen Israel as a special nation, a holy nation, a kingdom of priests to whom He has entrusted His words. They were to teach Faith and Torah to the whole world. Individual Goyim can become part of Israel by Faith and adherence to Torah (Isa 56). Since the time of Mashiyakh, God has emphasized this part of His plan as well as His desire to see all people demonstrate the basics of righteousness in their lives in response to their recognition of Him. Anyone can be one of the priests of the world by becoming part of Israel through Yahushua haMashiyakh. While it is a position of great privilege, it also entails responsibility and sacrifice, a willingness to be 'set apart' from the rest of the world in every area of life. That is the life of Torah in the Messiah. That is the opportunity available to the Goyim (and the Jew!). They need only believe Yahushua and live His Torah.