Whenever believers from the nations celebrate the feast of Pentecost their thoughts go back to the very beginning when on the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit, as the Lord promised, was poured out. The way in which the Holy Spirit was poured out, descending upon the believers as tongues of fire, reminds us of the altar that the prophet Elijah built on Mount Carmel. The altar was built with 12 stones which represented the 12 tribes, the entire people of Israel. The nation at that time was divided into two kingdoms: the Kingdom of Israel and the Kingdom of Judah. However, Elijah prophetically built an altar that represented a united Israel. The holy fire of God descended upon the altar that was drenched in water and consumed the sacrifice, even the stones.
On the day of Pentecost, 50 days following the first Sabbath after the Feast of Passover, the Holy Spirit was poured out in an even greater way then when the fire fell in the days of Elijah. The Holy Spirit manifested Himself as tongues of fire that descended upon 120 united believers who were praying and expecting to have a heavenly visitation as Yeshua had promised and was prophesied through the prophet Jeremiah 31:31-33:
“Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt…But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them and on their heart, I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”
Most believers from the nations who are yearning for a new visitation from above, look back to this beginning at Pentecost, but rarely consider what this new early church looked like, of whom it was composed, and how the Gentiles have been joined to what God began nearly 2000 years ago in Jerusalem, the city of the great King. The questions ought to be: What really happened at Pentecost, the beginning of the Church? Who were these first believers in the Messiah Yeshua?
Clearly and obviously these first believers in Yeshua were all Jews. They had no thought of starting a new religion. They believed, however, with all of their hearts that the promised Messiah to the people of Israel had come. He fulfilled all the messianic prophecies in the Tanakh, and made and ratified the new covenant through the pouring out of His own blood, as prophesied by Jeremiah. They were also witnesses to His amazing resurrection. During the 40 day period after He arose from the dead, He appeared to the disciples and remained with them until He ascended into heaven.
These first believers, through much opposition, lived as fellow Jews in the midst of their own nation Israel. They never stopped seeing themselves as Jews because they understood that faith in Messiah Yeshua was, and is the true and final expression of the covenant faith of Israel. Today in Israel, the same thing is true. Although there is much opposition to our faith in the Messiahship of Yeshua, we, as Jewish believers in Yeshua, live as Jews among our own people in the nation of Israel.
The leadership of the new community of those who believed and followed Yeshua was centered in Jerusalem where the Kehila was born. These leaders were the ones who called for the gathering that we call the “Jerusalem Council” as inferred in Acts 15. Yaakov the Just, the relative or perhaps even the brother of Yeshua, together with the other apostles clearly acknowledged and decided that the Gentiles had now been joined to the Kehila that was born in Jerusalem.
The disciples witnessed and proclaimed to their fellow Israelites that the messianic prophecies had been fulfilled, Messiah had come, and a new era had begun. The holiness of their lives, love for one another, unity and empowerment by the Holy Spirit became a great testimony that the fallen tabernacle of David had been restored. The resurrection of Yeshua their Messiah as the eternal heir to the throne of David had revived the Davidic Kingdom. The great King had begun to reign within His people in the city of Jerusalem and the solid rock foundation of the Messianic Kingdom had been established.
Jerusalem was understood to be the ‘mother’ of the kehilot that had now become international. In his letter to the Ephesians, the apostle Paul called this community ‘the Commonwealth of Israel’ and the ‘One New Man’ which is composed of the two parts of humanity: the Jews and the Nations. This was and continues to be the understanding of what we presently call the whole Body of Messiah.
With the destruction of the Second Jerusalem Temple in the year 70 CE and with the final destruction of Jerusalem through the Roman emperor Hadrian in approximately the year 130 CE, the full and final dispersion of the Jewish people among the nations took place and the center of the church shifted from Jerusalem to Rome. The division within the church that began between the Gentiles and Jews became progressively broader. The church eventually became non-Jewish; hence the leadership of the church was entirely Gentile. The replacement theology that quickly developed portrayed Israel as being the people of God of ‘the past’, but no longer of ‘the present’. The Church of Rome considered itself as the New Israel and Zion containing the ‘full deposit of Christ’.
As time progressed, divisions within the church continued. The Church of Rome and the Church of Constantinople competed with one another and were finally divided. Later, Martin Luther, a Catholic monk, found that he could not tolerate the corruption that he saw in the Church of Rome and protested. He was eventually excommunicated. The king of England wanted to divorce his wife because she did not give him a son to inherit his throne. He requested permission from the pope to divorce her but received no answer. So he took matters into his own hands and divorced his wife. He then regarded himself as the head of the new Church of England. In Switzerland, further reformation took place headed by Calvin and Swingli that resulted in the ongoing division of the Protestant church resulting in 30,000 denominations today.
The early Jewish kehila of Jerusalem was forgotten. Christianity was cut off from its roots which resulted in the separation of Christianity and Judaism into two distinct and different religions. However, God will never change His divine pattern, no matter how much we attempt to change our understanding of the whole Body of Messiah. Just as God showed Moses the divine pattern on the mountain and told him to build the tabernacle exactly as he was shown, so in the same way He established the pattern of the ‘Kehilot’ which is generally referred to as the ‘apostolic pattern’. Through the rebirth of the Jewish members of the Body of Messiah, which is a great surprise to many, the Lord is saying, “I have not forgotten, I am the God Who remembers.”
The Lord is challenging the Gentile church by saying, “Remember how and when and where you were born. Remember what you have become a part of. You have been engrafted into the cultivated Messianic Olive Tree of Israel. You are not a separate entity replacing Israel. Israel, whom I am restoring, is my firstborn son among the nations and will always continue to be my firstborn.
The Lord is challenging the Jewish nation by saying, “Yeshua is your King Messiah and all that the prophets have seen and prophesied will only be fulfilled when you repent and receive your King. When you are joined to Him, your prophetic kingdom destiny will finally be realized and you will become ‘a light to the nations’.
The Holy Spirit has given the leadership of Toward Jerusalem Council II (TJCII) Seven Affirmations that we are presenting to the church among the nations. We are challenging the church to affirm these affirmations with positive responses. I will mention two of the seven.
Affirmation #1: “We affirm the election of Israel, its irrevocable nature and God’s unfinished work with the Jewish people regarding salvation and the role of Israel as a blessing to the nations.”
Affirmation #3: “We affirm the formation of Messianic Jewish kehilot as a significant and effective way to express Jewish collective identity (in Yeshua) and as a means of witnessing to Yeshua before the Jewish community. We also affirm Jewish groupings which are part of the churches when they are committed to a Jewish life and identity.”
All of this is part of the process of God’s restoration of the whole church, both Jews and Gentiles in Messiah. He is preparing us to rule and reign with Him at His second coming in the Messianic Kingdom where the Messiah will be seated upon the Throne of David here on the earth in Jerusalem. He is ‘the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last’ and He will complete what He began.