The Church and the vast majority of messianic congregations do not know the Gospel Jesus preached and consequently in 2000 years have never preached it correctly with commensurate signs following.
To support this charge, we bring the exegesis of Acts 1:6-8:
After the Resurrection, Jesus appeared to his disciples to tell them they would soon receive the mikveh of the Holy Spirit.
Verse 6: “When they therefore were come together, they asked of him saying, Master, will thou at this time restore again the kingdom of Israel?
Verse 7: “And he said unto them, it is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.
Verse 8: “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you: and ye shall be “witnesses unto me” or “my witnesses” (KJV) both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
At this time, all of Jesus’ disciples are Jews who have been awaiting the messiah. These Jews are familiar with the tradition then in vogue that the messiah would suffer but ultimately reunite both of the houses of Israel and Judah. The question in verse 6 is in response to this messianic expectation. Note especially that the Kingdom of Israel (the Northern Tribes) in the expectation of these First Century Jews would also be restored.
Jesus did answer the question, but instead of explaining “when” this would occur, which only the Father knows and can bring about, he explained HOW this restoration of the Kingdom of Israel would occur.
First, it would be a move of the Holy Spirit, which required his death, burial and resurrection in order for the Comforter to come. This should clear up any concern that “another or different” Gospel is being preached. It is the same Gospel but clarified and in the context of Jewish messianic expectations.
Second, empowered by the Comforter, Jesus’s followers would be “his witnesses”– contextually — to preach this coming restoration. However, the New Testament does not record any of his disciples except possibly Philip, even setting foot in the precincts of Judah. Philip ministered to the eunuch in the Gaza and the reasoning is that he traveled through Judah to reach the Gaza. This means the command to minister the Gospel in “Judea” and “Samaria” has to this day NOT been fulfilled and has awaited an End-Times outpouring of the Holy Spirit to resume and complete. But before we send boatloads of missionaries off to Israel to “convert” the Jews, we should understand more about this Gospel Jesus himself preached.
Another Scripture which supports the idea that before the proper Gospel could go forth to the Gentiles, it must first “raise up the tribes of Jacob and restore the preserved of Israel,” is the commission of the “servant” in Isaiah 49. “It will be a light (easy) thing” to raise up Jacob and Israel, but comparatively more difficult for this “servant” to become a “light to the Gentiles.” But one should ask, had the Gospel first attended to raising up Jacob and Israel (not to be confused contextually with the Jewish people), what would be the “Light” “witnessed” to the Gentiles? The answer of course is “the everlasting commands of Torah eternally binding on all of Israel throughout their generations.”
The Greek text parallel to the King James Version translates “witnesses” with the pronoun “me” as the object (witnesses of me) or therefore “my witnesses.” However, the Aramaic Peshita text translated in 1851 by Princeton biblical scholar James Murdock translates the Aramaic phrase, “v’tihovon li sa’hadeh” differently as “witnesses for me” from the literal Aramaic (they will be for me witnesses). Either translation is acceptable in the Greek, but the Aramaic parallels the Hebrew text, “v’tiyu li l’eydim,” (they will be for me witnesses). In other words, the disciples of Jesus are to witness his message as much if not more than him.
The Aramaic properly places the focus on Jesus’ Gospel, and does not make this Gospel totally ABOUT him.
The Gospel in his own words to be taught in the Last Days is the “Gospel of the Restoration of the Kingdom to Israel” NOT the Gospel about Jesus Christ. Certainly, the spiritual work done by Jesus to become the means the Assimilation of Israel (not to be confused with Judah) to be restored again to their covenant remains pre-eminent. But the false association with Jesus as deity fades when he is not the focus of the Gospel promising the restoration of the Kingdom to Israel. To become the means to renew scattered Israel to covenant does not require any “sh’tuf” (or association with him as deity), which is allowed for Christians but not allowed for Christians who realize their identity is in Israel.
Where THIS Gospel is preached, the Spirit promises confirming signs.
I would like to relate one such instance that occurred in 1987 in the all-Moslem village of Beit Phage in East Jerusalem (on the back side of the Mount of Olives).
Machmoud, Hamad, Munir and other Palestinian men in their late teens to early 20s were enjoying the cool of the day seated around picnic tables outside of Munir’s litte store, which was adjacent to a building on which I lived on the roof top for about five months until the Palestinian uprising began on December 10, 1987.
Between hits of Turkish tobacco in their water pipes, they were discussing Syria’s attack at Kiriyat Sh’mona, a city in the north. Five Syrian soldiers had flown across the border clinging to hanggliders and killed several Israelis in the Israeli village and safefly fled back across the Syrian border. The Palestinians were worried that Israel would retaliate and they (the Palestinians) would somehow be caught in the middle.
Usually, I would just listen and learn but occasionally Machmoud or Hamad would ask my opinion on things, usually when it related to Jesus somehow. So Hamad, seated across the picnic table from me asked me, “What would your Jesus do?”
So I took that opportunity to explain that Jesus preached if someone hit you on one side of your face, to turn to him the other side of your face. Such pacifism is strange indeed in Arab culture and merited a challenging response. Hamad, who was about my height and build, rose from his bench, came over to my side of the table, “You say, I hit you … y’y’you no hit back?” he asked in broken English with a mischievous gleam in his eye betraying his intent to illustrate his point.
A hasty prayer under my breath, I rose to my feet and without hesitation grabbed him by the shoulders and said, “Hamad, if you do this thing, I will knock your block off,” but then my hands dropped to his elbows and I added, “but that’s not what Jesus would do. He would say to you, ‘Why did you hit me? I’m your brother!”
Hamad laughed it off so I knew he was not offended. Not another word was spoken for the next few seconds giving the Palestinians seated around the picnic table a chance to think about what had just transpired. Then our contemplation was interrupted by a car screeching to a halt in front of Munir’s little store, sandy road dust coming at us like a cloud.
Out of the passenger side of the vehicle jumped a rather large, burly and mean-looking Palestinian who I had never met before. I knew most of the leaders of the Avuhaval and Sa’ayad clans who occupied the back side of the Mount of Olives, but did not recognize this man. He walked straight over to Hamad (who had challenged me) and planted his fist on Hamad’s head. Hamad was knocked to the ground. Instantly, I saw his teeth and fists clench at the same time as he began picking himself off the ground to charge his assailant, who made two of him.
Hoping to avoid some unpleasantness, I yelled, “Regah! (wait a minute in Hebrew) as I caught Hamad’s fist on the backswing. Hamad, perhaps realizing that if he retaliated he might wind up in the hospital, dropped his fist and spoke out of the corner of his eye to his assailant the words I had earlier echoed to him, “Why did you hit me? I’m your brother.”
The scene became pandemonium. The dozen or so young Palestinian men who had been seated around the picnic table were now rolling on the ground laughing. Hamad’s assailant, about 6-feet-2, 240 pounds, began backpedalling toward the passenger door of the car. And as he was driven away, he looked back out of the window at a scene that must have been puzzling, since he had not been part of the earlier conversation.
Hamad stood there scratching his head. “You see, Hamad, it works!,” I told him as another chorus of laughs came from the men still rolling on the ground. Once all were composed, the Spirit came on me and I told them, “Just like Hamad had to decide whether to retaliate, so the good Palestinian people must also make a choice,” I told them. “God is bringing home the House of Israel to reunite with the House of Judah. If you do not resist this, it will go well with you. But if you resist, it will be like pissin’ against the wind.”
The Gospel of the Restoration of the Kingdom to Israel was the Gospel Grandfather had me minister to these Palestinian clans in East Jerusalem, and later throughout Judea-Samaria. Today, the same message applies at the Four Corners where a remnant of Israelite East M’nashe has been located.
But the sign given by the God of Israel to the Palestinian people outside Munir’s little store validated to many the Gospel of the restoration of the Kingdom of Israel.
Maggid ben Yoseif