Recently, I had a conversation with a pastor who teaches that the “Body of Christ” must attain a certain level of holiness or righteousness before the Messiah will return, and set up His earthly Kingdom. The converse of this idea is that Yahshua’s return is dependant upon our righteousness. I might add his interpretation of righteousness is confusing to me for he teaches obedience to Torah as works, and that Torah is “dead” or not relevant to Christians. However, I was intrigued by his doctrine because it seems to me to be an oxymoron. Teaching “righteousness” as a prerequisite to Yahshua’s return, a righteousness that should depend on G-d’s Torah, His teachings, and standards; yet apparently righteousness that incorporates grace only, and assigns Torah observance to works and not to obedience. The implication being that by our obedience to G-d’s Torah as the only standard for a believer in some way cancels out grace. To discuss Torah observance is not the purpose of this message, but one cannot overlook the absurdity of having righteousness without obedience to G-d’s standard, the Torah, as the rule of measurement, especially, in light of Romans 3:25. Anyway, my understanding is that there is a whole movement that believes this doctrine that is called “Kingdom Now.”
Solomon said, there is nothing “new under the sun,” and I recognized in this apparently “Christian” doctrine an affinity to a Jewish belief of the same nature. This doctrine split Jewish society when Israel was reborn as a nation. Religious Jews by and large believe that “all” Jewish people must become righteous and holy, becoming a holy nation in response to G-d’s commission, and then the Messiah will come. At that time He will set up the Messianic Kingdom in Jerusalem in the form of a restored Holy nation Israel. The only difference between the Christian and Jewish doctrines are the identities of the righteous: Jew or Christian and by process the identity of the kingdoms-a Jewish Kingdom or a Christian one.
The problems endemic to the Jewish doctrine surfaced when during the tumult of the creation of the present state of Israel. A whole division of the worldwide Jewish population opposed Israel’s national rebirth. This group felt that Israel’s rebirth as a national entity should only happen when the level of righteousness of the Jewish people had evolved to such an extent that the Messiah would have to come in response, and then and only then would a national Israel be reestablish and by Him alone. In other words this group and apparently the Christian group of the same doctrine feel that we, in or own efforts will compel the Messiah to come and set up His kingdom when we have obtained a level of righteousness consistent with their respective determinations. Of course that was not evident in 1948 or is it now evident for that matter, nor probably will it ever be.
It was and is believed by this sectarian group of Jews that it is presumptuous to establish Israel as a nation prior to attaining righteous religiosity according to their standards, and even today they refuse to recognize Israel as a sovereign nation. . Of course the Christian counterpart is quiet similar because the Kingdom they envision will be a Christian one populated by Gentiles only, or perhaps so called completed Jews, meaning Jews who have adopted Gentile standards with their profession of faith in Yahshua. These two doctrines are not very different except that this pastor is talking about a spiritualized Israel made up of Christians, which ignores a whole lot of biblical prophecy concerning the Jews and the Kingdom of Israel.
First, I thought, if the Messianic Kingdom is dependant upon us and our righteousness what do we do about scriptural prophecy regarding the last days, whose predominant theme, is that the world will “wax worse and worse,” and again become as in “the days of Noah,” that culminate in the advent of the anti-Christ, the tribulation, etc.. If we by our own effort can usher in the Kingdom does that mean that the Scriptures are in error? Personally, I believe in the inerrancy of the Scriptures in the original, so my quest had to lead elsewhere; for this doctrine of the Kingdom does not correlate with Scripture according to my understanding.
Secondly, this led me to ask this pastor how he justified his theory in light of what appears to be clear-cut scriptural opposition. Of course, he spiritualized it. Spiritualizing scripture has led to many false doctrines and gives a safe haven for those promoting any doctrine that is not supported by the Word of G-d. This propensity to “spiritualize” has birthed such false doctrines as “Church Replacement Theology,” “Two Covenant theology” and other damnable doctrines, so my skepticism remained.
However, one positive result of “Kingdom Now” theology might cause some to live Torah Observant, righteous lives, or some approximation of Christian ethics, and that is good, but it’s concept, the essence of the belief, is filled to the brim with arrogance. I’d be the last to argue against being Torah obedient and the first to teach we should all be living Torah Observant lives, but I suspect this is not what “Kingdom Now” proponents propose, that is, observance of G-d’s written Torah as found in the scriptures. There are 1600 years of antinomianism within Christianity that would have to be overcome and I suspect this doctrine will not correct that self-interest propensity or birth a desire to do so. So, I continued to think about this pastor’s equation and its Jewish equivalent and as always it drove me to the scriptures to find an answer that addressed my doubts of the validity of both beliefs.
My search led me immediately to the Sermon on the Mount for it is replete with doctrine regarding the Kingdom. There I was directed immediately to the first beatitude, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3).
As I pondered this verse I perceived that what Yahshua was addressing here is “poverty of Spirit,” which begs the question what does “poor in spirit” mean? First, we must examine certain negatives. It does not mean that we should be diffident or nervous, nor does it mean we should be retiring, weak or lacking in courage. Some think it means just that. There are people who are just that naturally, those that always stand in the background. They are born like that. One of the most “righteous,” Christian like men I ever met who possessed all the virtues of what a Christian should be, was an atheist. So, let me emphasize that none of these things in the Beatitudes are natural qualities; to be “poor in spirit” then does not mean you are to be born like that. Nor or we too become imitators. We are not to glory in our poverty of spirit. That is pride. We are not to be concerned about, personality, adapting an appearance either personal or institutional to create an impression; for the person who is truly “poor in spirit” will not worry about his appearance or the impression he makes; he will always give the right impression. Yet, to be “poor in spirit” is not a matter of suppression of personality either.
Let’s look at some of the models in Scripture. Peter was a man who was naturally aggressive, self-assertive, and self-confident. He could be described as a typical modern man of the world, confident and believing in himself. But look at him when he truly sees Yahshua. He says, “Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” Yet, he never ceased to be a bold man. The essential personality remains, but he is “poor in spirit” at the same time. Paul too was a man with great powers and a natural man fully aware of them. In his Epistles you will read that the fight he had to fight till the end of his life was against pride. He was self confident and self-assured but once he met Yahshua on the road to Damascus all that became “loss” and this man who had such self assurance appeared in Corinth, “in weakness and fear and much trembling.” Yahshua is our greatest example. He was of the G-dhead, but He took on sinful flesh and lived as a man who confessed that He could do nothing of Himself. He said, “I speak not of myself; but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works” (John 14:10). Seeing Him in prayer reveals the “poor in spirit” in Him. There we are introduced to His “poverty of spirit” and His reliance upon G-d. This then is what being “poor in spirit” means. A complete absence of pride, a complete absence of self-assurance and self-reliance. It means consciousness that we are nothing in the presence of G-d. It is a tremendous awareness of our utter nothingness as we come face to face with G-d. Such a person by definition cannot usher in the Kingdom of G-d because it means nullification of self, not self-determination.
Like so much in this Sermon, Yahshua is addressing the nullification of self or dying to self. In this context we are informed that it ultimately a man’s attitude toward himself that this verse is concerned with. That is the thing that matters not whether he is wealthy or poor, good looking or ugly, or brilliant or simple. The Beatitudes indicate most clearly the utter essential difference between natural man and the true believer. Within this context of the Sermon there is a clear-cut division between these two kingdoms; the Kingdom of G-d and the kingdom of this world. It is a complete absolute distinction, and division. And we see that “Kingdom Now” emphasizes the reverse for the Kingdom of this world is not the Kingdom of G-d. The emphasis the world places on itself is the belief in self-reliance, self-confidence, and self-expression. Yahshua’s doctrine in the Sermon on the Mount is complete antithesis to this worldly spirit. We see this selfsame worldly spirit in our churches today. It is the giving of confidence and assurance. Impressing the congregate with grandiose programs designed to teach that they must take control of their lives and live up to the standards of a corrupt world. We find the churches goal is to have a bigger organization, a bigger building, impressive furnishings, the latest electronic equipment, and project before the world all the trappings of a successful ministry, according to worldly standards. After all, we are taught to be successful; we have to adopt the facade and trappings of success as sponsored by the world. Numbers are all that count and not content, so we water down G-d’s message and give ourselves over to worldly wisdom to gain those numbers. We are told if you want to succeed in a profession you must give the impression that you are a success, so that you appear more successful than you actually are, and people will say, “that is the church or man you must go to.” The whole principle on which life is run at the present time is to express yourself, believe in your self, realize the powers that are innate in yourself, and let the whole world see and know them. Self-confidence, self-assurance, and self-reliance, and it is in the terms of that fundamental belief that men think they can bring in the kingdom, the return of Yahshua HaMashiach. There, I’ve said it! This doctrine assumes that we can usher the Kingdom in by our own efforts to make good and decent individuals, but in this verse, in Yahshua’s own words, we are confronted by something, which is in utter and absolute contrast to this belief and teaching.
Think of it this way, “would you go to a prospective employer and tell him you are a most vile and sinful person if you expected to get the job?” That’s ridiculous, right? It is because we are educated by this worldly standard, even in our churches, so we don’t understand this verse of self-nullification. Those inoculated with this worldly wisdom have to be taught that we are not looking at men confronting one another here; we are looking at men face to face with G-d. And if one feels anything in the presence of G-d save utter poverty of spirit, it ultimately means that you have never faced Him. This is the meaning of this Beatitude. And this is why we by our own standards and efforts will not bring the Messiah back as if compelled by our success.
Today, we are accustomed by worldly wisdom of evaluating a speaker, preacher, and rabbi by his/her “personality,” their presence or charisma. And there is nothing more foolish. We use phrases like, “what a wonderful personality he has.” This is tragic, because generally it is something totally carnal or a matter of physical experience. Isaiah 53 points out to us that Yahshua would have no such redeeming qualities that we are accustomed to judge speakers or teachers by today. According to Scripture, Yahshua was not handsome, or anything to be desired. It was the message that attracted his listeners. Unfortunately, most churches have given the message, the Word of G-d, the least percentage of time in worship services or else they wrap around it secular humanistic messages. Today, most of the time spent in a church is given over to entertainment disguised as praise and worship.
Ask yourself, what does this worldly preoccupation mean to the “body of the Messiah? Paul gave us the answer and we would do well to follow his advice. “We preach not ourselves,” says Sha’ul, “but Messiah Yahshua ha Adonai.” When he went to Corinth, he tells us, he went in “weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling”. He did not step onto the platform with confidence, self-assurance and ease, and give the impression of a great personality. Rather, the people said of him, “His appearance is weak and his speech contemptible.” Meaning not forceful or erudite. This of course is not the portrait of a successful preacher today. The man or the program today has become more important than the message. We have wandered far from the truth, and pattern of Scripture. The Church is allowing the world and its methods to influence and control her outlook and life. To “be poor in spirit” is not even popular in the church. And if we were “poor in spirit” we could not be so arrogant as to think we can usher in the return of Yahshua by some contrived righteousness that does not even follow G-d’s Torah, but is man made. As true believers we have to rethink these matters, we are not to take things on their face value, and above all we must not be captivated by this worldly psychology being presented in our churches and synagogues as biblically foundational, but recognize it for what it is, man made. Too often we accept what is said to us because we are looking at the man and his appearance in a worldly manner and not biblically. That is the result of 1600 years of growing away from G-d’s Torah and biblically sound principles found only in His Bible. This is a subject that one could address seemingly forever, but it is now time to tell you, Scripturally, what will bring the Messiah back.
In your mind place yourself with Yahshua; a few days before Our Lord died, at the time He began what has come to be known as the Olivet Discourse. He issued this stern warning in Jerusalem to its Jewish inhabitants. “For I say unto you, ye shall not see me henchforth, till ye shall say, blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord (YHVH). (Matthew 23:9). So many Christians forget that Yahshua was a Jew and He was addressing the Jews of Jerusalem in His native tongue. In Hebrew there is a certain excitement and exhilaration of Spirit not found in the English. So He said, Baruch haba b’Shem Adonai. Yahshua was leaving His beloved city Jerusalem and His chosen people and He would be gone for a dreadfully long period of time. And Yahshua Himself describes the cause in verses 36-37 of this same chapter. He said: “Verily I say unto you, al these things shall come upon this generation. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou has killed the prophets, and stoned them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!”
The offer of the Messianic Kingdom had come to the nation of Israel in His person, and its surrogate leaders appointed by the Romans had effectively rejected it. This rejection by the surrogate leaders of the nation is what caused the tragic departure of Yahshua our Lord. Is should have been no surprise for it had been predicted by the prophets of old. In Isaiah 53: 1,3 we read: Who hath delivered our report? And to who is the arm of the Lord revealed? He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrow and acquainted with grief; and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised and we esteemed him not. And in Hosea 3:4 we read: “for the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim.
Al this is the negative way to understanding Yahshua’s prophecy. So how does it inform us of when He will return? Simply, and empathetically only when the Jews invite Him back and the formula for this invitation is found in Zechariah 12:10, which tells us: “And I will pour upon the House of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications; and thy shall look upon him who they have pierced and they shall mourn for him, as one who mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn. Then in 14:4 “And his feet shall stand in that day upon the Mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east. Yes, He will come when after suffering through the Tribulation; the Jewish people will repent as a nation, and come to know their Messiah as Yahshua. Their national yearning for the Messiah will cause Him to return and on that day will the Kingdom Come and Not before.
“Kingdom Now,” No, for Yahshua would not return if all the Christians in the world became Torah Observant leading exemplary lives of righteousness. Yahshua Ha Mashiach will only return when His Jewish brethren as a nation acknowledge Him as the Messiah, the one pierced, then He will return to Jerusalem, the city He loved, and G-d’s capitol and then shall He usher in the Kingdom of G-d.
Amein, Amein, Amein…Glory to YHVH and His Messiah.