Rabbi’s Reflections – Sunday, December 26, 2021
A Conversation with Yeshua – When Will He Return? (Part 6) by Dr. Raymond Finney
INTRODUCTION: I continue Yeshua’s Olivet Discourse. In the December 12 RR, I discussed Yeshua’s warning that may of His followers would be driven from true faith by apostasy and apathy. These distractions are so important that I continue them in this Sunday’s RR and next Sunday’s RR. I offer the following comments about this portion of the Olivet Discourse:
APOSTASY AND APATHY (A&A): This section is a recap from the earlier RR. Yeshua described two features characterizing the Community of Believers (Church) in the last days– apostasy and apathy. I will combine the two related conditions, apostasy and apathy, by the abbreviation A&A.
● Apostasy: “Apostasy” comes from the B’rit Chadashah Greek ἀποστασία (apostasia). Apostasy combines apo- (away from) and -stasia (to stand). Literally translated, apostasy is “a standing away [from faith],” “a movement away [from faith],” or “deception, revolt, renunciation, neglect, abandonment [of faith].”
● Apathy: Apathy is a closely related term. “Apathy” comes from the Greek ἀπαθεια
(apatheia). Apathy combines a- (no) and -pathy (feeling). Apathy is literally translated “without suffering, feeling, or sensation.”
EXAMPLES OF A&A: I continue reasons a Believer may stray from faith, whether due to apostasy or apathy.
● A&A due to religion: This may seem like a contradiction or misprint, but it is not. Yeshua had the most difficulty with and faced the most opposition from the religious leaders of His day. He seemed more at ease ministering to “ordinary” sinners. I believe this apparent discrepancy is because highly religious people are so set in their ways and are so convinced that only they know the Truth, but no one else knows this Truth, that they often become insufferable and unwilling to consider any correction in error.
“Church” is translated nearly eighty times in the B’rit Chadashah, coming from the Greek ἐκκλησίαν (ekklēsian). (By the way, “synagogue” is mentioned a little more than forty times in the B’rit Chadashah.)
Ekklēsian, a compound word, has a prefix (“out”) combined with a root (“called”). An ekklēsian is literally a gathering of people called out of darkness into light for a specific purpose. See Hebrews 10:24-25 for that purpose. Yeshua alluded to this gathering in His parable of the Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13). The Apostle Peter explained why Believers are called out from the world (1 Peter 2:9-10): But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Once you were “not a people,” but now you are “God’s people.” You were shown “no mercy,” but now you have been shown “mercy.”
A so-called church, synagogue, or any other meeting place is of value to God only because of the people congregating in that building. God must care about the people, who love and worship Him, and not about what they call themselves. Magnificent architectural masterpieces (cathedrals in Europe and elsewhere) have been built, but I wonder if God has been impressed. When Yeshua was in the Temple, He was not impressed by the magnificent building or the gifts of rich men; He was impressed by a poor widow who gave two small coins– her livelihood– to God’s Kingdom.
A so-called church, denomination, or any other designation is of value to God only for how they act toward Him and their neighbors, and not about pretty words written in creeds, catechisms, and other documents of man.
Any division of man (Church, denomination, and so forth) cannot become apostate or apathetic. Such inanimate divisions have no will to act. It is the living people within such organizations which can fail God.
In a future RR I will contrast Yeshua’s views on congregations in Philadelphia and Laodicea (The Revelation, chapter 3). Yeshua loved the poor congregation, but detested the rich congregation.
- A&A due to unforgiven sin: The Bible presents a formula for forgiveness of sin. In this formula, a Believer must seek forgiveness in three stages:
(1) First stage– forgive other persons: God will not forgive sin, until the sinner, who is reborn by belief in and who accepts the blood sacrifice of Yeshua, first forgives those who have sinned against him/ her.
(2) Second stage– ask God’s forgiveness: If a sinner forgives others and, then, confesses sin to God, asks forgiveness, and repents, God will faithfully forgive– and forget!– that sin.
(3) Third stage– forgive self: The final stage of sin forgiveness– and the stage often overlooked– is forgiveness of self. Inability to forgive self results in guilt. Many persons who have not forgiven themselves of sin, even after completing the first two steps– that is, persons who suffer guilt– remove themselves from the corporate worship of God. They listen to Satan’s lying accusations and deceptions, which may include something like this: “You have sinned. You are unworthy to worship God. God will never forgive you.” Probably all of us have known persons who were once active in fellowship with God and other Believers, but who have completely removed themselves from worship because of lingering guilt over past sin. Believing Satan’s lies, they fade into A&A.
● A&A due to fellow congregation members (discontent within a congregation): The B’rit Chadashah records Yeshua’s words as being more critical of the religious elite of His time than of ordinary sinners (thieves, prostitutes, and the like). The religious elite included the scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees, Zealots, and Essenes. Commonly called the “Woes of the Pharisees,” Yeshua was highly critical of the hypocrisy of religious leaders. The Gospel of Matthew lists seven of these woes. These religious hypocrites:
□ Taught about God, but did not love Him. They will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven themselves, nor will they let others enter (read Matthew 23:13-14).
□ Preached about God, but converted people to a “dead” religion, thus making converts twice as much sons of Hell as they themselves were (read Matthew 23:15).
□ Taught that an oath sworn by the temple or altar was not binding, but was binding if sworn by the gold ornamentation of the temple or by a sacrificial gift on the altar. The gold and gifts, however, were not sacred in themselves as the temple and altar were, but derived a measure of lesser sacredness by being connected to the temple or altar. Since the teachers and Pharisees worshiped at the temple and offered sacrifices at the altar because they knew that the temple and altar were sacred, how could they deny oath-binding value to what was truly sacred and accord it to objects of trivial and derived sacredness (read Matthew 23:16-22)?
□ Taught God’s law, but did not practice some of the most important parts of the law (justice, mercy, and faithfulness to God). They obeyed the minutiae of the law (for example, tithing spices), but ignored the most important substance of the law (read Matthew 23:23-24).
□ Presented an outward appearance of being “clean” (self-restrained, oblivious to carnal matters), but they were inwardly filthy (seething with hidden worldly desires, carnality, greed, and self-indulgence (read Matthew 23:25-26).
□ Exhibited themselves as righteous on account of being scrupulous keepers of the law, but were, in fact, unrighteous. Their mask of righteousness hid a secret inner world of ungodly thoughts and feelings. They were full of wickedness. They were like whitewashed tombs, beautiful on the outside, but full of dead men’s bones (read Matthew 23:27-28).
□ Professed a high regard for God’s ancient prophets, claiming that they would never have persecuted and murdered these prophets. In reality, they were of the same character as the prophets’ persecutors and murderers. They, too, had murderous blood in their veins (read Matthew 23:29-36).
These seven criticisms are called “woes,” because Jesus began by saying, “Woe to you….” Yeshua called these holy men ὑποκριταί (hupokritai) – hypokritai– from which comes our English “hypocrites.” A hypocrite is an actor. In ancient Greek plays, an actor wore a mask. An actor playing a happy part wore a mask with a broad smile; if playing a sad part, the actor wore a mask with a frown or sad countenance. The audience, then, could better understand the actors’ emotions. The audience would see the person the actor was portraying, but not the real person. Have you known any hypocrites (actors) in religious settings, who appear one way to fellow worshipers, but hide themselves under masks of religiosity?
Yeshua said that many religious people wear actors’ masks. In a religious setting, hypocrites wear “Yeshua masks.” They say the right words, even praying in some congregations with “thee” and “thou” for pious effect. But, after leaving the religious service (that is, when entering the community and the workplace), these hypocrites (religious actors) wear their worldly or even Satanic masks. In the outside world, these hypocrite Believers may be as profane and unscrupulous as any non-Believer.
Such hypocrites– actors– play the part of Believers on Shabbat or Sunday and non-Believers on the remaining week days. To them, Yeshua would say, “Woe to you, hypocites!” In the dangerous times ahead, devout, faithful Believers will be persecuted and even killed by “religious” persons (John 16:2-4a): [Yeshua said] “They will throw you out of the synagogues. Yes, an hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. They will do these things because they have never known the Father or Me. But I have spoken these things to you so that when their hour comes, you may remember that I told you of them….” Take care that you do not have weak, hypocritical faith that may destroy the faith of brother and sister Believers.
Incidentally, I have a pastor friend who is bivocational (serves as a minister and works at his secular business). A business acquaintance, with whom he had excellent rapport, after learning he had another “business,” asked what that business is. The pastor answered, “I’m also a pastor.” The acquaintance groaned a little, remained silent for a few moments, and then said: “I like you, but I’m sorry to learn that you are a pastor. Every time I have been cheated in business, it has been by a pastor or a highly religious person.”
What an indictment of the Body of HaMashiach! I can sympathize, though. I have had money stolen from me twice. In both instances, I met the the thieves at church (not Shomair Yisrael). In both instances, these people praised God and wished His blessings on me for my “generosity.” They wore their Yeshua mask. I bade farewell to them (knowingly) and my money (unknowingly).
● A&A by government decree: The United States’ Founding Fathers were mostly Christian, not Deists as many history revisionist enemies of the cross claim. Christian worship services were held in nineteenth century federal buildings. “Separation of church and state” would have been a ridiculous concept for most of our early leaders. We Christians are now being attacked by enemies of the cross. Understand that the greatest persecution of all time will occur during the Tribulation (see a previous Olivet Discourse RR). Also read Yeshua’s prophecy, (John 16:2-3): [Yeshua said] “They will throw you out of the synagogues. Yes, an hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. They will do these things because they have never known the Father or Me.”
Even in “Judeo-Christian America,” there is growing preferential treatment of Muslims, secular humanists, and atheists at the expense of Believers and Jews. Many congregations and leaders, because of A&A, have permitted our faith to slip away day by day, even though we are exhorted to fight for our faith (Jude 1:3-4): Loved ones, though very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I felt it necessary to write to you urging you to continue to contend for the faith that was once for all handed down to the kedoshim. For certain people have secretly slipped in– those who from long ago have been marked out for this judgment. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into indecency and deny our only Master and Lord, Yeshua the Messiah. Strong faith in America may not be restored until Yeshua returns
WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR A&A? Christianity, said to have more adherents than any other faith, grows at an astonishing rate. An estimate for Christians in the world is 2.4-billion persons. This means: of every 10 persons in the entire world, approximately 3 claim to be Christians.
As impressive as this number may seem, the important question is: How many “Christians” actually follow Yeshua in the way He commanded?
● When Yeshua called persons for service, He told them to deny self, take up a cross (be ready for persecution and martyrdom), and follow Him.
● He did not tell them to join a particular denomination. We Believers are called to be actively and passionately involved in God’s Kingdom, not just to keep a seat warm on Shabbat or Sunday mornings. He called us to become fishers of men (Matthew 4:19 and Mark 1:17), and to go into fields of lost souls ripe for harvest that we may harvest those souls (Matthew 9:37-38 and Luke 10:2). We are told to contend (fight) earnestly for the faith given to us (Jude 1:3). If a church or synagogue fails from A&A, it is the leader and congregants who fail.
SATAN’S SHELL GAME: A once-popular carnival game designed to separate the “rubes” from their money was the shell game, played as follows: A carnival worker has three walnut half shells and a dried pea. The game is quickly played. People bet money they can outsmart the carnival worker. If a person wins, he/ she has the bet money returned and a prize (a made-in-China stuffed animal?). If a person loses, the carnival worker keeps the bet money. As onlookers carefully watch, the carnival worker places the pea under one of the shells. With fast, fluid hand motions, he touches different shells– moving or not moving them to other positions– and makes fake motions over the shells. He then asks the bettor to point to the shell which covers the pea. The bettor is absolutely certain he/ she carefully watched and the pea is under a certain shell. The worker turns over all of the shells, and the bettor usually loses: the pea is actually under a different shell. The rapid activity and fake moves of the worker’s hands distracted the bettor’s attention, and he/ she lost sight of the shell covering the pea.
Satan operates a “shell game.” He may use excessive devotion to activities unrelated to the Kingdom of God to confuse Believers and cause them to lose sight of what they should be watching. Satan can use any activity, whether good or bad, to serve as “mammon” (an idol). Seemingly harmless activities can become an idol for a Believer– a substitute for the true and living God– and cause the Believer to wander from faith (that is, to become apostate and apathetic).
Yeshua warned us to prioritize our devotion (Matthew 6:33): [Yeshua said] “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”
Satan uses seemingly harmless diversions to keep a Believer’s eye off important issues of life. Satan plays a shell game with many Believers. We think we have our eye on the truth of God (the pea, in this shell game example), but Satan is too quick and clever for us. We may all too late realize that we have lost sight of God’s truth and desire for our lives, while watching things of no eternal consequence (empty walnut shells, in this shell game example).
CONCLUSION: I will complete these comments on apostasy and apathy next Sunday. Shalom and Maranatha.
Daily Bread, reading plan by Lars Enarson (https://www.thewatchman.org/)
Sun 26-Dec-2021 22nd of Tevet, 5782
Ex 6:2-13 2 Sa 10 Ps 77 Lk 7:1-23 (Gal 5)