The Rebuilt Wall of Separation
In the latter part of the first century, the wonderful New Covenant Beginning into which the apostles of Messiah Yeshua had ventured so faithfully began to weaken and disintegrate after a few years. Even after people are regenerated spiritually and filled with the Holy Spirit, they must still contend with their fallen dying flesh. Flesh never changes in nature or desire. It always wants to take and hold supremacy and preeminence at all times and situations. And that caused even the apostle Paul to express this lament:
“I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the Law of God (Torah) in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.” (Romans 7:21-25)
In the first century the New Covenant’s introduction in Israel was a stunning shock to most of the Israelite people. It jarred their sensibilities to say the least. How much more of a shock then did it prove to be to the sensibilities of the entire Gentile world that was so given to the practice of pagan idolatry? After centuries of sameness, the New Covenant disciples of Yeshua began to give powerful supernatural evidence to the world around them that God had finally begun to fulfill His Messianic promises to Israel through Israel’s apostolic Remnant. And at that point, God began to draw an increasing stream of new Gentile believers into the midst of those Messianic Jews through whom God was acting in the first nine chapters of Acts. God was proclaiming and demonstrating that He had truly made His promised New Covenant with Israel and this small, but constantly growing, company of people was living proof that it was so.
After they received the Gift of the Holy Spirit’s baptism, the disciples began to comply with God’s initiatives by admitting and helping Him to graft those newcomers into Israel’s Spiritual Covenantal Commonwealth. Thus the fulfillment of what God’s Living Word had promised to Abraham so long ago – about him and his family becoming a blessing through which the rest of the families of the earth would be blessed – was now finally and obviously coming to pass!
So, representatives of the Jewish people and others from other non-Jewish people groups of the world, who had been so accustomed to living apart and inhabiting very separate worlds of their own, apart from each other since the days of Abraham, suddenly began to be forged into one new Spirit-filled people. It was a new creation… a new integrated family composed of Jews and Gentiles who were now learning to live as brethren… as one new people! And this awesome new development was utterly unprecedented and nothing short of miraculous! And the surrounding Jews and Gentiles that were unfamiliar with it, and who wanted no part of it for themselves, voiced their outrage and suspicion and hostility to what was happening, often with increasing fury and violence. Nevertheless, Paul articulated what God was doing very well in his letter to the non-Jewish Ephesian disciples:
“And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them (the Sin-murdered sons of Adam) we (Jews) too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
“Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called ‘Uncircumcision’ by the so-called ‘Circumcision,’ (the Jews) which is performed in the flesh by human hands— remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus, you, who formerly were far off, have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our Peace, WHO MADE BOTH GROUPS INTO ONE AND BROKE DOWN THE BARRIER OF THE DIVIDING WALL, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, SO THAT IN HIMSELF HE MIGHT MAKE THE TWO INTO ONE NEW MAN, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity.” (Ephesians 2:1-16 Amplification and emphasis added.)
In the midst of what the God of Israel and the Lord of the universe had begun to do, the Emperor Claudius of Rome, who reigned from 41-54 CE, decided to expel all Jews from Rome. And this act became an enormous disruption and obstacle in the path of this new ongoing union that had begun to take place between believing Jews and non-Jews. As the expulsion of the Jewish people began to be enforced in the city of Rome, the mixed New Covenant Family that had formed there had to split up. Its Jewish members were suddenly forced to leave the city, and so that wonderful union between Jews and non-Jews that marked this New Covenant beginning was torn apart. And that process of ongoing separation and alienation between Jewish and non-Jewish New Covenant believers continued to rip the Church in two, so that by the end of the fourth century, thanks to heretical theologies that arose after Roman legions destroyed Jerusalem and stamped out the temple priesthood and sacrificial system of Israel, after scattering the surviving Jewish people to other parts of the world, that New Covenant union between Jews and Gentiles disappeared once again… almost entirely! And in its place was the newly rebuilt and reinforced Wall of Separation that the world had become so accustomed to having, and seeing, and maintaining rose up once again and took its time-honored place in the fallen world’s status quo.
Even though, by offering His body and spilling of His Life’s Blood on the cross, their Messiah had destroyed the Wall of Separation that once divided Israel from the rest of the world, the union He created between the two groups began to be dismantled. The two groups of brethren pulled apart from each other once more, and began to go their separate ways. And, tragically, that state of affairs remains in vogue even to this very day!
But, once again, we can learn much about what God really wanted and intended to make possible if we go back and ponder what He was doing during those early beginnings of the first century… after Yeshua ascended back into Heaven, and the Holy Spirit began to fulfill the New Covenant promises to Israel. So let’s consider the way things were when the apostles were first getting used to living by faith in their new Post-Ascension Holy Spirit-empowered way of living. The indwelling Spirit of God had begun to empower Jewish believers, who formerly had been repulsed by the anti-Semitic pagans that surrounded them, to undergo a massive change of heart. Now, instead of shunning and doing everything possible to avoid contact with them, they began instead to love, accept, include and care for their fellow non-Jewish Messianic brethren! At that time, the two newly united groups were exploring the depths of what it was like to know their Master only by their connection with Him through the Holy Spirit, and by faith in His promises to be with them at all times. They could no longer see or touch Him the way they were once accustomed to doing.
So this way of abiding with Yeshua was brand new to all, Jew and non-Jew alike! Nevertheless, although the apostles couldn’t see Him any longer, He was making it very obvious to them that He was still there with them, circulating in their midst. He continued to prove to them that His amazing spiritual indwelling Presence was utterly real by the unmistakable Fruit that kept appearing. It was the same kind of Fruit that He had been producing prior to His crucifixion and death! He was still working His wonders before their eyes… through their yielded flesh! And this fruit did not discriminate between the two groups. It became manifest among the non-Jewish disciples, just as much as it was appearing in the midst of the Jewish disciples! And this wonderful Fruit served as the living proof… that the Messiah’s Heavenly Presence and the Holy Spirit’s omnipotent ‘Electrical Power’ were circulating among them and producing their fruit from within them indiscriminately! The Grace of God was causing miraculous supernatural wonders to take place in first century Israel, in the midst of this unified group of disciples, purely by the Authority of the Name of Israel’s resurrected Messiah!
“But when Peter saw this, he replied to the people, “Men of Israel, why are you amazed at this, or why do you gaze at us, as if by our own power or piety we had made him walk? The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His servant Jesus, the one whom you delivered and disowned in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release Him. But you disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, but put to death the Prince of life, the one whom God raised from the dead, a fact to which we are witnesses. And on the basis of faith in His name, it is the name of Jesus which has strengthened this man whom you see and know; and the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect health in the presence of you all!” (Acts 3:12-16 Emphasis added.)
From what is revealed in the book of Acts, just consider all of those miraculous world-changing effects that their interactive, faith-based knowledge of Yeshua, in and by the Holy Spirit, was producing among them. And in that context, ponder the shock they must have undergone… when they realized that Almighty God wanted to bring untrained, crude, unclean Gentiles into their New Covenant midst! That is probably impossible for any other generation to fathom. No one else could even begin to feel and experience the depths of the explosion-like after-effects of what began to happen to the Messianic Jewish believers after so many Gentiles suddenly began to enter the picture and invade their space and work their way into the full acceptance of their hearts!
Today we blithely, and ignorantly, scan through the written accounts that Luke left for us, beginning with Acts 10, which chronicle the early New Covenant wonders that began to take place after the Holy Spirit joined Cornelius and his family to Peter and the apostolic governing body! At that point, the Holy Spirit began something brand new, through poor unsuspecting Peter. Father revealed that He was now ready to fulfill the awesome promises He had made to Abraham so long ago… as they were recorded by Moses, in Genesis:
“And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed!” (Genesis 12:3 Emphasis added.)
“So then those (Jewish disciples) who were scattered because of the persecution that occurred in connection with Stephen, made their way to Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the Word to no one except to Jews alone.
“But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who came to Antioch and began speaking to the Greeks also, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord. The news about them reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas off to Antioch. Then when he arrived and witnessed the grace of God, he rejoiced and began to encourage them all with resolute heart to remain true to the Lord; for he was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And considerable numbers were brought to the Lord. And he left for Tarsus to look for Saul; and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. And for an entire year they met with the church and taught considerable numbers; and the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.” (Acts 11:19-26 Amplification and emphasis added.)
Just a few years after Yeshua ascended into Heaven and gave to His disciples the awesome Gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit, God started up His tremendous New Covenant ‘Engine!’ Now at last, this revolutionary Covenant that God had promised to make with Israel through prophets like Jeremiah was not only launched in the midst of Israel’s New Covenant Remnant… but now it was moving in all directions and reaching out and invading the vast pagan Gentile world… and winning it over. And the union between the two was beginning to take hold, and take over! And beloved, that had to have been a mixed blessing for the Jewish believers. It was wonderful for them to see God’s Reality and Truth being validated and made manifest before their eyes, but it was also subjecting them to the shock of their lives, due to all of the trouble it began to cause for them with the unbelieving portions of the Jewish community!
This hit Israel like a bolt of lightning out of a clear blue sky! God suddenly told these Messianic Jews to do whatever was necessary… to make room for, and to begin to accept, embrace and merge with – an entire household of Roman Gentiles! It was a household headed by a Roman Centurion stationed in Israel, who was part of the very oppressive and brutal occupation force that the emperors of the Roman Empire deployed throughout the Land of Promise, to keep Rome’s heavy foot firmly on the necks of all the Jews! So naturally, the other unbelieving Jewish people were going to resent, if not detest and hate, these clueless newcomers that were gathering around the apostles. To most Jews, this was tantamount to sacrilege and blasphemy of the worst sort! And any Jews who would dare to engage in such an unheard of novelty would be held in the most profound contempt and disgrace imaginable!
So naturally, at first, when God began to reveal His plans and desires to Peter and the others, they were thunderstruck, dumbfounded and terrified! At first it would have been virtually impossible for them to understand or accept what the Holy Spirit abiding in their hearts was telling them. Why on earth would God require them to accept, embrace and admit such people into His New Covenant that He had made with His chosen people, Israel? The Covenants were for God’s chosen people, not for the pagans that worshipped false gods and loved Sin and rejected and devastated the chosen people of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob!
Beloved, this was such an outrageous jolt to the most sacred sensibilities of our apostolic forefathers that it’s impossible for us to really get our minds around all of the implications of what they had to endure and deal with in those days! And this is why the early Jewish believers in Yeshua had such great difficulty understanding what God was saying and how what He was requiring of them could practically and safely be possible for them to do!
“Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those who were circumcised took issue with him, saying, “YOU WENT TO UNCIRCUMCISED MEN AND ATE WITH THEM!!!”
“But Peter began speaking and proceeded to explain to them in orderly sequence, saying, “I was in the city of Joppa praying; and in a trance I saw a vision, an object coming down like a great sheet lowered by four corners from the sky; and it came right down to me, and when I had fixed my gaze on it and was observing it I saw the four-footed animals of the earth and the wild beasts and the crawling creatures and the birds of the air. I also heard a voice saying to me, ‘Get up, Peter; kill and eat.’ But I said, ‘By no means, Lord, for nothing unholy or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’
“But a voice from Heaven answered a second time, ‘WHAT GOD HAS CLEANSED, NO LONGER CONSIDER UNHOLY!’ This happened three times, and everything was drawn back up into the sky. And behold, at that moment three men appeared at the house in which we were staying, having been sent to me from Caesarea. THE SPIRIT TOLD ME TO GO WITH THEM WITHOUT MISGIVINGS. These six (Jewish) brethren also went with me and we entered the man’s house. And he reported to us how he had seen the angel standing in his house, and saying, ‘Send to Joppa and have Simon, who is also called Peter, brought here; and HE WILL SPEAK WORDS TO YOU BY WHICH YOU WILL BE SAVED, YOU AND ALL YOUR HOUSEHOLD.’ AND AS I BEGAN TO SPEAK, THE HOLY SPIRIT FELL UPON THEM JUST AS HE DID UPON US AT THE BEGINNING! And I remembered the Word of the Lord, how He used to say, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ Therefore if God gave to them the same gift as He gave to us also after believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I, that I could stand in God’s way?”
“When they heard this, they quieted down and glorified God, saying, “Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to Life!” (Acts 11:1-18 Emphasis added.)
What Peter’s fellow Jews said after hearing his report was no doubt said hesitantly, and it was admitted with instinctive reluctance. But as we try to understand the position this was putting them into, how could we expect that they would have been totally accepting and believing when they had just experienced the shock of seeing Peter, the leader of the apostles of Israel’s Messiah, violate so outrageously, the commonly held, centuries-long taboos and exclusive separatist traditions of God’s own chosen people? What would they have thought? And what could they say to their own relatives and close friends to try to explain to them what was happening? And what could they possibly say to Israel’s spiritual authorities, the very men who had conspired to do away with Yeshua? Would they not most certainly summon them and demand to know why they were presuming to do such an outlandish thing?
And how were they to deal with the increasing numbers of Gentiles that were surrounding them with such joy and anticipatory expectations? So of course these poor Jewish disciples had to be struggling mightily to find ways to articulate and justify any of their future interactions with those Gentiles as something that they were being commanded to do by Almighty God! Dear ones… that was an impossible situation for those poor disciples to be in. Everything about this went completely against the grain of Israel’s centuries long understanding, mindset and habitual practice! And the apostles and those that followed them were caught in the middle of an enormously powerful social vise!
So is it any wonder that they would struggle mightily to get their minds around what God was doing and requiring of them? We must realize to what depths of anguish they had to agonize over this. We must try to fathom the depths of their inner distress… as they tried to grope around, trying to discover a proper, God-approved way to obey these outrageous alien-sounding commands… and still remain Jews in ‘good standing’ according to their traditional upbringing. Their standing in Israel had already been deeply damaged and compromised when they first began to proclaim throughout Jerusalem that despite His recent execution, Yeshua was the Messiah of Israel and that He had actually risen from the dead! That was bad enough! But now what God was telling them to do was more than poor fallen human flesh could possibly handle! How could they possibly allow pagan Gentiles to become part of their fellowship? And how could they teach such unprepared people who were coming fresh out of rank paganism about what it meant to worship the Almighty Living God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in a way that was proper and in keeping with their God-given Scriptures… but yet understandable to them?
So can you see why these issues have always been way too much for most Jews to swallow, digest and absorb? That’s why I say that the apostles and disciples of Yeshua agonized beyond our ability to comprehend! It’s almost impossible for us to imagine what went on between the Messianic believers and any unbelieving spouses and close family members with whom many of them would have most certainly had to deal! What could they say to their loved ones and friends and spiritual superiors who knew nothing about what had taken place between them and the resurrected Yeshua, and the Holy Spirit? How could these Messianic Jews ever explain away their actions in light of all the antagonism that was aroused in their unbelieving fellow Jews who held centuries-old opinions and followed the ancient standards of God’s chosen people? How could they justify their sudden wholehearted acceptance of Roman pagans… especially since nothing had changed between the Emperor and his legions, and the people of Israel that they were taxing and bullying and oppressing? The Lord had warned them about this. But there was no way they could have fully grasped the implications of what His Words were saying, until it was time for them to actually fly through all of the flack they were going to encounter:
“Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it. He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward.” (Matthew 10:34-41)
If you ponder all of this with the seriousness with which they had to experience it… you will begin to see how immensely complicated, historically, traditionally, ethnically and culturally speaking, the commission that God was entrusting to the apostolic New Covenant Community was going to be to obey and fulfill! The Path God set before them was going to be filled with enormously complex issues and danger-filled confrontations for the foreseeable future. And God did not supply them with easy to follow ‘New Covenant Procedural Manuals’ that they could follow. They had no practical ‘how to’ directions to guide them. And there was no one alive, in Israel or beyond, to whom they would be able to consult for advice or direction.
No one had ever seen or experienced anything like this before. So, all the apostles had to rely upon was Almighty God Himself… the indwelling Presence of the Spirit of God… who was forcing them to rely upon and trust only Him. They had no choice, but to learn to trust in and rely upon and interact with… the Living God… just as Adam and Eve, and Noah, and Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph and Moses and Joshua and Caleb had been forced to rely upon and interact with Him in the past. Now it was the turn of the apostles to do it. So they struggled mightily to invent, formulate, develop and duplicate the pattern God had given to them, in many different places, with an ever-increasing number of new people. They worked out the new procedures, customs and worship style that would help to establish their future growth and spread of the Gospel’s influence around the world.
In our modern way of expressing things, people might say that the apostles were being forced to ‘fly by the seat of their pants!’ They had to try to figure out what the ‘logistics’ of this unprecedented unification would be and how they could work it out in a way that would obey God and satisfy His requirements, but yet they had to, somehow, someway, keep peace with the Jewish people, and leave the doors open and the welcome mats in place… for the people that they loved and respected most in all the world.
In real life practical terms, this new turn of events presented the first century New Covenant Community with an unsolvable problem and an impossible task. So I ask you to read Acts 10 and beyond with these issues, and those precious disciples in mind. If you do, you will most likely begin to appreciate their awesome accomplishments. Only after you have tried to fathom the enormity of the strife, conflict and confusion they had to endure and plow through… will you begin to grasp and sympathize with some of the depths of intense pressure that automatically engulfed them. And perhaps you’ll also be able to get a feel for what Cornelius and his family, and the other original Gentile believers who dared to join these Messianic Jews, were also going to have to face… as God continued to lead both groups into this unprecedented era of New Covenant unification that God was now requiring of them all.
Ponder these things beloved… in light of the fact that we are part of the disciple generation that has been birthed and deployed throughout the Last Days Era. Consider very seriously that what God began with Peter, James, John and Paul… to fulfill everything that God promised to Israel and required of her in the past… is… very soon… going to be fulfilled and consummated and brought to its Eternal Perfection… by those of us who are following Yeshua and serving the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob at this time of human history! Our faith and our calling to follow God’s Living Word connect us to all of those faithful ones who have gone before us! They will finish what God started to do with them… through us!
So realize, that if that’s what they were up against when all of this was just getting started… what do you suppose we will have to face and deal with in these Last Days… when the invincible Power and Authority of God begins to make the heart changes He promised to make within all fallen human flesh… and He begins to rearrange and reformat and transform all of the people of the Last Day Era… from the inside out! Remember that He will be doing this in the face of the highest point of intensity of rebellion and hate-filled opposition that the powers of Darkness have ever been able to muster and throw against God’s own faithful people!
“But Peter, taking his stand with the eleven, raised his voice and declared to them: “Men of Judea and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you and give heed to my words. For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only the third hour of the day; but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel: ‘And it shall be in the Last Days,’ God says, ‘That I will pour forth of My Spirit on all mankind; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on My bond slaves, both men and women, I will in those days pour forth of My Spirit and they shall prophesy. And I will grant wonders in the sky above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke. The sun will be turned into darkness and the moon into blood, before the great and glorious day of the Lord shall come. ‘And it shall be that everyone who calls on the Name of the Lord will be saved!’” (Acts 2:14-21 Emphasis added.)
Dear one, after you read the book of Acts in this difficult and ‘impossible’ context… perhaps you’ll understand what God was doing to the traditional and habitual lifestyles and comfort zones of the first century Jewish people – and also to those of the Gentile nations that surrounded them. What new ingredients was God adding to His ‘Human Stew’ at that time? And how much difficulty did that introduce into the lives of the apostles and those who sat under their teaching and leadership? What did it cost those who dared to obey what God’s Word was commanding them to do?
Neither the unbelieving Jewish people, nor the pagan God-less Gentile peoples were ready to hear, much less accept, what God was telling the apostles to do about accepting and welcoming and integrating Cornelius and all of the other Gentiles who would follow him into the Faith and Spiritual Commonwealth of Israel! Here is a good example of the friction, tension and antagonism that the mere thought of eliminating the habitual separation of both groups began to generate:
“After we arrived in Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly. And the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present. After he had greeted them, he began to relate one by one the things, which God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. And when they heard it they began glorifying God; and they said to him, “You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed, and they are all zealous for the Law; and they have been told about you, that you are teaching all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs. What, then, is to be done? They will certainly hear that you have come. Therefore do this that we tell you. We have four men who are under a vow; take them and purify yourself along with them, and pay their expenses so that they may shave their heads; and all will know that there is nothing to the things which they have been told about you, but that you yourself also walk orderly, keeping the Law.
“But concerning the Gentiles who have believed, we wrote, having decided that they should abstain from meat sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from fornication.”
Then Paul took the (Jewish) men, and the next day, purifying himself along with them, went into the temple giving notice of the completion of the days of purification, until the sacrifice was offered for each one of them.
When the seven days were almost over, the Jews from Asia, upon seeing him in the temple, began to stir up all the crowd and laid hands on him, crying out, “Men of Israel, come to our aid! This is the man who preaches to all men everywhere against our people and the Law and this place; and besides he has even brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place.” For they had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with him, and they supposed that Paul had brought him into the temple. Then all the city was provoked, and the people rushed together, and taking hold of Paul they dragged him out of the temple, and immediately the doors were shut. While they were seeking to kill him, a report came up to the commander of the Roman cohort that all Jerusalem was in confusion. At once he took along some soldiers and centurions and ran down to them; and when they saw the commander and the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul.” (Acts 21:17-32)
Beloved… the Boot Camp training that each apostle had to undergo was not inflicted upon them to torture them or to make life miserable for them. It was given to prepare them to undergo these tremendous levels of strife and conflict and opposition and separation that God knew the powers of Darkness would stir up against them. Trials and difficulties of this magnitude were utterly common and normal for that apostolic first century generation of disciples! And they have been standard fare for every generation of disciples ever since. Is that not true?
But how much more will the Last Days generation of disciples have to be prepared to face? The first generation had to be prepared to launch the era of the New Covenant union between Jewish and non-Jewish people. But the Last Days generation is going to have to be instrumental in the hand of God to complete and fulfill and bring the entire Unification of these two groups… to its Ultimate Perfection!
“I say then, they did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous. Now if their transgression is riches for the world and their failure is riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their Fulfillment be! But I am speaking to you who are Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle of Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, if somehow I might move to jealousy my fellow countrymen and save some of them. For if their rejection is the Reconciliation of the world, what will their Acceptance be but Life from the Dead?” (Romans 11:11-15)
God has promised that the Holy Spirit is going to lead us Last Days disciples against the demonic forces. They and the utmost efforts of the people they afflict and manipulate in this fallen, Sin-loving world will both try to muster against us. Their combined efforts and antagonism will intensify to levels never before seen or experienced by previous generations of believers. We will enter into and take part in the Final Crescendo of worldly conflict, strife and violent combat between the powers of Darkness and the Hosts of Heaven!
But, despite what the demonic powers and the worldly people they manipulate will be doing to try to stop us, God will always require His Word’s apostles and disciples to lead His people in the direction that goes exactly opposite to that taken by this radically independent humanistic world! And so, what happened to the disciples in the early days will certainly be surpassed by what the disciples of the Last Days will have to overcome. It was totally unnatural for first century Jews and Gentiles to see the Holy Spirit communicating, in very specific terms, with a Roman Centurion and his household! And yet, what will be happening in the Last Days will be even more startling and stupendous to those who will witness what God will be doing in our midst when the time for the Final Confrontation arrives.
“So many peoples and mighty nations will come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem and to entreat the favor of the Lord.’ Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘In those days ten men from all the nations will grasp the garment of a Jew, saying, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you!”’” (Zechariah 8:22-23)
In the beginning, Cornelius and Peter responded to God’s Spirit in obedience. Both did as God was instructing them to do. Peter was led to the home of Cornelius and his household… and that’s how the awesome New Covenant unification began. After his arrival, the Holy Spirit moved Peter to begin to proclaim Yeshua and His Resurrection to these people. And then, the Holy Spirit took it from there. He led Cornelius and the others to open their hearts to the Truth Peter shared with them. And so they were able to embrace and accept Yeshua, the risen Lord, and He was able to enter into them and abide with them permanently, and continue to obey and fulfill His Father’s awesome New Covenant Master Plan.
Even before Peter finished speaking, Almighty God began to ignore and bypass the centuries old ‘Wall of Separation’ that had successfully kept His chosen people alienated and separated from the rest of the pagan Gentile world. And instead of separation and alienation… God began to unite the two groups… through their representatives. He united Cornelius with Peter, and through them, He united the two groups they represented. And through a Power that was not at all of this world, God proved that He was equipping and empowering Gentiles to believe and obey the Living Word of God made flesh. This is what God began to do as Peter was proclaiming the Glory of His resurrected Messiah:
“The Word which He (the Almighty Living God of Israel) sent to the sons of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ (He is Lord of all)— you yourselves know the thing which took place throughout all Judea, starting from Galilee, after the baptism which John proclaimed. You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with Power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. We are witnesses of all the things He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem.
“They also put Him to death by hanging Him on a cross. God raised Him up on the third day and granted that He become visible, not to all the people, but to witnesses who were chosen beforehand by God, that is, to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. And He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead. Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins!”
While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message. All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they were hearing them speaking with tongues and exalting God. Then Peter answered, “Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?” And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to stay on for a few days.” (Acts 10:36-48 Emphasis added.)
This initial meeting between the Jewish apostle Peter and the Gentile Cornelius and his family was the beginning… it prefigures the tremendously shocking and unprecedented climax and fulfillment of everything God has ever promised to Israel. The New Covenant was a totally new departure from everything Israel had known in her Sinai Covenant past. Yes, the Exodus from Egypt had started with a mixed company. Yes, even from the beginning, God made sure that Gentiles were grafted into the Root of Israel and left Egypt as part of Israel’s vast throng. But throughout the rest of the world, things remained the same. And it wasn’t long before even that original union, and the religious Sinai Covenant that united Gentiles and Israelites from the start… was forgotten and forsaken. And that strict separation that developed between Israel and the non-Jewish world sank deep roots into the soil of this fallen world.
This standoffish attitude and practice was instilled into Israel’s generations by the traditions that had formed as a result of the separation of Israel from the Gentile world. God commissioned Moses to lead their descendants out of slavery to the Gentiles of the land of Egypt! So at first, God called His people out of the unbelieving Gentile world and its systems… but because He also included Gentiles and joined them to Israel in Sinai’s Blood Covenant, He was telling us that He did not intend to keep the two groups in a state of perpetual separation! Nevertheless, as soon as God freed her from servitude to Gentiles, Israel remained intent on remaining free to be and to live as God’s specially chosen Covenant people. This desire was so strong that she instinctively began to think of herself as being perpetually separated from all Gentiles, in thought and practice from the time Abraham’s children began to invade and take over the Land of Canaan.
And that was the way things remained, until Yeshua came into their midst. But as long as that standoffish mindset and focus remained intact… God’s Ultimate Reunification and Healing and Total Restoration of His beautiful Creation could not be fulfilled and completed!
God knew this would happen. And He allowed it to last for a certain period, for His own good purposes. But He warned Israel that it would be temporary. The day would come, when He would once again take over and unite the entire world and make all things right. So, because of the separatist attitude, mindset and set of traditions that Israel had developed over the centuries, a strong, widely held belief system developed in Israel, because of the way the religious leaders interpreted the Mosaic writings in the Torah. But because of their human error, weakness and rebellion, a major promise that God had made to Abraham continued to remain unfulfilled:
“And I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing; and I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. AND IN YOU ALL THE FAMILIES OF THE EARTH WILL BE BLESSED!” (Genesis 12:2-3)
So beloved, the Truth is this: As long as Jewish and non-Jewish people continue to insist on remaining strictly separated and isolated from each other, the ultimate blessing promised to all the Gentile families of the earth through the descendants of Abraham cannot be fulfilled. And as long as the Gentile peoples of the world insist on agreeing with this viewpoint and the habitual practices that it requires, they will not stop suspecting and despising and persecuting Israel! And as long as these conditions persist, Israel will not be able to fulfill the role God has given to the Jewish people to be a blessing, on every level, on behalf of the rest of the world! The Final Perfection cannot arrive as long as both groups remain hidden on their respective sides of that damnable wall of partition.
Somehow, somewhere, in order for God to fulfill His promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the ultimate union between their family and the other families of the world will have to take place. And that is why what happened between Peter ,and the other Jewish New Covenant apostles and disciples, and Cornelius and his entire household, were such a significant, tradition-shattering, trouble-making event in first century Israel, which was at that time, under the harsh subjugation of the mighty Roman Empire. And the turmoil that took place then is a foretaste of the incredible shock factor that will overtake the world at the end when everything and everyone that is standing in the way of that Unification Process will finally be fully overcome and removed from the scene, in the midst of catastrophic disasters and shaking of whatever is temporal in this fallen world. Only then, will the Ultimate Fulfillment of God’s Will and Purpose be consummated and brought to its eternal level of God-satisfying Perfection.
So let’s consider more deeply what will have to happen between the way things are now… and the way God says they will be at the End. As things stand now, we still have to deal with that ‘Wall of Partition’ that exists in the minds and hearts of the Jewish people and in the minds and hearts of the rest of the world. So, in light of what God promised to do for the world through Abraham and his family… how did that ‘Wall of Partition’ term originate? It originated because it was part of the architecture of the second temple of Israel that was built by King Herod. Before the Roman legions leveled it in 70 C.E., there was an inner portion of that enormous temple that was called ‘The Sanctuary.’ And there was also an outer portion called ‘The Court of the Gentiles.’ Within the Sanctuary there was the holiest place, a small square enclosure that was called ‘the Holy of holies.’ Only the high priest of Israel was allowed to enter it. He did that once a year when he performed his prescribed ritual service on the Feast of Atonement (Yom Kippur).
Outside of the Holy of holies was the Court of the Priests. There the Levitical priests performed their various duties connected with Israel’s worship of the Lord. And next to the Court of the Priests was the Men’s Court. And beyond the Men’s Court was the Court of the Women. All of these courts were within the massive temple walls and only Jewish people were allowed to enter into them, to perform their assigned respective obligations of temple service and worship.
Beyond the walls of the temple proper, there were steps descending to an enormous lower outer court, which was called ‘The Court of the Gentiles.’ This outer area was open to all Jews and also to any Gentiles who observed the proper decorum and who wished to pray to Israel’s God, or to offer prescribed sacrificial gifts to Him. And about halfway down the stairs that descended from the wall to the Court of the Women and led down to the surrounding Court of the Gentiles, there was a marble screen, a wall about four and a half feet high that served as a partition that kept the Jewish and Gentile sections of the temple separated from each other. And placed at intervals along that wall of partition, were signs in Latin and Greek warning Gentiles that they were not to pass beyond that boundary point, under pain of death.
So this physical temple wall became a tangible symbol of the strict spiritual, mental and emotional separation that Jews and Gentiles had always observed in relation to each other throughout the centuries. And this reality is what became such a sensitive and volatile source of trouble for all of the first century Messianic Jews who began to proclaim that Yeshua of Nazareth was the long-awaited Messiah of Israel, and that even though He had been crucified and executed… Almighty God had raised Him from the dead… and thus God was ready to save and accept all peoples, Jews and Gentiles alike, and make them into His one New Covenant Nation of priests and prophets and kings… under the Absolute Authority of God’s Living Word, the King of kings and Lord of lords!
Most of Israel could not stand to consider this because they remained completely devoted to and stuck within the confines of the Mosaic Covenant of Sinai. They were not at all prepared to accept any mention that Yeshua or His apostles and disciples made, concerning the Resurrection or the New Covenant, or the Fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham concerning the inclusion and grafting in of the Gentiles into Israel’s spiritual Commonwealth. They assumed that the Covenant of Sinai was the ultimate in Perfection… the very last Word that would come to us from God. They became convinced that it covered everything they would ever need in the future. And this is why the apostles ran into so much conflict and trouble with Israel’s religious authorities after Yeshua had ascended back into Heaven.
In the example cited above concerning what happened to Paul, if the occupying Roman military had not intervened at that point, that mob of religious Jewish zealots would have torn Paul apart limb from limb, because of the false accusations that some of them had made against him. They accused him of having taken a Gentile past the Wall of Partition, into the inner sanctum that was reserved only for Jews. That was an offense that first century Jews considered just cause to kill any Gentile and God-less Jew, who would dare violate their time-honored prohibition against the mingling of the two groups within the confines of God’s holy temple.
This deeply embedded attitude and mindset was what the apostles had to contend with constantly… and that same issue is exactly what causes most of Israel to hold the Messianic Jews of today in such contempt. To their fellow Jews who do not accept Yeshua as their Messiah, the believing Jews are considered to be renegades and traitors that are no longer worthy to be considered to be true Jews. Nevertheless, the Messianic believers persist in proclaiming Yeshua to be Israel’s resurrected Messiah-King, and they continue to welcome and include Gentiles who share their belief and trust in Yeshua, as God’s Living redemptive Word, who has won the freedom and salvation of the entire human race. And it is in the volatile context of all this, that Paul once wrote these words, concerning the Torah of Moses, to Gentile disciples of the first century:
“Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. (So after that happens) There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for (after the New Covenant makes you one with Yeshua) you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ (Israel’s risen Messiah), then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise!” (Galatians 3:24-29 Amplification and emphasis added.)
And in his letter to the Roman congregation, Paul was warning all New Covenant non-Jewish disciples against rebuilding that wall that our Messiah’s death destroyed by entertaining attitudes and lifestyles that would perpetuate the ancient animosity and separatism and sense of opposition. And these are the issues to which we are referring in our meditations when we use the term ‘The Wall of Partition’ or ‘The Wall of Separation.’ That wall no longer exists physically, but it can still be used as a symbol of the attitudes of separation and the heartfelt desire that non-believing Jews and Gentiles, whether they may be believers, or not, continue to use to justify the perpetuation of that centuries-long attitude of alienation and lifestyle of separation. The wall that was once in the Temple of Herod was destroyed when the Temple was leveled. But it was rebuilt and continues to stand in the minds and hearts of many Jews, and many Gentiles… even among those who claim to be under the teaching of Israel’s Messiah and His apostles.
So to many Jewish people, this claim of Yeshua’s resurrection is incredibly offensive to unbelieving Jews, not to mention the rest of the world that was pagan and carnal and given to the worship of false man-made gods. Nevertheless, Yeshua’s apostles and disciples remained adamant in their claims. And they continued to teach not only that Yeshua has arisen from the dead, but that they had personally seen Him and had eaten with Him! And they continued to insist that He is the Living creative Word of Almighty God who was commissioned by His Father to become flesh to serve as Israel’s Messiah King and Lord of all Creation! They were claiming that Yeshua was living within them and among them and that He was Israel’s Eternal High Priest, representing all of the first Adam’s fallen children… all of mankind, Jews and Gentiles alike, in God’s New Covenant that God had made with Israel. And they claimed that whoever believed in Yeshua in light of His claims and promises, and who obeyed His words, whether they are Jewish or Gentile, will be spiritually regenerated, cleansed of all Sin, freed from the clutches of the powers of Darkness, and grafted into the New Covenant spiritual Commonwealth of Israel, and share in the Resurrection Life of God’s Living Word! This is what the apostle Paul articulated with these words:
“Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called “Uncircumcision” by the so-called “Circumcision,” which is performed in the flesh by human hands— remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the Commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the Covenants of Promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you (Gentile believers), who formerly were far off, have been brought near by the Blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into One New Man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both IN ONE BODY to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity.” (Ephesians 2:11-16 Emphasis added.)
So the apostolic teaching claimed that there should no longer be any separation between Messianic Jewish disciples, and non-Jewish disciples. They taught that all of Adam’s offspring, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, had to be baptized into their Messiah’s Death, so that they could also be regenerated by the Holy Spirit and made into brand new spiritual creations. And they taught that after that happened they were, therefore, all sons of God and members of His New Covenant Family. Hence the apostles were proclaiming that by His atoning death, Yeshua had destroyed the Wall of Partition forever… and therefore Israel and the rest of the world were now forced to repent of their former attitudes and practices… and allow the Word of God to forge the two groups into one new Resurrection Man!
This has been a stumbling block to most of the Jewish people, especially to the spiritual elite ruling class that was in authority in spiritual temple matters and who resided in Judea and especially around Jerusalem. They could not conceive of Gentiles ever being allowed to receive equal status before God with the chosen Jewish people. And this was a great cause of the murderous rage and bitter strife between members of the Sanhedrin and the apostles that was described in the Book of Acts and the writings of Josephus. They simply could not grasp the fact that Israel’s true Messiah would teach the things that Yeshua had boldly come to proclaim in their midst, prior to His execution:
“Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; this man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
“Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
“Nicodemus said to Him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know and testify of what we have seen, and you do not accept our testimony. If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man. As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.” (John 3:1-15)
And this issue has been equally unpalatable and unacceptable to myriads of Gentiles, including many who called themselves ‘Christians.’ They too became outraged and overwhelmed with murderous fury at the thought of what the New Covenant promises of God were really saying and requiring both groups to do. Neither side wanted to repent of that Wall. Instead of allowing it to be destroyed by Yeshua’s Death, they cooperated with each other in rebuilding it and maintaining it so that they could continue to remain separated from one another.
Over and over, the centuries of intervening history have proven that Christendom is just as adamant about maintaining this animosity and hostility and separation between the two groups as the unbelieving anti-Yeshua Jewish people have been. But beloved, in the end, it will not be Jewish Tradition, or Christian Tradition that will have the last word. It will be Almighty God who will have the First Word, and, the Last Word!
And this is why I urge us all to fall down before God… in total submission and humility… so that we may all beg forgiveness for our Rebellion and Sin and Habitual Disobedience to God’s Living and written Word. It’s not enough to take the Hebrew section of the Scriptures to the exclusion of the New Testament apostolic Scriptures… nor is it enough to take only the New Testament to the exclusion of the Torah and the Tanach sections of Scripture. All men are required to embrace the entire Bible… both Testaments… just the way God revealed them through His Eternal and Unchanging Word. For we cannot truly understand and interpret the New Covenant unless we see that it is the Original Covenant… completely restored and fulfilled!
And that is why I urge you to join me in anticipating and cooperating with this major upheaval that God has warned us is sure to come:
“Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you; and I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing; and I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. and in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” (Genesis 12:1-3)
“Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘It will yet be that peoples will come, even the inhabitants of many cities. The inhabitants of one will go to another, saying, “Let us go at once to entreat the favor of the Lord, and to seek the Lord of hosts; I will also go.” So many peoples and mighty nations will come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem and to entreat the favor of the Lord.’ Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘In those days ten men from all the nations will grasp the garment of a Jew, saying, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.”’” (Zechariah 8:20-23)
“But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left.
“Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’ (Matthew 25:31-40)
“And a lawyer (of the religious Jewish oral traditions) stood up and put Him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And He said to him, “What is written in the Law? (The Torah of Moses) How does it read to you?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” And He said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.” But wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
“Jesus replied and said, “A (Jewish) man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leaving him half dead. And by chance a (Jewish) priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a (Jewish) Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a (non-Jewish) Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him. On the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you.’ Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands?” And he said, “The one who showed mercy toward him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do the same.” (Luke 10:25-37)
So it is utter fallacy to see Judaism and Christianity as two separate religions, just as it is absurd to consider the subterranean root system to be totally separated from the tree that grows out of it on the earth’s surface. The family of the first Adam can only be restored and reintegrated and reinstated before God… when it is grafted into the Family of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob… and Israel. The human race was one in the Beginning… and it will become one once again… at the End. And the Living Word of God became flesh to destroy all division and strife and Sin. He is the Word that revealed all of this to us… and who created and sustains, and redeemed all of us. And it is only through Him that we can all be spiritually regenerated, reconciled to God, and fully restored to our true, God-given Humanity… as one… in God!