I just received this comment from a Christian minister who is well known in certain circles and who, over the decades, has done commendable work in opposing wickedness and promoting righteousness in America.
You’re a good advocate for your own perspective, and have provided a great historical outline on the rise of Hellenic thinking in the church. I’ll use some of this in my debates with Roman Catholics. BUT this is not (as you laudably acknowledge) objective scholarship on the question of keeping the Torah. You have entirely avoided Hebrews as a source, which is arguably the most relevant to this topic of all the Epistles. Your thesis is directly challenged by Hebrews 8, for example. In my view, keeping the law voluntarily is a matter of personal liberty, and some people benefit from maximum structure in their lives, and for all believers there is great benefit from knowing and being influenced by the Torah. But leading people back under the Mosaic law as an obligation IS Judaizing — a term that (as used today) defines a concept with much broader Scriptural support than you admit.
Here is my initial response to to Scott’s comment:
Well hello Scott! Welcome to my blog. I followed your and Lon’s ministry for years when you lived in Oregon, and even met you once decades ago when your office was located in my hometown, and I have appreciated your bold stand in your fight against abortion and the homosexual agenda.
With regard to my article to which you make reference, no, I didn’t cover Hebrews 8 in this particular piece. As a writer, you well know that it’s not possible to cover every facet of every topic including all of the relevant Scriptures on any biblical subject in one article, otherwise the article would be a long book and not an article. I cover Hebrews, Galatians, Romans and everything other scriptural passage in the Bible on the subject of the Torah in many of the 500 some videos on my You Tube channel, some 100 articles on our website and some 2000 articles on this blog.
Moreover, what you call Judaizing I call righteous obedience to the immutable commandments of YHVH Elohim. Judaizing is a term, as you know, that goes back to a Greek word in the NT. However, the early church fathers grossly misunderstood the writings of Paul (largely thanks to the influence of Marcion the heretic who was an anti-Jewish Torah-hater), even as Peter admits in his second epistle was occurring in his day. For Paul, Judaizing WAS NOT obedience to the Torah, or else all of Paul’s pro-Torah statements are nonsensical and contradictory. No, rather for Paul, Judaising was saying that obedience to Torah was mandatory as a requirement for salvation. This was the main thesis of the book of Galatians and the subject of the first Jerusalem Council in Acts 15. However, once saved according to the whole council of Scripture, one is duty bound to follow the Torah, which tells us how, as Paul states in Romans 13, how to fulfill the Torah, and as Yeshua states in the Gospels, how to love Elohim and our neighbor. Following the Torah is simply the fruit of the Spirit, while disobedience to it is the works of the flesh as Paul outlines in Galatians five. You see, Scott, you, to your credit, already follow much of YHVH’s Torah law. You don’t steal, murder, commit adultery, lie, covet, worship idols and so on. Where most people have a problem is with the Sabbath, biblical feasts and biblical dietary laws. These last three were the first biblical commands the ante-Nicene church fathers jettisoned because they were “too Jewish,” and the church has followed their errant ways ever since. If obeying YHVH’s Torah is Judaizing as you say, then so is not stealing, lying, coveting, murdering, etc. It’s simple logic. As James indicates, the YHVH’s Torah-laws all stand and fall together (Jas 2:10). As John states in chapter three of his first epistle, the Torah defines what sin is. So how can not sinning be a bad thing? Beyond this, to take a pick and choose approach to Torah-obedience is to follow the lie of the serpent at the tree of knowledge and to question Elohim as to what he has told us to do and to determine for ourselves what aspects of Elohim’s Word are valid and relevant for us or not. This, as Francis Schaeffer defines it, is the basis for the modern concept of secular humanism.
With regard to Hebrews chapter eight, I have addressed this chapter in my other writings, and I will do so again for your benefit on my blog right now. I invite you to go to it where you will find my response to your kind protestation.
Blessings and thank you for you comments. It has allowed me the occasion to deal with issues that keep needing to be addressed due to the misunderstandings of Scripture in mainstream, traditional Christianity.
From Natan Lawrence’s commentary on the Bible
Hebrews 8:6, Better covenant … better promises. (See Heb 9:11–15.) In the Greek, the word better is kreitton meaning “more useful, more serviceable, more advantageous, more excellent.” The Renewed Covenant is a better covenant for the reasons discussed in the notes in verse eight. In 2 Cor 3:7 calls it “the ministry of the Spirit” and refers to it as “more glorious” than the former covenant. The Renewed Covenant comes with Yeshua’s promise that from within our heart the Set-Apart Spirit will empower and lead us into all truth. Moreover, under the Renewed Covenant, the promise of salvation resulting in eternal life in the kingdom of Elohim is spelled out more clearly. The Renewed Covenant also carries with it relief from the penalty of the law, which is death, for those who put their faith in Yeshua’s atoning and substitutionary death (see notes at 2 Cor 3:7). Through the Spirit and blood of Yeshua, one’s sin conscience is now cleansed in that the guilt from sin is removed (Heb 9:14). Also, as discussed in the verse eight notes, the covenant (or contract) is the actual agreement between two parties. The terms and conditions of a covenant (or contract) are something else. Torah was the terms and conditions of YHVH’s agreement between himself and his people. When the author here uses phrase like “better covenant,” this in no way implies that the Torah has been abrogated. If this were true, then this flies in the face of what is said elsewhere in the Testimony of Yeshua to the contrary (e.g. Matt 5:17–19; Acts 21:24; 24:14; 25:8; Rom 3:31; 7:14; 1 John 2: 3–6; 3:4; Rev 12:17; 14:17; 22:14).
Hebrews 8:8, Finding fault with them. What was the fault of the first covenant? The Torah-law of Elohim, or the people who failed to abide by the terms of the covenant, i.e, the Torah? The next verse gives us the answer: “because they continued not in my covenant…” The Israelites were at fault.
YHVH gave Israel his Torah-laws (or instructions in righteousness) to teach them how to love him and to love their neighbors (Mark 12:29–31). If they followed his Torah-instructions, he promised to bless them (Deut 28:1–14), and declared that all would go well with them (Deut 4:30). Of course, we know the sad history of ancient Israel and how they rebelled against YHVH again and again. There was nothing wrong with his Torah laws, which said, you shall not murder, steal, commit adultery, lie, covet, kidnap, commit homosexuality or incest, worship false gods, take YHVH’s name in vain, keep his Sabbaths, don’t practice divination, honor your parents and so on. What’s wrong with these? Nothing. The fault was with the people who failed to abide by these standards of righteousness, and this is exactly what the author of Hebrews is saying here. Because the people broke their contractual or covenantal agreement with YHVH and literally abandoned him for false gods, he was forced to make a new covenant with other people who would have the heart and love and obey him. This is exactly what Jeremiah prophesied would occur, and the writer of Hebrews is simply quoting Jeremiah in this passage. What is the main difference between the first and second covenants? As the Israelites of old didn’t have the heart to obey YHVH because of the hardness (or carnality) of their hearts (Heb 3:8, 15; 4:2, 7), YHVH promised through Jeremiah to renew his covenant with the descendants of the ancient Israelites (i.e. the house of Israel and the house of Judah, Jer 31:31; Heb 8:8), but this time, by his Spirit, he would write his Torah-laws on their hearts and in their inward parts, so they wouldn’t resist obeying him, but would desire to be pleasing in his sight. So the fault was with the hard-hearted Israelites, not with YHVH standards of righteousness called his Torah-laws!
New covenant. (For a discussion on the etymology behind the phrase new covenant see notes at Matt 26:28.)The (renewed) covenant of Jeremiah 31:31 is the same covenant to which the writer of Hebrews makes reference in Hebrews 8:7–13. From the author’s perspective, the renewed covenant isn’t fully in place yet, and the former covenant is decaying (wearing out), growing old and vanishing away (disappearing). The indication is that it has not totally gone away yet.
Yeshua initiated the renewed covenant at his last Passover supper (Luke 22:20). The renewed covenant has already been presented for believers in Yeshua, but it hasn’t been universally applied to all Israel yet. This will occur when the two houses of Israel will return to the Promised Land after they have been set free from spiritual Babylon.
YHVH’s Word tells us that no man can add or subtract from the terms of the renewed covenant (Gal 3:15). When Yeshua initiated this covenant at his Passover, the Torah was in force then, and not one jot or tittle was removed from the Torah, which are the terms of the former and renewed covenants. Any traditions that came into the Christian (Sunday, Christmas, etc.) or Jewish religious systems which are contrary to the Torah are men’s additions, and are therefore invalid.
Even as there was a gradual process of phasing in the former or first (old) covenant, the same is true of the renewed covenant. With the former covenant, the Israelites put the blood or the lamb on their door posts at Passover, prepared themselves for to meet YHVH at Mount Sinai (Exod 19), were then presented with the terms and conditions of the Sinai Covenant at Shavuot (the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost, Exod 20–23), and then the covenant was ratified (Exod 24). After that, subsequent generations of Israelites automatically entered into that covenantal agreement as they were born (Deut 29:12–15). Similarly, Yeshua initiated the renewed covenant with redeemed Israelites in his day when his blood was put on the cross at Passover, and when he wrote his Torah (the terms and conditions of the renewed covenant on their hearts by his Spirit on Pentecost. This began the process of regathering scattered and adulterous Israel back to YHVH through the blood of Yeshua the Lamb of Elohim.
This process of redeeming or regathering Israel will continue into and through the millennium, pictured by the Feast of Tabernacles or Sukkot, which is the time of the great fall harvest. During the Millennium, those who have already entered into the renewed covenant and who have kept YHVH’s Torah commands and have the testimony, faith or patience of Yeshua (Rev 12:17; 14:12) and who have been preparing themselves to be the bride of Yeshua by keeping their lamps full of oil and by putting on spotless white wedding garments, which are the righteous deeds or works of Torah, before the second coming will be Yeshua’s kings and priests in his millennial kingdom. What will they be doing? They will be teaching a world full of physical humans the ways of Torah and faith in Yeshua.
Elsewhere, the other scriptures point to YHVH establishing a covenant with both houses of Israel during or at the end of the millennium after all the scattered people of Israel have returned to the land of Israel (Ezek 34:25; 37:26; Jer 32:40 cp. 30, 32, 37, 39, 40; 50:5 cp. 4, 5, 8; Isa 55:3–4 cp. 54:11–17).
Hebrews 8:13, Ready to vanish away. Many who read this verse assume that the writer is saying that the Torah-law was ready to vanish away ergo the law has been done away. This belief is orthodox Christianity! But is this what the author is saying here? Read it again? Is he saying that the law is vanishing away or the covenant is vanishing away? The latter!
So what is the difference between the former and latter covenants? The covenant was nothing more than a contract between YHVH and the people of Israel that he made with them at Mount Sinai (Exod 19–24). Think of a modern contract (e.g. buying a car, a house or agreeing to pay for services rendered). A contract is nothing more than an agreement between two or more parties. Then you have the terms of the contract. If one party fails to keep up his end of the agreement, does that mean that the terms of the contract are evil? Not at all. It means that one party failed to keep his word and the contract was then voided. The same was true with the contract of the “Old Covenant” that YHVH made with the Israelites. The terms were that if they would worship him and obey his Torah-laws, he would bless them, and if not, he would punish them. They agreed to these terms three times (Exod 19:8; 24:3,7), yet they ended up not keeping their word and instead worshipped false gods and broke his laws again and again. After hundreds of years of unfaithfulness, they finally totally abandoned YHVH. The covenant was broken for good.
But did Israel’s unfaithfulness to his Torah-laws mean that his instructions in righteousness were evil, or rather that their hearts were evil? Logic dictates the answer to be the latter. To say that the Torah was evil and needed to be obliterated (or done away with) is like saying when you get a speeding ticket, the laws prohibiting speeding should be eliminated. Of course, this is absurd, and so it is to say that the laws of YHVH need to be eliminated because the people violated the covenant thus rendering it null and void.
Here are some more observation on the subject of the Old Covenant vanishing away and giving way to the New Covenant:
(Also see notes at 2 Cor 4:11.) According to Jeremiah 31, the new covenant will be made (or finalized) after YHVH has gathered (or redeemed, v. 11) all the families of Israel (v. 1; i.e. the houses Ephraim or Israel [i.e. Christians] and Judah [i.e. the Jews], vv. 9, 20, 27, 31) who will be returning from the north country, the coasts of the earth and the isles (vv. 8, 10) back to Zion with joy, singing and dancing (vv. 12–13, 24). This will occur after Ephraim (the church) repents (v. 20) of its Torahlessness, and YHVH’s spiritual daughter turns away from her backsliding (vv. 21–22), and upon coming out her captivity in the end times (v. 23; from spiritual Egypt or Babylon the great). At that time, YHVH will make a new (or renewed) covenant with the two houses of Israel (vv. 31–33; loosely speaking, the Jews and the Christians), and all Israel will know Elohim from the least to the greatest. This prophecy has yet to be fulfilled.
The author of Hebrews quotes Jeremiah 31:31–33 (Heb 8:7–13) asserting that the new covenant is the same covenant about which Jeremiah prophesied. From that author’s perspective (Heb 8:13), the new covenant isn’t fully in place yet, and the first covenant is decaying (wearing out), growing old and vanishing away (disappearing). The implication is that the old covenant has not totally gone away yet (see also 2 Cor 3:11).
We know that Yeshua initiated the new (or renewed) covenant at his Passover seder (also called the last supper; Luke 22:20). This covenant has been given to believers in Yeshua, but it hasn’t been universally applied to all Israel yet. This will occur when the two houses of Israel will return to the Promised Land after they have been set free from spiritual Babylon at Yeshua’s second coming.
YHVH’s Word tells us that no man can add or subtract from the terms of the old covenant (Gal 3:15). Although YHVH made this covenant with men, it is a divine covenant, and YHVH himself (not men) determines its terms and conditions! When Yeshua initiated the new covenant at his Passover, the old covenant and the Torah were still in force, and not one jot or tittle will be removed from the Torah until heaven and earth pass away (Matt 5:18). The Torah determine the terms of both the old and new covenants. Any traditions that have come into the Christian (e.g. Sunday, Christmas, Easter, the law being annulled by Yeshua, etc.) or Jewish religious systems that are contrary to the Torah are men’s additions, and are therefore invalid and irrelevant.
Even as there was a gradual process of phasing into the first (or old) covenant, the same is true of the new covenant. With the former covenant, the Israelites put the blood of the lamb on their door posts at Passover, prepared themselves to meet YHVH at Mount Sinai (Exod 19), were then presented with the terms and conditions of the Sinai covenant on the Feast of Weeks (Heb. Shavuot, Exod 20–23), and then the covenant was ratified (Exod 24). After that, subsequent generations of Israelites automatically entered into that covenantal agreement as they were born (Deut 29:12–15) even as Americans, for example, are still bound to the U.S. Constitution many generations after its ratification. Similarly, Yeshua initiated the new covenant with Israel in his day when his blood was put on the cross at Passover, then wrote his Torah (the terms and conditions of the new covenant) on their hearts by his Spirit on Pentecost. This began the process of regathering scattered and adulterous Israel back to YHVH through the blood of Yeshua the Lamb of Elohim. When the process of regathering Israel is finally completed (during the Millennium). YHVH will finalize his new covenant agreements with them. It will be called the everlasting covenant (Jer 32:40; Ezek 37:26; Isa 55:3) or the covenant of peace (Isa 54:10; Ezek 34:25; see also 59:10; Hos 2:19–19).
This process of redeeming or regathering Israel will continue into the millennium as pictured by the Feast of Tabernacles (Heb. Sukkot), which is the time of the great fall harvest. During the Millennium, those who have already entered into the new covenant and who have kept YHVH’s Torah commands and have the testimony, faith or patience of Yeshua, and who have been preparing themselves to be the bride of Yeshua by keeping their spiritual lamps full of oil (a metaphor for the Torah and the Holy Spirit), and by putting on spotless white wedding garments (which is a metaphor for the righteous deeds or works of Torah) before the second coming will be Yeshua’s kings and priests. What will they be doing? They will be teaching a world full of physical humans the ways of Torah and faith in Yeshua.
Not all people will submit to Yeshua during the Millennium. Everyone will be tested with regard to their allegiance to YHVH-Yeshua and his word. During the millennium, YHVH will enter into covenant with all Israel who will be saved, but when Satan is released at the end of the Millennium to test mankind, many will follow the devil in rebellion against Yeshua. This corresponds to Hoshana Rabbah, which means “save us O Great One,” which is the last or seventh day of Sukkot. This corresponds to the time of the great white throne judgment of Revelation 20 when all the wicked who followed Satan’s rebellion and who fell in with Gog and Magog, along with all the wicked dead will stand before YHVH to receive the reward of rebellion against him—to be cast into the lake of fire.
After the white throne judgment occurs Shemini Atzeret, which is the last of YHVH’s seven biblical holidays and prophetically pictures the coming of the New Jerusalem. Only those who have become spirit-born children of YHVH and who have passed the spiritual tests laid out before them and have continued in their obedience to Torah and their faith in Yeshua the Lamb of Elohim will be a part of YHVH’s everlasting spiritual kingdom, which is epitomized by the new heavens, the new earth and the New Jerusalem.
Other Scriptures on the Renewed Covenant
The following scriptures point to YHVH establishing a covenant with both houses of Israel during or at the end of the millennium after all the scattered people of Israel have returned to the land of Israel.
- Ezek 34:25, YHVH will make a covenant of peace with the lost and scattered sheep of Israel and David (Messiah Ben David or Yeshua from the cross onward as well as King David during the Millennium) will rule over them. This prophecy began to be fulfilled at the time of Yeshua and will be fully fulfilled. Edom, the perpetual enemy of Israel will be destroyed (at the second coming, Ezek 35).
- Ezek 37:26, YHVH will make an everlasting covenant of peace with reunited Israel/both houses (after the destruction of Edom, the Valley of Dry Bones and the reuniting of the two sticks of Israel) and David will be ruling over them in the Millennium. After this, at the end of the Millennium, YHVH will test the inhabitants of the earth by letting Satan loose for a little season. Satan will entice Gog and Magog and a multitude as the sand of the sea to rise up against the saints, and YHVH will destroy them (Rev 20:7–10). There may be two Gog/Magog events: one just before the second coming of Yeshua and one at the end of the Millennium.
- Isa 55:3, YHVH to make an everlasting covenant with Israel and David shall be a leader and commander of YHVH’s people (v. 4). This covenant is formulated sometime in the future in relationship to the establishment of the New Jerusalem (54:11–17).
- Jer 32:40, YHVH will make an everlasting covenant with the children of Israel and the children of Judah (vv. 30,32) after he has gathered them out of the countries where he scattered them and has brought them back to the land of Israel (v. 37). He will make them one by giving them one heart and one way (v. 39), which corresponds to the two sticks of Ezekiel 37 coming together (a process which started at the time of Yeshua and will continue to the end of the millennium), and then he will make an everlasting covenant with them (v. 40).
- Jer 50:5, YHVH will make a perpetual covenant with the children of Israel and Judah after they have reunited to seek YHVH together (v. 4) as they are returning to Zion (v. 5) from out of Babylon (v. 8). This occurs after Babylon is fallen/defeated at Yeshua’s second coming (Rev 18 and 19).