The vast majority of Jewish and Gentile believers in Yeshua (Hebrew for Jesus) believe in and eagerly await the return of the Messiah to Israel and the establishment of His kingdom in Jerusalem, as prophesied in Scripture. Most have an understanding that the two critical, prophetic events leading up to Messiah's return are both the physical and spiritual restoration of Israel. But could this spiritual restoration already be happening today?
In 1967, Israel recaptured and united Jerusalem, fulfilling the prophecy in Luke 21:24 ("And Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled"). At the same time, God released His Spirit and the "Jesus People" revival was born. For the first time since the days of the apostles, Jewish people by the tens of thousands miraculously came to faith in Yeshua. Prior to 1967, there were no Messianic Jewish congregations or synagogues; today, there are almost 1,000.
In the mid-'60s, my father, Martin Chernoff (one of the early pioneers of the Messianic Jewish movement) and his colleagues often asserted that there was a remnant of less than 2,000 Jewish believers in the United States. More than 20 years later the authoritative Council of Jewish Federation's 1990 National Population Survey put the number of Jewish people who believe in Jesus at 1.19 million (or 14.6 percent of the Jewish community) in the U.S. alone.
It's unlikely the Holy Spirit decided to call it quits in 1990. By comparing the survey results then to the tiny number of Jewish believers prior to 1967, one could reasonably assert that by percentage growth, the Messianic Jewish movement is by far the fastest-growing stream of Jewish religious life in the world today. Though the spiritual restoration of Israel is well under way, does this mean Messianic Judaism alone is enough to see the prophecy of Jewish national revival realized? I believe the answer is no.
Perhaps the greatest obstacle to Israel's spiritual restoration is the fact that Jesus Himself—and Christianity as a whole—is perceived to be non-Jewish, extremely hostile and even lethal to the Jewish people as it inherently denies the Jewish roots of the faith. After all, how can we, as Jewish people, believe in something so un-Jewish and hurtful? It's just not for us.
In Romans 11, Paul describes the body of Messiah as an olive tree in which the roots and trunk are Jewish and the nations are grafted in. But the perception by our people and the world, is that the body of Messiah is a Christian olive tree—that is, the root and trunk are non-Jewish and a few Jewish people happen to be grafted in. Of course, this perception is not biblically accurate.
While Messianic Judaism presents the truth to our people that it is, indeed, Jewish to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, it does not answer the centuries-old Jewish riddle which goes like this: "How is it that Christians, who worship the God of Israel, follow someone they believe to be the Jewish Messiah and Savior and study the Jewish Bible, can hate and persecute the Jewish people? Why do they deny that their faith is Jewish?"
Our people know that there is something wrong with this scenario. And until this riddle is solved, until Jew and Gentile are demonstrably united in Messiah as depicted by Paul's Jewish olive tree, faith in Yeshua will not be embraced by the nation of Israel and our people as a whole.
This is where the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America (MJAA) enters the picture. Founded in 1915, the MJAA is the largest institution representing the Messianic Jewish community. The MJAA has the authority to speak and act on behalf of the Messianic community with both governments and denominations (Jewish and Christian).
The MJAA founded and supports a work in Israel called the Joseph Project. It is a real-life demonstration of Paul's Jewish olive tree. Established and managed by the MJAA, the Joseph Project has delivered over $100 million worth of humanitarian aid throughout Israel and can now touch the lives of up to 250,000 of the almost 2 million Israelis living below the poverty line of $340 per month. To God be the glory!
The Joseph Project provides the prophetic opportunity for Christians to partner with the mainstream Messianic community through the MJAA and labor together—Messianic Jew and Gentile Christian, for the physical and spiritual restoration of Israel. As Paul says in Romans 11:26, "And in this way, all Israel will be saved" (NIV).
Joel Chernoff is the co-founder of the 1970s top-five Messianic music group, LAMB, father of Messianic music and General Secretary/CEO of the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America. For more information, visit mjaa.org.
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