- Appendix 4 -
Note: The terms Elohim ("God") and Yahuah ("the LORD") are used interchangeably or together in this essay, just as they are hundreds of times in the Hebrew Scriptures, because they refer ultimately to the same Being.
The Christians say they are "God's" people. The Yahudim ("Jews") say that they are the People of YHWH (Yahuah). The Muslims say they are Allah's people. Other religious groups say they are "God's" people. And within these groups there are many sub-groups – all making exclusive claim to being the people of "God." Many of these groups are at one another’s throats. Yahudim and Christians are antagonistic toward one another; Yahudim and Christians war against Muslims and vice versa; Christians and Muslims persecute Jews; Shiite Muslims fight Sunni Muslims; Yahudim exclude Christians from the "Commonwealth of Israel" (Ephesians 2:12); Protestants war with Catholics; Charismatics war with Fundamentalists; various sects, denominations, and churches within Christianity fight one another; even congregations within a church are antagonistic toward one another; various sects of Yahadut ("Judaism") conflict with one another.
And this divisive conflict is sad, because Yahushua ("Jesus"), who gave His life that the whole world might be saved (John 3:16; 1 Timothy 2:6), prayed, just before He finished His mission here on Earth, that all “. . . who believe in Me . . . might be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us . . .” (John 17:21).
So, who are, really, the “chosen ones,” the “redeemed of the Lord,” the People of Elohim ("God") whom He longs to be united in Him and He in them? If we will just get our egos and misconceptions out of the way long enough to look at Scripture comprehensively and objectively – getting the big picture of Elohim's wonderful plan to restore His entire Creation in Heaven and on Earth to Himself (cf. Colossians 1:16-20), as well as the details of that plan – we will see with crystal clarity who His People are. And you are invited to do exactly that with me right now.
In the Beginning
To find out who Elohim’s People are, we have to start at the beginning, understanding the Lord’s original plan for His Creation. In the beginning Elohim created the universe and all that is in it (Genesis 1:1). Then, His crowning achievement was the creation of human beings – Adam and Eve – who were perfectly united with one another and with Yahuah ("the LORD") Elohim ("God") (cf. Genesis 1:27; 2:24). So, Adam and Eve were the first People of Elohim. And it was Elohim’s will that they eat of the Tree of Life (Genesis 2:9, 16) and live in perfect harmony with Him, one another, and His Creation forever. And Elohim wanted Adam and Eve to be categorically different from all other created beings or animals in Heaven or on Earth. So, He created them in His own image (Genesis 1:27). And since the essence of Elohim is love (1 John 4:16), He created human beings, unlike any other creatures in Heaven or on Earth, with His capacity for pure, unselfish love. And it is the love of Elohim that unites us with Him and with one another (1 John 4:16).
But, in order to love unselfishly, we need to be able to choose not to love, don’t we? For how can we say that someone loves us if they have no choice but to love us? So, among all the creatures on earth, human beings are the only ones He created with free will – the capacity to choose between right and wrong, good and evil, to love or not to love Elohim and one another. That’s why He told His people Israel to “choose today whom you will serve [the pagan gods or the Lord]” (Joshua 24:15) and “I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and Love [Yahuah] your God, listen to His voice, and hold fast to Him” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20).
Do we really have free will?
On the other hand, there are some Scriptures that seem, on the surface, to state that human beings do not really have freedom of will. As examples: “He [Yahuah] chose us in Him [the Messiah] before the foundation of the world . . . having predestined us to adoption as sons by [Yahushua the Messiah] to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will” (Ephesians 1:4, 5), “You did not choose Me [Yahushua] but I chose you . . . that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you” (John 15:16), and“for whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified” (Romans 8:29-30).
Of course, Bible scholars throughout history have taken sides on the question of freedom of will (Armenianism) versus the total deterministic sovereignty of God (Calvinism), and the debate continues to rage.
However, according to Scripture, the truth must be somewhere between the two extremes. Yes, Scripture teaches the total sovereignty of Elohim over His creation, but it also clearly teaches that humans have not only the freedom but the responsibility to choose whom we will serve, Yahuah or Satan, with severe consequences for making the wrong choice. As with other apparent paradoxes (“mysteries”) in the Bible (e.g., Galatians 2:20), we have to be humble enough to put our human understanding on the shelf, admit that our Creator’s thoughts and ways are infinitely above ours (Isaiah 55:8-9), and trust that, in the end, He will work everything out for the best (Proverbs 3:5-6).
One misunderstanding that complicates the free will versus predestination issue is the doctrine of eternal torment. Many reject the teachings of the Bible and its Author because they just cannot accept the idea that most of the sovereign Creator’s created beings will, in the end, be damned to eternal torment in Hell—the “lake of fire.” The punishment - eternal torment - just doesn’t seem to fit the crime—rejection of God and His ways during our relatively short period of time on Earth.
That objection is reasonable. Why? Because not only does the doctrine of eternal torment not make sense to our built-in sense of justice, it is a false doctrine. It is not Scriptural. That doctrine was added to the Bible by Roman Catholic translators who, among other errors, mistranslated the Hebrew word ‘olam and the Greek term (ice) aion as “forever.” But those terms do not mean, in the original languages, timeless eternity. They refer to an indefinite period of time with a beginning and an end, as in the ‘olam hazeh—the “present age.” And the Greek term aion which, together with ice (ice aion), is translated in a few instances “for ever” is actually in most instances translated “age” (e.g., “the end of the age”—Matthew 24:3). In fact, the Jews, who were the original writers of the Bible, had no concept of timeless eternity. To them the Valley of Hinnom (from whence "Hell" is derived) was a place where garbage was burned and totally destroyed.
Yes, Yahushua taught that those who reject Him as the Messiah and the Savior will have to suffer torment in the fire of “Hell” (Mark 9:43-48). But, contrary to what the mistranslated text seems to indicate, that punishment will not last “forever.” It will be severe, but it will be appropriate to the offense which is rejecting our Savior’s own torment and death on the cross in payment for our sins so that we may have eternal life. Then, after suffering the appropriate punishment, the whole being—body and soul—of every person who is cast into the “lake of fire” will be destroyed—totally annihilated (Matthew 10:28).
So, why did the Roman Catholic Church adopt the false doctrine of eternal torment (which originated with the pagans, not with the Word of God) and pervert the Scriptures to seem to support that doctrine? Perhaps knowing that Catholicism is basically a religious system that is perpetuated by fear—fear of what will happen if one is not a faithful, “dues”-paying member of the Church, fear of what will happen to one’s loved ones if their way out of Purgatory is not paid, and so forth—will help us understand why the doctrine of eternal torment is a Roman Catholic doctrine essential to the church. Sadly, it is also an essential doctrine to many other churches and religions that are supported and maintained by fear of going to hell rather than by the love of God and God’s love for others.
Yes, Yahuah is, unlike all other gods, the God of love, not fear. And that’s why He has given us the choice of accepting his wonderful salvation, a life of joy, peace, and love, and eternity with Him, or of rejecting His free gift to live a life of self-centered sin and, in the end, to receive the appropriate consequences of torment and, finally, total destruction of body and soul in “Hell," resulting in "death" (permanent separation from Yahuah - the source of life) (Romans 6:23).
The Fall from Grace
And that brings us back to Adam and Eve and why they ceased being the people of God. Because the Lord wanted His relationship with Adam and Eve to be reciprocal in love, He gave Adam and Eve a choice. He planted the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden and told Adam and Eve not to eat of that tree – that the day they ate of that tree they would die (Genesis 2:17). It has never been Yehovah’s will, although He created the tree, for His People to have an intimate knowledge of evil. He really wanted them to choose to eat from the Tree of Life and live forever in perfect, loving unity with Him.
However, Adam and Eve made the wrong choice; they chose to believe the Serpent’s (Satan in disguise) lie that they would not die if they ate of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (Genesis 3:4). And, as Yahuah had warned, that day they died and were banished from His presence. No, they did not die physically – they had children and lived many more years, but they died (were separated from Yahuah) spiritually. In other words, they were no longer one with Elohim and with one another in His Spirit of pure, unselfish goodness and love. And, at that point in time, they ceased being His People; they became children of the devil, controlled by the spirit of evil.
So, what makes someone a person of Elohim?
Let’s take a close look at what happened to Adam and Eve. When we understand why they fell out of favor with Yahuah and ceased being His People, we will understand who, down through history, have been the People of Elohim.
Adam and Eve forfeited their relationship with Yahuah Elohim because they were disobedient. He told them not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and they ate of it. It’s that simple, right? Wrong. Their disobedience was just a symptom of a deeper, spiritual deficit – lack of faith. They believed the serpent rather than believing Elohim. And so they gave in to their impulses and the lies of the devil, and joined him in His rebellion against Elohim. A loving relationship with anyone – a spouse, a friend . . . or with Yahuah – is based on trust, isn’t it? If we don’t trust (have faith in) that person, or Yahuah, we have no real relationship with him or her, do we? So, when we look at the people of Elohim down through history, we see that the key qualification for being one of His’s People is faith in Him.
The People of Elohim in the Bible
Here is a chronological list of some of the other People of Elohim named in the Bible together with Scriptures that tell why they were Yahuah’s people:
Abel – Genesis 4:1-4; Hebrews 11:4
Enoch – Genesis 5:24; Hebrews 11:5
Noah – Genesis 6-9; Hebrews 11:7
Abraham – Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:3; Hebrews 11:8, 17-19
Sarah – Genesis 21:1-3; Hebrews 11:11
Isaac – Genesis 27:26-40; Hebrews 11:20
Jacob – Genesis 48:1-20; Hebrews 11:21
Joseph – Genesis 50:22-26; Hebrews 11:22
Moses – Exodus 2:11-15; 10:28; 12:21; Hebrews 11:23-28
The Children of Israel – Exodus 14:22-29; Joshua 6:12-20;
Rahab – Joshua 2:1; 6:25; Hebrews 11:31
Deborah – Judges 4:4-16
Ruth – Ruth 1:16
David – 1 Samuel 17:45-47
Elijah – 1 Kings 18:24-38
Esther – Esther 4:16-5:2
Mary – Luke 1:31-38
The Apostles – The book of Acts
Cornelius – Acts 10
Now, what is the one thing that all these People of Elohim had in common? Was it because they were men? No . . . many of the great People of Yahuah Elohim throughout history have been women. Deborah was a judge and prophet of Israel. Was it because they were all Jews? No . . . about half of the people listed above – Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Rahab, Ruth, and Cornelius were not Jews (descendants of Jacob). Ruth, a Moabite woman, was an ancestor of Yahushua. Was it because they were “Christians”? No . . . only the apostles (after Yahushua’s resurrection) and Cornelius were what were called (by the Gentiles) “Christians.” Was it because they were good, righteous people? No . . . they were all sinful humans, just like you and me. Abraham and all the Patriarchs were adulterers and polygamists. Abraham, out of fear of what Pharaoh would do to him if he knew Sarah was his wife, lied to Pharaoh, telling him Sarah was his sister. The Children of Israel were constantly whining and complaining about their circumstances, rebelling against Yahuah, and worshiping other gods. David, the “apple of Yahuah’s eye,” was an adulterer and murderer. Rahab was a Gentile prostitute. So, it is not our own goodness and righteousness that makes us people of Yahuah, is it?
Obviously, the one factor that makes a person one of Elohim’s People is faith, isn’t it? . . . a faith that keeps us coming back to Yahuah although we frequently fail Him, trusting Him to work everything out in the end. All the above references in the book of Hebrews state, “By faith” Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, they (the children of Israel), and Rahab did this and that great thing. Abraham is the prototype of Elohim’s People. And it was in faith that this great man of Yahuah, who was very comfortable and prosperous in Mesopotamia, the place where he was born and raised, gathered up his possessions and left, not even knowing where he was going, simply because the Lord told him that if he would do so, He would make Abraham’s descendants a great nation (Genesis 12:1, 2). And it was in faith that Abraham was willing to obediently offer his son as a sacrifice to Yahuah (Genesis 22:9-10). And it was simply because of his faith, not because of his obedience or lack of sin, that Yahuah considered Abraham righteous (Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:3).
Yes, the People of Elohim are obedient, but that is only through their faith. Often, when they are not acting out of faith, they are disobedient. But if they are truly the People of Elohim, they will keep repenting of their sins, turning back to Him in faith for forgiveness, and trusting Him to save them in the end. And it is not just going through the motions of obedience that makes one a child of Yahuah. Cain obeyed Yahuah in offering a sacrifice, but it was not done in faith, so it was rejected (Hebrews 11:4). King Saul offered sacrifices to Elohim, but not in faith, so his sacrifices were rejected and so was Saul (1 Samuel 13:9-13). The Bible states, “Whatever is not from faith is sin” (Romans 14:23). We can attend every church service and function, sing praises to Yahuah with our hands raised, give away all of our possessions, and do great things in the name of Yahuah, pray fervently, and still not be His People. Only those who do His will in faith are Elohim's People (cf. Matthew 7:21).
The People of Elohim Today
So, who are Elohim’s People in the world today? They are the same as His People throughout history – those who have trusted Him with their lives and follow Him wherever He leads. And, because there are thousands of “gods” being worshiped in the world, the one, true Elohim, the Elohim of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the Children of Israel, has made Who He is very clear and specific by manifesting Himself as a human being – Yahushua the Messiah. To believe in Yahushua, the only person in history who could legitimately claim to be both Elohiym (God) and human, is to believe in Yahuah (cf. John 14:9-15).
The People of Yahuah have always interacted with and looked forward to the Messiah coming to take back dominion of the world from Satan. Elohim the Son has been personally involved with His People throughout history. For example, Abraham met and gave a tenth of the spoils of war (an act of worship) to the Messiah in the person of Melchisedec, the mysterious king of Salem, who had no mother nor father, no descendants, no beginning nor end, and who was also called the "King of Righteousness" and the "King of Peace" (Hebrews 7:1-4). And Genesis 18:1 states that, on another occasion, the Lord appeared to Abraham in the form of one of three men who came to his tent. Then, hundreds of years later, Yahushua confirmed that He had been present with Abraham, and that Abraham had rejoiced to (in faith) see the coming of His day (John 8:56). Yahuah's ancient People, the descendants of Israel, have always looked forward to the coming of the Messiah to rule from the throne of David (e.g., Isaiah 9:6, 7). And He has interacted personally with Hebrews throughout their history. Examples include appearing to Joshua (Joshua 5:13-15) and to Zechariah (Zechariah 1:8; 2:5). Most of the Jews have just not yet realized that the Messiah is Yahushua.
Then, the apostle Paul, in his letter to the Believers in Rome, explained very clearly who the people of Yahuah Elohim are: They are all those who are the spiritual descendants of Abraham through faith in the coming Messiah – Jews or Gentiles (cf. Romans 4). In other words, it is faith in the coming Messiah, whether or not one yet recognizes that He is Yahushua, that levels the salvation playing field between Jews and Gentiles. Salvation has nothing to do with genetics or natural human "goodness," desire, or determination (John 1:13). It is totally the gift of Yahuah operating through our faith (Ephesians 2:8). And that is as true for the physical descendants of Israel who have not yet recognized that Yahushua is the Savior and Messiah as it is for those Jews and Gentiles who do. In fact, the first people to follow the Messiah in faith to the Promised Land and, after they died, to Abraham's Bosom, were Israelites.
As was pointed out in the commentary on Revelation 19, the term translated “nation” (Hebrew: goy, plural goyim) in the Bible can refer to any of three groups - the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Israel), the spiritual descendants of Abraham (those who look forward in faith to the coming Messiah), or the unsaved Gentile nations, depending on the context. Generally, the singular (goy) refers to the physical nation of Israel while the plural (goyim) refers to either the spiritual descendants of Abraham (including the tribes/nations who will inhabit the millennial kingdom) or to the unsaved Gentile nations of the world. For example, Genesis 12:2 refers to the physical descendants of Abraham as a “great nation" (goy), identified as the "holy nation" Israel in Exodus 19:6. In Genesis 18:18, goy and goyim refer to the Hebrew and Gentile nations, respectively - goy refers to Israel and goyim refers to “all the [Gentile] nations of the earth.” Then, the Lord promised Ephraim (the Birthright son of Israel, whose name is used interchangeably with Israel) that his descendants would be a “multitude [Hebrew: melow - fullness, that which fills] of nations [goyim]” (Genesis 48:19) - Hebrew nations who will populate the Kingdom of Elohim ("God") during the Millennium. (The descendants of the Northern Kingdom of Israel will be reunited with the tribes of the Southern Kingdom when they return to the Promised Land at the End of the Age (cf. Ezekiel 37:21-22). Then, together, they will again form the united nation of Israel, the twelve tribes of which (along with the Gentiles whose lives are spared at the end of the Final Seven Years - cf. Zechariah 14:16) will become the nations of the millennial kingdom of the Messiah). In Romans 11:25, exactly the same phrase is used: “fullness [Greek: pleroma—fullness, that which fills] of the Gentiles [Greek: ethnos—nations]," but in this context referring to the spiritual descendants of Abraham - Gentiles who have come to faith in Yahushua as their Messiah - who have been grafted into the Commonwealth of Israel (Romans 11:24; Ephesians 2:12).
Unfortunately, virtually all Gentile translations of the Bible and commentaries fail to recognize that goy(im) refers to both Hebrew and Gentile nations. This has resulted in much confusion as to how Yahuah is going to deal with Israel vis-à-vis the Gentile nations at the End of the Age, even to the extent of the formation of the false doctrine that Gentile “Christian” (non-Hebrew) nations or churches have replaced Israel as Yahuah’s chosen People and will be the ones who inhabit the Kingdom of Elohim on Earth during the Millennium. As an example of a passage that has been misinterpreted, Isaiah 11:10 in the NKJV states,
And in that day [the Day of the Lord] there shall be a Root of Jesse [the Messiah], Who shall stand as a banner to the people; for the Gentiles [goyim] [which has been falsely interpreted to mean only non-Hebrews] shall seek Him, and His resting place shall be glorious.
But please notice that the context of Isaiah 11:10 is a prophecy that the Messiah will return to "set up a banner for the nations [goyim], and will assemble the outcasts of Israel [Gentiles were never cast out, because they were never Israelites in the first place], and gather together the dispersed of Judah [a tribe of Israel] from the four corners of the earth [Gentiles were never scattered to the four corners of the earth]" (verses 11 and 12). Clearly, in these verses (10-12), the banner is being set up not only for the Yahuah-fearing Gentiles on whom the Lord will have mercy and allow to enter the millennial kingdom of the Messiah, but for the physical descendants of Israel who will come out of the Gentile nations, because, at this point in time (at the end of the Final Seven Years), the faithful Remnant of both the descendants of Ephraim/Israel (the Northern Kingdom) and those of the House of Judah (the Southern Kingdom) who have not yet recognized that Yahushua is the Messiah will be eagerly looking for the Messiah’s return, but the time for the unsaved Gentiles to come to the Lord will have ended - those who are not saved by then will not be seeking Him.
So, Paul points out to the Believers in Yeshua that have been grafted into the cultivated olive tree (the Commonwealth of Israel), that they should not look down their noses at the Jews just because they rejected the Messiah the first time He came. It was all part of Yahuah’s plan to make faith in the Messiah Yahushua available to everyone. Paul explains it very graphically, stating that the Jews (those of physical Israel who look forward in faith to the coming Messiah), who came back to the land of Israel after their captivity in Babylon, are branches of the cultivated olive tree. (The olive tree is a symbol of Israel - Jeremiah 11:16.), and the redeemed Gentiles (not the natural, physical descendants of Israel) are branches of the wild olive tree (“elect according to the foreknowledge of Yehovah the Father” - 1 Peter 1:2) grafted, "contrary to nature" (Romans 11:24), into the cultivated olive tree. (Incidentally, the "elect" or the "election" are terms that apply to both Israel and the followers of Yahushua in Scripture.) And the wild branches have been grafted in only because the cultivated branches have been (temporarily) cut off (blinded to who their Messiah is). Therefore, the wild branches grafted in should not boast against the cultivated branches that have been cut off, because if Elohim did not spare the cultivated branches who did not believe in Yahushua at His first coming (but who will be grafted back in when they do believe), He will certainly not spare the wild, grafted-in branches if they do not continue (through faith) in the goodness of Yahuah. (Romans 11:17-24)
So, the only difference, at the present time, between the Renewed Covenant Saints (those who have already believed in the Messiah Yahushua) and the Saints still living under the old covenant with Israel is that the Renewed Covenant Saints have (or should have) the Torah written on our hearts (Hebrews 10:16) and the fullness of the indwelling Holy Spirit enabling us to live by the Torah, not that we are any more the chosen People of Yahuah Elohim than are the Jews who believe in the coming Messiah. The doctrine that the cultivated olive tree, composed of those of the twelve tribes of Israel who still believe in Yahuah and look forward in faith to the coming Messiah, although they have not yet recognized that He is Yahushua, are not just as much the People of Elohim as those who have already accepted Yahushua as their Savior and Messiah, is called Replacement Theology, and is totally unsubstantiated by Scripture.
Therefore, there is no Scriptural reason for anti-Semitism, is there? All believers in the coming Messiah, whether or not they have yet recognized that He is Yahushua, are Yahuah’s People.14 And the efforts of the Christian Church, rather than condemning the Jewish people if they don’t convert to Christianity, should be directed toward ministering the Truth in love to them, so that when Yahushua does return on the last Yom Teruah at the end of this age, they will recognize Him and be saved.
I realize that this is quite a convoluted explanation, but it is not easy to explain who the People of Elohim are to those who think of themselves as separate from or superior to others who believe in the coming Messiah. The vast majority of those who claim to be Christians, because of their compromises with the world, their rejection of the "law" (Torah) of the Lord, and their rejection, whether or not they admit it, of Yahuah's People the Yahudim ("Jews"), are not truly the People of Elohim – they are members of the apostate church who will follow Antimessiah to destruction (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4). But, the other side of that Replacement Theology coin is composed of those Hebrew Roots or Messianic adherents who think that only physical descendants of Israel will, in the end, be saved. However, the Word of Yahuah clearly states that "all [Yahudim or Gentiles] who [in faith] call on the name of the Lord" and who trust in the coming Messiah (whether or not they, at the present time, recognize that He is Yahushua) will be saved (Romans 10:13 and cf. Romans 4:3; John 8:56).
Please proceed to Appendix 5 – The Subtle Demise of True Christianity – to find out who among those who call themselves “Christians” are the True People of Elohim.
14For the apostle Paul’s clear description of how both the Jewish and grafted-in Gentile believers in the Messiah are Elohim’s People, please read Ephesians Chapter 2.
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