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On Holocaust Remembrance Day, here are four true heroes to remember. Who will be the heroes of our time, standing against evil & genocide?

In Uncategorized on April 15, 2015 at 6:26 am

AuschwitzEscape-adThose who forget the past are doomed to repeat it, said Santayana. Let us never forget.

Yom HaShoah — Holocaust Remembrance Day — begins tonight.

How will you remember the Holocaust and teach your children?

This year, let us all make time to remember the six million Jews that were murdered by the Nazis, including 1.5 million children. Let us honor their memories, and pledge ourselves never to forget them. Let us devote ourselves to making sure such evil is never allowed to happen again.

This is not just a time for Jews to remember. This is a day for the whole world to remember and commit themselves to standing against evil and against genocide in our time, especially in the face of the Iranian nuclear threat, Russia’s decision to sell advanced missiles to Iran (announced on the eve of Yom HaShoah), and the murderous rampage upon which ISIS is engaged.

This evening, Lynn and I have been invited to attend the Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony at Yad Vashem, Israel’s renowned Holocaust memorial and research center. I attended last year for the first time, and I am deeply honored to be able to return and bring my wife. I hope to Tweet updates, and post more on this blog so you can track what is happening and consider its significance. We will also attend additional events and ceremonies with Holocaust survivors, Israeli leaders, and various Jewish and Christian leaders. As with last year, I am very much looking forward to this, especially because several of the scholars here were enormously helpful as I was researching The Auschwitz Escape.

My hope and prayer this year is that in addition to remembering those who died in the “Shoah” — the Holocaust — we will also remember the four extraordinary heroes who escaped from Auschwitz 71 years ago this spring to tell the world the truth about what the Nazis were doing, the very men whose remarkable courage and selflessness inspired The Auschwitz Escape. They are:

  • Rudolf Vrba
  • Alfred Wetzler
  • Arnost Rosin
  • Czeslaw Mordowicz

It is the story of these four men that inspired me to write The Auschwitz Escape. Last year, FoxNews.com published a column I wrote sketching out their dramatic saga. I hope you’ll take a moment to read the whole column, and then share it with others. Thanks so much. May more such heroes rise up in our generation.

REMEMBERING FOUR HEROES OF THE HOLOCAUST: They pulled off the greatest escape in human history – from a Nazi death camp – to tell the world the truth about Hitler, but no few know their names. [To read the full column, click here.]

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Putin moves to boost ties with Tehran, sell missiles to Iran. Does this — and the deeply flawed proposed Iran nuclear deal — mean war is actually “more likely”? Here’s the latest.

In Uncategorized on April 14, 2015 at 3:01 pm
File photo of Putin and Khamenei meeting several years ago.

File photo of Putin and Khamenei meeting several years ago.

(Central Israel) — With U.S.-Israeli relations at arguably their lowest point in history, Russia’s ties with Iran are suddenly growing much closer.

Vladimir Putin on Monday “cleared the way for the delivery of sophisticated air defense systems to Iran,” and Iranian officials say the S-300 missile system could be “delivered his year.” 

This raises the disturbing question of whether the near-term deployment of an advanced Russian air defense system around Iran’s most sensitive nuclear sites — combined with growing concerns by numerous experts that the nuclear deal set on the table by President Obama and the P5+1 will put Iran on the legal path to building nuclear weapons in the not-too-distant-future — could actually make war in the near term more likely, rather than less.

Is this the case? Let’s hope not.

None of us wants to see a war between Iran and Israel (or the U.S. and Iran) unless absolutely necessary and only as a last possible resort. I certainly don’t. Indeed, I wrote a trilogy of novels about an American President pressuring an Israeli Prime Minister not to launch a preemptive strike on Iran, only to have Israel do it any way, with grave and unexpected consequences (see The Twelfth Imam, The Tehran Initiative and Damascus Countdown).

Still, a number of experts in the region are suggesting war in the epicenter is suddenly becoming more likely. Consider the following articles:

That said, I’m not worried. There’s reason for concern, but not fear. The negotiating process is still underway. Nothing final has been decided. And the God of the Bible remains sovereign and in control.

Still, we are commanded to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, and now is a very good time to be faithful to that command. We are also commanded to love Israel as well as her neighbors and her enemies. We are commanded to strengthen our persecuted Christian brothers and sisters in the region, and strengthen and encourage the Church, and work together in love and unity to communicate the Good News of God’s love and mercy to all the people of the region. What’s more, we are to obey these commands with the hope we have in the Lord Jesus Christ who died, rose again and is coming back to reign from Jerusalem. Now is a very good time to be faithful to all these commands and the whole counsel of God in the Bible, as well.

I write these updates not to alarm you but to educate you and ultimately to encourage you. We are seeing Bible prophecies come to pass. We’re also seeing the possibility of other prophecies to be fulfilled in the near future (i.e., the “War of Gog and Magog” described in Ezekiel 38-39; the destruction of Damascus as foretold in Isaiah 17 and Jeremiah 49; the judgment and revival of Iran foretold in Jeremiah 49; etc). Let us, therefore, live faithfully for the Lord in light of such Scriptures and geopolitical developments.

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The following are excerpts from the Los Angeles Times article on the Russian-Iranian deal:

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday cleared the way for delivery of sophisticated air defense systems to Iran with a decree that U.S. officials warned could disrupt the emerging deal to prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons.
  • Kremlin officials cited the April 2 framework agreement between Iran and six world powers that is expected to prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons as grounds for proceeding with delivery of the S-300 missile systems, which could give Russia a jump on others in resuming trade with the long-isolated Islamic Republic….
  • It was unclear whether Moscow was prepared to ship the missile systems any time soon, or what specific antiaircraft batteries might be involved. The S-300 has been out of production for five years, and the Russian output until 2010 involved an array of ranges and capabilities, analysts said, leaving it unclear whether Tehran could deter the kind of airstrikes that Israel has threatened if the nuclear deal falters and weapons production is suspected.
  • Still, a senior Israeli official condemned the Russian announcement.
  • This is a direct result of the legitimacy that Iran is obtaining from the deal being woven with it, and it is proof that the economic momentum in Iran that will come after the lifting of the sanctions will be exploited for arming and not for the welfare of the Iranian people,” Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz said in a statement.
  • Tehran’s order for the S-300s was held up by then-President Dmitry Medvedev in 2010, in line with U.N. Security Council Resolution 1929, which banned supply to Iran of conventional weapons including missiles, tanks, attack helicopters, warplanes and ships.
  • Putin’s decree, which took immediate effect with his signature, ended Moscow’s self-imposed restrictions on transport of the S-300 systems worth a total of $800 million, the Kremlin website said.
  • By offering to resume arms sales to Iran, Putin has potentially positioned Russia for a head start over other nations in restoring trade links with Tehran. A deputy foreign minister recently told Russian lawmakers that an oil-for-goods barter deal with Iran also was in the works as a result of the perceived easing of the nuclear standoff between Tehran and the West.

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Killing Christians: persecution of Christians is worse than ever, so why is the Church growing?

In Uncategorized on April 14, 2015 at 8:25 am

KillingChristians

>> Join me for a discussion of Christian persecution in the Mideast during a special simulcast on April 19th.

We are living in a time of unprecedented persecution of Christians in the Middle East and around the world. The Lord Jesus warned His disciples that they would be persecuted, and that persecution would intensify as the time of His return drew near. Today, we are seeing His prophecies come to pass as never before.

Recently, my friend, Tom Doyle, published an important book titled, Killing Christians: Living The Faith Where It’s Not Safe To Believe. Tom not only describes the general wave of brutality against Christ-followers worldwide; he also tells specific, personal stories of believers boldly standing for their Savior — and courageously proclaiming the Gospel of forgiveness and eternal life — amidst such persecution.

This is one of the most intriguing conundrums of our time: the Church is actually growing amidst martyrdom. More and more people around the world are being drawn into a personal relationship with God through faith in Jesus the Messiah not despite of such persecution but because of it. It’s happening in Communist-controlled China where the Church has grown from maybe 250,000 in the 1970s to upwards of 100 million believers today. It’s happening in the Middle East, where millions of Muslims have turned to Christ amidst brutal persecution in Iran and Saudi Arabia and ISIS controlled territories.

How? Why?

I would encourage you to read Tom’s book, and to share it and discuss it with family and friends. As you do, please pray for persecuted Christians here in the epicenter and around the world, that the Lord would continue to bless and strengthen and embolden men and women and boys and girls who are facing grave danger for preaching and teaching and living the Word of God and serving as lights in the spreading darkness.

For now, here is an article Tom wrote specifically for my blog, drawing on material he wrote for the book. I hope you find it helpful. I certainly have.

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Living the Faith Where It’s Not Safe to Believe

By Tom Doyle, author of Killing Christians

  • Forty Egyptian churches burned to the ground
  • House church leaders sentenced to Iran’s infamous Evin prison
  • Eighty Christians murdered in North Korea for merely owning a Bible
  • Believers nailed to crosses in Syria

And that’s the news from just one month in 2014.

After that, it got really bad. In summer 2014, a shocked world witnessed the phenomenal rise of ISIS, now known as the Islamic State. Within weeks, a path of destruction swept through Syria and Iraq, leaving unimaginable carnage in its wake. The brutality of ISIS and its global jihadist agenda is reminiscent of the Assyrian Empire in the Old Testament. The Assyrians leveled villages and cities with such ferocity that, in the eighth century BC, the mere mention that Assyrians were on their way prompted some villages to commit mass suicide rather than be skinned alive, impaled, taken as slaves, or allow women to be abused and kidnapped. In a fascinating twist of history, ISIS was birthed in the same region as the Assyrians, and one of the organization’s major objectives is now clear: to eradicate any presence of Christianity.

But ISIS is not alone in its quest against biblical faith. Christianity is under fire across the globe. Jesus lovers are hated in dozens of countries and often pay a gruesome price for following Him. Killing fields have become common, but Killing Christians isn’t written to sound the alarm for the persecuted church. Others have already sent out the alert, and thankfully, many are listening. What the alarms can’t tell you, though, is the inside human cost of following Jesus in the twenty-first century.

That’s why these stories were written. It would be easy to conclude from the acceleration of Christian persecution that followers of Christ are on the run and are systematically being crushed by the forces of Islamic terrorism, fanatical dictators, and hostile nations. Yet the opposite is actually true.

Jesus said His followers would experience persecution for merely being associated with Him. He also predicted an escalation of intensity over time. On the night before He went to the cross, Jesus spelled out the details: “They will put you out of the synagogue: in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God” (John 16:2).

From Chapter 1 — The Pirates of Somalia:

Two men strolled arrogantly down the center of the village road. Preoccupied over boasting about exploits with their latest girlfriends, they didn’t notice a third man step silently from between two houses and into the road a dozen yards ahead of them. Their banter stopped abruptly as Mahdi and Yasin recognized the form in their path. They were not at all happy to see Azzam Mubarak again.

“I know what you did to my mother.”

“Azzam, we had to. We didn’t want to do it, but your father ordered us and threatened to . . .” As he spoke, Mahdi’s right hand moved slowly around his back.

“I know all about my father.” Azzam stared at the two murderers. “I haven’t come to harm you.” He paused for effect. “I’ve come to forgive you.”

Mahdi and Yasin glanced sideways at each other and then back at the man facing them, wondering whether or not to believe the words they had just heard.

Azzam continued, “You need to know that I love you and have prayed for both of you ever since I saw your picture with my mother. Jesus filled my heart with compassion for you. You need Him—just like I did. He can forgive murderers. His love is greater than anything you’ve done.”

It was the first meeting between the three men. They met again—at night—several more times. Impelled by Azzam’s testimony, Mahdi and Yasin offered their lives of piracy to a forgiving Savior. For the moment, the two new believers and Azzam told no one else what had happened…

Whether it’s in Somalia, Syria, Iraq, or Saudi Arabia, a new Jesus movement is erupting around the world, and persecuted believers are leading the way. They have been given a gift from God that most of us would not want: the ability to endure enormous suffering and emerge even stronger. Church leaders in obscure places—outposts for the faith—are fully aware that passionately following Jesus has them on a collision course with hardship. They will be beaten, imprisoned, tortured, and maimed. Some will be killed. But unfazed, they move forward, in love with Jesus Christ.

Malik, a Christ follower from the Middle East, once told me: “Every Christian should go to jail at least once in life because of their faith in Christ. It’s good for you!”

Can you relate to that? This former Muslim adds: “You’ll never be the same after experiencing the loneliness of a jail cell. But then there is great elation that comes when you realize Jesus is capable of filling 100 percent of that loneliness—and more. My deepest spiritual lessons were learned on the cold floor with no one there… but Jesus and me.”

Will persecution come to America? Maybe. If it does, remembering stories of those who have already endured and emerged faithful just may be a lifeline for you. And if persecution does not come upon the church in America, you may need these stories even more. They will inspire you to live with renewed passion for Jesus. For sure, you won’t be able to read them and remain unmoved by these incredible true accounts.

So, is Christianity winning or losing? Killing Christians is written to tell stories of victory from the front lines of a war raging around Jesus’ church. The battle is fierce and not letting up.

Yet this is one of our finest hours.

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Killing Christians: Living the Faith Where It’s Not Safe to Believe is available now at bookstores everywhere.

I’m hard at work on the sequel to “The Third Target.” Here’s an update. (Also, our special simulcast on trends in the Mideast and Christian persecution is Sun, April 19th. There’s still time to register.)

In Uncategorized on April 12, 2015 at 9:48 am

Writing-newbookA-simulcast-ThirdTarget(Central Israel) — Good morning and shalom from Israel. I hope you had a very special Passover and Easter season with family and friends. We certainly did here. It was our first time celebrating these two wonderful and important Jewish holidays as immigrants here in the Land and it was a great blessing.

Now I’m back hard at work again on my next novel. For the moment, it’s simply, “The Sequel.” We’ll announce the real title later this year. It’s the follow-up novel to The Third Target and should release in January 2016.

I’m working on the book every day in my home office here in Israel, which is also our family bomb shelter. Seems appropriate to write a terrorism thriller set in the Middle East in a bomb shelter in the Middle East, doesn’t it?

My deadline to turn the manuscript into my publisher is the beginning of May. So I’m hidden away, crashing to get it done on time. It’s going well. I’m really excited about the plot, which picks up after the cliff-hanger ending in the first book. As we get closer to the release, I’ll share more details about the storyline. For now, I’d just ask for your prayers that I hit my deadline!

Meanwhile, just a quick reminder that THE THIRD TARGET SIMULCAST is coming up on Sunday evening, April 19th. During the event, which was recorded before a live audience at a wonderful church in Tyler, Texas, in January, I discuss why I wrote the novel, the research I did for the book, the real-life threat posed by ISIS to the U.S., Israel, our Arab allies, and to the Church. I was asked a number of questions about the role The Joshua Fund is playing in helping people fleeing from ISIS, and coming along side the persecuted Christians in Iraq and Syria, as well as the powerful move of the Holy Spirit in drawing many Muslims in the region out of Islam and into a personal relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ.

There’s still time for you to register to watch the simulcast — as an individual, with your home group Bible study, or as a church congregation. Please click here for more information and/or to register. Hope you can join us for a very special night.

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The President vows “Iran will not get a nuclear weapon on my watch.” That’s only 20 months. What about after? Here’s the latest details on the draft nuclear deal & its flaws.

In Uncategorized on April 10, 2015 at 2:12 pm

NuclearDeal-cartoonOn April 2nd, President Obama announced “a historic understanding with Iran” which would “prevent it from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”

On April 5th, the President told Tom Friedman of the New York Times, “I’ve been very clear that Iran will not get a nuclear weapon on my watch.”

Yet in the days that followed, the President admitted that Iran’s leaders could race to The Bomb with essentially no “break out” time and with very little way the world could stop them once the deal concluded in 13 to 15 years.

Specifically, the President noted that the deal would be “purchasing” a one year “break out” period during the life of the deal, meaning it would take at least a year for Iran to enrich enough uranium to military grade and build an operational nuclear weapon from the time it made the decision to do so, if it wasn’t already cheating. The President says this would be an increase from the current two to three month “break out” time that U.S. intelligence officials says Iran currently has.

This is no small matter.

Mr. Obama will be out of office in 20 months. Preventing a nuclear weapon on his “watch” is not enough. Future American presidents, Members of Congress, the American people, the Jewish and Arab people of Israel, the Palestinians, and everyone else in the Middle East and the world will have to live with the consequences of this deal. What if Iran cheats and builds nuclear weapons in secret during the period of the deal? Or, what if they wait and build nuclear weapons openly in 13 to 15 years when they are free to do so? That’s not so far away.

What’s more, how can we prevent Saudi Arabia, Turkey and other countries in the region from pursuing their own arsenal of nuclear weapons? The Saudis have already signaled they are talking to the Pakistanis about buying nukes already built. A nuclear arms race is about to begin.

Meanwhile, Iran’s leaders immediately began accusing the White House of “lying” about the agreement. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif told reporters that the U.S. assertion that sanctions would be phased out over time was a lie and that the U.S. had proposed immediate termination of all economic sanctions. Zarif also bragged that “none of those measures” that Iran had tentatively agreed to “include closing any of our facilities,” and added, “We will continue enriching; we will continue research and development.”

What’s more, Iran immediately began announcing a series of steps that would prevent the world from really knowing for certain whether they were complying with the deal.

Consider the following developments:

“If Iran cheats, the world will know it,” President Obama insists. “If we see something suspicious, we will inspect it. So this deal is not based on trust, it’s based on unprecedented verification.”

But experts say it will be nearly impossible to verify that Iran is not cheating and secretly building The Bomb.

Former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Shultz expressed grave concerns about the deal in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal this week.

  • “For 20 years, three presidents of both major parties proclaimed that an Iranian nuclear weapon was contrary to American and global interests – and that they were prepared to use force to prevent it. Yet negotiations that began 12 years ago as an international effort to prevent an Iranian capability to develop a nuclear arsenal are ending with an agreement that concedes this very capability. The threat of war now constrains the West more than Iran….”
  • “Having both served in government during a period of American-Iranian strategic alignment, we would greatly welcome such an outcome. But there exists no current evidence that Iran and the U.S. are remotely near such an understanding. Iran’s representatives (including its Supreme Leader) continue to profess a revolutionary anti-Western concept of international order; domestically, some senior Iranians describe nuclear negotiations as a form of jihad by other means….”
  • “The final stages of the nuclear talks have coincided with Iran’s intensified efforts to expand and entrench its power in neighboring states. Iranian or Iranian client forces are now the pre-eminent military or political element in multiple Arab countries, operating beyond the control of national authorities. With the recent addition of Yemen as a battlefield, Tehran occupies positions along all of the Middle East’s strategic waterways and encircles archrival Saudi Arabia, an American ally. Unless political restraint is linked to nuclear restraint, an agreement freeing Iran from sanctions risks empowering Iran’s hegemonic efforts….”

The deadline for the final details of the Iran deal to be wrapped up is June 30th. An extension is permitted until September 30th. Let’s pray a much better, tougher deal can be concluded by then. I shudder to think what the world will look like if the current deal is ratified and set into motion.

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Come with me to Israel & Jordan. Here are the details on The Joshua Fund’s 2015 “Prayer & Vision Tour of the Holy Land.”

In Uncategorized on April 8, 2015 at 1:41 pm

TJF-2015tourDear Friends:

It is with great excitement about God’s love for the people of Israel and her neighbors that I cordially invite you to join us for The Joshua Fund’s next “Prayer & Vision Tour Of The Holy Land.”

The Israel portion of the tour will be October 14-25, 2015.

And for the first time ever, we will lead an optional additional tour to the Biblical sites of the Kingdom of Jordan for those who want to extend their time and learn more. This will be from October 25-29, 2015.

If you have never been to the Holy Land, it is hard to describe what a profound spiritual effect such a journey can have on you and your family. You may have heard others say God’s Word seemed to “come alive” in a new way when they walked where Jesus walked, from the shores of Galilee to the Mount of Olives and into the streets of Jerusalem. Well, it’s true, and I believe our 2015 Israel trip will allow you to experience this for yourself and intensify your desire to walk more closely with Jesus Christ.

If you have been to Israel before, this trip will be a great opportunity to deepen your understanding of how powerfully the Lord is moving there. And this tour is like no other!

  • You will visit The Joshua Fund’s warehouse and participate in a practical ministry project to bless the poor and needy.
  • You will have the opportunity to meet with and pray for local pastors and ministry leaders on the frontlines of the faith.
  • You will have the opportunity to hear solid Bible teaching, and pray for the peace of Jerusalem and for all the people of the epicenter, and have the joy of worshipping the Lord in the land of Jesus, the prophets and the apostles.
  • I will also teach at key locations and answer your questions about the future of the Epicenter.
  • And, as I mentioned, for those who want to learn more, we are offering our first-ever extension to visit Biblical and historic sites in Jordan such as Mount Nebo, Petra and the capital of Amman.

Now more than ever, it is vitally important for Christians to “learn, pray, give and go” — to really learn how much God loves the people of Israel, Jordan and the region; to pray with and for Jews and Arabs; to give to ministries that are truly blessing people on both sides in the name of Jesus; and actually go to the Holy Land to stand with these dear people in these challenging times.

To learn more about this Prayer & Vision Tour of the Holy Land — to get your questions answered, and to register — please click here.

Please prayerfully consider coming to visit the Land we love and now call our home to meet the people we love and now call our neighbors. We would love to see you there!

Yours to bless Israel and her neighbors in the name of Jesus,

Joel C. Rosenberg

Founder and Chairman of The Joshua Fund

>> To make a secure, tax-deductible, financial contribution to the work of The Joshua Fund, please click here

My spiritual journey: How my parents & I came to faith in Jesus Christ. (All over the world, people ask me, “Joel, how can you be Jewish and believe in Jesus?” Here’s my answer.)

In Uncategorized on April 8, 2015 at 8:34 am

Joel-JerusalemAround the world, millions of Jews are celebrating Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. At the same time, Christians around the world have just celebrated Good Friday and Easter.

In recent days, I’ve written several column related to these religious holidays, including:

Today, I wanted to share with you some personal thoughts on these important and historic events and holidays, and how they intersect in my life. In this hour-long audio message (divided up in six 10-minute segments on YouTube), I explain the spiritual journey my parents and I were on to come to faith in Jesus Christ, as well as I how I experienced a powerful revival in my junior year of high school that completely transformed my life.

All over the world, people ask me, “Joel, how can you be Jewish and believe in Jesus?” It’s a good question. In this audio recording, I share my answer.

My hope and prayer is that as you listen to the story, it will encourage you in your own faith, and that it will be something you can share with family and friends to help and encourage them, as well. Thanks and may the Lord deeply bless you as you read His Word and seek a personal relationship with Him.

  • My spiritual journey — part 1 — how becoming the author of The Last Jihad triggered people asking me a critical question
  • Part 2 — how my Jewish grandparents escaped from Russia, my father’s Jewish upbringing, my mother’s Gentile heritage, and how they met
  • Part 3 — my mother’s spiritual journey
  • Part 4 — my father’s spiritual journey, and then how I came to faith
  • Part 5 — how I learned I was Jewish, and then my crisis of faith in high school
  • Part 6 — the conclusion of my story, and so what? Why should any of this matter to you?

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Israeli scholar says 1st century Jews awaited Messiah who would die & rise again. Argues “third day resurrection” an idea that pre-dates Jesus.

In Uncategorized on April 5, 2015 at 1:40 pm
“The Messiah Before Jesus: The Suffering Servant of the Dead Sea Scrolls,” a fascinating book by Dr. Israel Knohl of Hebrew University.

“The Messiah Before Jesus: The Suffering Servant of the Dead Sea Scrolls,” a fascinating book by Dr. Israel Knohl of Hebrew University.

This is the week of Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and the Feast of First Fruits. Millions of Jews in Israel and around the world are celebrating the story of how the Jewish people were saved from the “angel of death” in ancient times if they put the blood of a perfect slain lamb on the doorposts of their homes in Egypt.

This is also the week of Good Friday and Easter. Billions of Christians around the world are celebrating the death of Jesus of Nazareth, and His resurrection from the tomb three days later, and the belief that all mankind can be saved from the “angel of death” in our times if we, too, trust in the blood of a perfect slain Passover Lamb.

But did the Jews of the first century really believe the Messiah would one day come to earth, die as a “suffering servant” — as an atonement for sins and the redemption of Israel — and would then rise from the dead on the third day?

A respected professor and Dead Sea Scrolls expert at Hebrew University says “yes.” Based on concrete evidence, he argues that the death and “third day” resurrection of the Messiah is, in fact, a distinctly Jewish concept that actually pre-dates Jesus.

Dr. Israel Knohl has based on his conclusions on many years of research and recently analyzed archaeological evidence, including a previously unstudied Dead Sea Scroll. Indeed, Knohl argues that this notion of the Messiah rising on the third day is a pre-Christian concept that dates back to before the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem Ephratah.

I had the opportunity to sit and discuss this with Dr. Knohl at length a few years ago and it was an absolutely fascinating conversation.

I first heard of him when he drew worldwide media attention several years ago for his research, including a major article in the New York Times and several articles in Biblical Archaeology Review — see here, and here, and here.

The Times story, which ran under the headline, “Ancient Tablet Ignites Debate on Messiah and Resurrection,” begins as follows: “A three-foot-tall tablet with 87 lines of Hebrew that scholars believe dates from the decades just before the birth of Jesus is causing a quiet stir in biblical and archaeological circles, especially because it may speak of a messiah who will rise from the dead after three days. If such a messianic description really is there, it will contribute to a developing re-evaluation of both popular and scholarly views of Jesus, since it suggests that the story of his death and resurrection was not unique but part of a recognized Jewish tradition at the time. The tablet, probably found near the Dead Sea in Jordan according to some scholars who have studied it, is a rare example of a stone with ink writings from that era — in essence, a Dead Sea Scroll on stone.”

The tablet has been named by scholars as “Gabriel’s Revelation” because it suggests that the angel Gabriel was instructed by God to direct that the Messiah be raised from the dead on the third day.

The stone tablet was discovered about fifteen years ago and is owned by a Israeli-Swiss Jewish man by the name of David Jeselsohn who didn’t understand its significance when he purchased it. The Times article was published in 2008. Dr. Knohl then published a book about all this in 2009 entitled, Messiahs and Resurrection in “The Gabriel Revelation.” That was a follow up to his previous book, The Messiah Before Jesus: The Suffering Servant of the Dead Sea Scrolls (first published in Hebrew in 2000 and then in English in 2002).

In the book, Dr. Knohl explains the various Jewish theories about the Messiah, including the idea of a “Messiah son of David” who will be a reigning king on the earth like King David was, and a “Messiah son of Joseph” who will be rejected by his brothers, mistreated, left for dead but will eventually reappear and save not only the nation of Israel but the world like Joseph did in the book of Genesis.

As an evangelical Christian from a Jewish heritage (my father is Jewish, my mother is Gentile), this subject fascinates me and my family.

Several years ago, my wife and sons and I were studying the book of I Corinthians. One day we focused on I Corinithians 15:1-5, which reads, “Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you,unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas [Peter], then to the twelve [apostles]. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time….”

We studied how the Hebrew Scriptures speak of the Messiah suffering and dying to atone for our sins and how we see these ancient prophecies described in Isaiah 53, in Daniel 9:26 (which says the Messiah will come for atonement, then be “cut off,” and afterwards Jerusalem and the Temple will be destroyed), and Psalm 22. We also looked carefully at the Gospel accounts to show how Jesus remarkably fulfilled each of these prophecies. Then I read excerpts of the Times story to Lynn and the boys, and we discussed why many Jewish people think the idea of a suffering Messiah who dies and rises again on the third day is a Christian idea, when really it is a Jewish idea, as explained with such intriguing research by Dr. Knohl.

I would commend these articles — and his books — to your attention. Read them yourself. Study and discuss them with family and friends.

And during this Passover, Good Friday and Easter week, let me encourage you to consider the following critically important questions:

  • What if the ancient Hebrew prophecies really did foretell that the Jewish Messiah would die as an atonement for our sins but was also supposed to be buried and raised from the dead on the third day?
  • What if Jews in the first century really believed that the coming Messiah would be rejected by the religious leaders of the day in order to be killed on Passover (the ultimate Passover Lamb) and raised from the dead on the third day, on the Feast of First Fruits?
  • Did the life of Jesus of Nazareth fit with the ancient Hebrew prophecies?
  • Why should that matter?
  • How should you respond?

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>> Please click here for a simple, concise summary of the Gospel message, and a clear explanation of how best to respond.

>> If you would also like to listen to an audio account of how my parents and I became followers of Jesus Christ, please click here.

What is the most controversial prophecy in the Hebrew Bible, and why read it at Passover?

In Uncategorized on April 4, 2015 at 4:20 pm
The Great Isaiah Scroll on display at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

The Great Isaiah Scroll on display at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

The actual Great Isaiah Scroll (source: The Israel Museum).

The actual Great Isaiah Scroll (source: The Israel Museum).

(Central Israel) — Have you ever been to the Shrine of the Book at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem? Have you ever seen the Great Isaiah Scroll on display there?

It is absolutely breathtaking. And it contains what many believe is the most controversial prophecy in the entire Hebrew Bible.

“The Great Isaiah Scroll (1QIsaa) is one of the original seven Dead Sea Scrolls discovered in Qumran in 1947,” notes the Israel Museum on its website. “It is the largest (734 cm) and best preserved of all the biblical scrolls, and the only one that is almost complete. The 54 columns contain all 66 chapters of the Hebrew version of the biblical Book of Isaiah. Dating from ca. 125 BCE, it is also one of the oldest of the Dead Sea Scrolls, some one thousand years older than the oldest manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible known to us before the scrolls’ discovery.”

So, what is this most controversial of ancient Biblical prophecies, and why read it at Passover?

The passage begins in Isaiah 52 and goes through the entirety of chapter 53.

To read the translation in the Orthodox Jewish Bible, please click here.

52:13 Behold, My servant will prosper, he will be high and lifted up and greatly exalted. 14 Just as many were astonished at you, My people, so His appearance was marred more than any man and His form more than the sons of men. 15 Thus He will sprinkle many nations, kings will shut their mouths on account of Him; for what had not been told them they will see, and what they had not heard they will understand.

53:1 Who has believed our message? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?  For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of parched ground; he has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him. He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face he was despised, and we did not esteem Him.

Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.

He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so He did not open His mouth. By oppression and judgment He was taken away; and as for His generation, who considered that He was cut off out of the land of the living for the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due? His grave was assigned with wicked men, yet He was with a rich man in His death, because He had done no violence, nor was there any deceit in His mouth.

10 But the Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief; if He would render Himself as a guilt offering, he will see His offspring, he will prolong His days, and the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand. 11 As a result of the anguish of His soul, he will see it and be satisfied; by His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, as He will bear their iniquities.

12 Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great, and He will divide the booty with the strong; because He poured out Himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; Yet He Himself bore the sin of many, and interceded for the transgressors.

Rather than analyze it myself, let me ask you: Of whom is the Lord God of Israel speaking?

Of whom is the Hebrew prophet Isaiah describing to the nation of Israel, and to the world?

Why do you think this is such a controversial prophecy?

What relevance do you think it has to the Passover season?

I’ll write more on this soon. But first I’d like your thoughts. And share this post with family and friends through social media and get their thoughts. (Please be respectful and gracious. Not everyone agrees, and some disagree vehemently.)

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The deal is bad. Very bad. But let’s not panic. Here’s why. (Some thoughts on the Iran deal, Passover & Easter.)

In Uncategorized on April 3, 2015 at 2:32 pm

iran-nuclear-graphic(Central Israel) — On Thursday evening, rather than pore over the details of the deal that the P5+1 just struck with Iran regarding its nuclear program, I took one of my sons to a wonderful Passover Seder attended by Jewish and non-Jewish friends in Kfar Shmaryahu, a suburb of Tel Aviv. Tonight, our entire family is looking forward to attending a Seder with Jewish and Arab friends near Netanya.

Please forgive me, therefore, for not writing sooner about the deal.

A few brief observations for now:

So yes, the deal is bad. Very bad. But let’s not panic. After all, is it not curious that the deal was announced on the eve of Passover and Easter?

  • The Biblical story of Passover reminds us that there is a sovereign, holy, all-seeing, all-mighty God who loves Israel, and will protect His people, even knowing our weaknesses, sins and flaws.
  • The Scriptural account of Passover reminds us that God vows to bring judgment on nations who seek to curse and destroy Israel and the Jewish people, and do not repent.
  • Passover also tells us that God will protect anyone and everyone from divine judgment — not just Jews — if they place their faith in the blood of the perfect lamb.
  • What’s more, the Biblical story of Easter — the death and resurrection of Jesus our Messiah, our Passover lamb — teaches us that God loves the whole world, both Jews and Gentiles.
  • The Biblical account of Easter teaches us that God doesn’t want His judgment to fall on anyone. Rather, the Lord God Almighty offers salvation, forgiveness, great hope and eternal life to all who will repent and receive Jesus as Messiah, Savior and Lord.

We certainly need to pray for our leaders and for the peace of Jerusalem at this critical time. We need to pray this deal is changed and cannot put Iran on the legal path to nuclear weapons.

That said, this is not a season to fear our enemies. It is a season to draw close to the Lord, read His Word, and discover (or rediscover) His love for all people.

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