In Matt 11.1-11, we learn that Yochanon (John) was in prison and he asks Yeshua, “Are you the Coming One, or shall we look for someone else?” He is recognizing the Jewish belief of two Messiah’s, a suffering servant (Messiah Ben Joseph) and a kingly Messiah (Messiah Ben David). He was not doubting. He knew God had called him and that Yeshua was the Messiah, the suffering servant who would take away the sins of the world (John 1.29). He was even given a sign from God that identified Yeshua (Matt 3.13-14; John 1.29-34). What John was asking was whether Yeshua was going to fulfill the suffering servant role only, and another would come along to fulfill the kingly Messiah role, or would Yeshua fulfill both roles. Yeshua’s answer to Yochanon indicates that he would fulfill both roles (Matt 11.4-6). So, in our passage (Matt 11.1-11), Yeshua begins to talk about Yochanon, and in v 11 he says that nobody who has ever been born up to that point was greater than Yochanon, “yet he who is least in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than he.” Now, what does that mean?
Yochanon came and said “Repent, the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand (meaning “here now”). This expression means that the Shekinah (translated “pneuma” in Greek) has come among men, and it is equal to the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven. The arrival of the Shekinah among men meant that the Kingdom of Heaven has arrived. When Yochanon said, “Repent, the Kingdom of God is at hand” means “here now.” But, it had arrived in only one person at that time, and that was Yeshua. It was present in him, but not anyone else yet. It won’t be until after Yeshua has been resurrected. Then, the Shekinah (translated “Spirit” in English translations) will be present among men who believe (John 7.37-39).
When Yeshua says to look at John and gives him an endorsement in Matt 11.11, he is saying that there hasn’t been one person who was a king, prophet or priest (or anyone else for that matter) that was greater than Yochanon. But, he that is “least” in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than he was. He is not saying there hasn’t been anyone “better” or who never worked miracles or had a huge ministry. But, what he is doing is drawing a comparison between Yochanon and those before Yeshua, and those after Yeshua who have received the Shekinah, the Kingdom of Heaven and all the benefits (the purposes) immediately. We aren’t talking the resurrection, but the immediate benefits of a believer in the Kingdom of Heaven. This means that the believer would not only have the indwelling presence of God “within” (Shekinah), but the power of God (Ruach ha Kodesh/Holy Spirit) “upon” them. So, let’s go back to the people in Acts 19. They believed in Yeshua, and the Kingdom of Heaven and all the benefits came to them because they received the Shekinah within, and the Ruach Ha Kodesh in power upon them (Acts 19.4.6)
If these people would have died before Paul reached Ephesus, would they have been included in the First Resurrection? Yes, we believe they would have. Would they have been “in the Kingdom of Heaven” while on earth? No, we believe they would not have been. This is because they they did not experience that aspect until Paul arrives, preaches Yeshua to them and they come to realize that Yeshua is the Messiah and then they received the Shekinah and the Ruach Ha Kodesh, an immediate benefit of having entered into the Kingdom of Heaven. When one becomes a believer in Yeshua by emunah (faith), then a supernatural thing happens. The Kingdom of Heaven comes within him through the Shekinah, and then for some, even though it doesn’t happen to many, the Ruach Ha Kodesh should come upon them in power. This should be the norm.
What about people today? First of all, if you have something that happens after the time of Yeshua in the Scriptures, then it applies today. Is it possible, based on Acts 19, that there are Jews today who do not believe, or even know, that Yeshua is the Messiah, but they will have a place in the First Resurrection? Does this go for Jews who have died? Acts 19 shows there was a time after Yeshua that this was true. The people at Ephesus are not in the First Resurrection because they observed any of the commandments, but because they had believing emunah (faith). They believed that they were sinners and that God was sending a redeemer on their behalf, and they had emunah in that coming redeemer. Then Paul came along and gave them the information they were waiting for.
Look at all the things we have looked at so far about what the Jews and Christianity have said about Paul. This is based primarily on what Christianity has said about Paul and “Christ.” Christianity says they are a “Replacement Theology” for the Torah and the Jewish people, and this teaches a “distorted Christ.” Why would a Jew believe in all that? Why would a Jew believe that “Christ” came to set them free from the Law and the “church” has prelaced Israel? That is evidence of a false messiah and a false theology. To reject the Torah, you have rejected everything. In the same way, just because a person does miracles, gives prophecies and cast out demons “in the name of Jesus” doesn’t mean he has a place in the First Resurrection (Matt 7.21-23). This is because they did not have emunah and they rejected the Torah, and practiced “lawlessness” (without Torah).
Christianity has not presented a true picture of who Yeshua really is, but they have presented a “Jesus” that nobody with true faith in God would ever accept. So, in a sense, there are people who have never heard about the real Yeshua and are like those in Acts 19 who are still waiting for the Messiah. Now, this is just our opinion on this and we are not being dogmatic about it, but it does cause you to think. Let’s do an illustration of this, using two examples of what we are talking about.
First, you have an Orthodox Jew who is very pious and observant, but that does not give him righteousness before God. Righteousness comes by emunah. But if he is righteous by emunah, he will follow the Torah and the commandments of God. The second person is an aborigine, a native somewhere very remote. He is wise, cares for his people and is sensitive to their needs and of all the people that has ever lived, there has been none better. But, he has never heard of Yeshua. If he doesn’t believe he is unrighteous, or that God must give him grace to “make up the difference for him”, then all his goodness will have no account on whether he has a place in the First Resurrection.
Rom 1.18-20 says that no matter where you go in the world, God through the Ruach Ha Kodesh has spoken to everyone to say “You are not righteous with God.” It might be on the simplest terms, but he has spoken to everyone. If this aborigine realizes he is a sinner, and knows his good works don’t mean a thing, and if by emunah he believes that God has redeemed him from all his unrighteousness, and gives him righteousness that he didn’t earn, then will he have a place in the First Resurrection?
Christianity has the Messiah, but what they have done with the Messiah is a tragedy, terrible and idolatrous. Judaism doesn’t have the Messiah but they have “a Messiah” with the proper understandings, but sometimes it is perverted because of its conflicts with Christianity. Rom 11 teaches that people need to take the understandings of the Messiah from the Jewish people and put it all together. Why doesn’t Christianity understand the New Testament? Because they have replaced it, even the Jewish understandings of it. As a result, the true meanings of what is presented can’t be seen anymore. In 1 Cor 11.1-2, Paul says to be an “imitator of me” as he imitates the Messiah, who was Torah observant. Christianity doesn’t see Paul for who he really was. Paul is this mythical character that has become totally removed from the real, Torah observant and Pharisee Paul.
There is a midrash (story) in Judaism where Moses comes to Rabbi Akiba and he is teaching, and Moses doesn’t understand anything that he is saying. Then Rabbi Akiba says, “This was the teaching of Moses our father.” Then Moses felt fine. This is not a good story! It means Judaism has changed over the centuries from what it was in the beginning, even to the point Moses wouldn’t recognize it, but even he accepted what was being taught. Christianity has done the same thing. It like Paul has come and listened to Christian teachings about what he said and taught, and Paul doesn’t understand a thing they are saying. Paul’s reaction would be different than Moses because we believe he would say, “I didn’t say that, that’s not me!”
It is perfectly acceptable to disagree with what we teach, but understand what we are saying first. People have said we have taught things that we have never taught. In fact, people have said we teach things that we don’t even believe in. Now, if people have a distorted view of what we teach, you can see how people have a distorted view of what Paul teaches. But, Paul says, “Be imitators of me, just as I also imitate Messiah.” If people have a distorted view of Paul, then they will have a distorted view of Yeshua the Messiah as well, because Paul says he imitates (mimics) Yeshua. As a result, how can a person “walk in his footsteps” and become the believer they ought to be if they don’t understand the basic things? We need to see the real Paul in order to understand the Gospels and Epistles.
This is the conclusion of the series about the real Paul. Next in our studies of the Torah and New Testament Foundations, we will begin with a new series on the Gospels and Epistles.