Cry loudly, do not hold back; raise your voice like a shofar and declare to My people their transgression and to the house of Ya'akov their sins. (Isaiah 58:1)
December 28th, 2009
DISCLAIMER: Within this article I give very straight forward and harsh rebukes to some of the fallacies found in our religious bodies today. It is not a light message and requires one to be truly open to hearing direct criticism. I also make some comments directly against some things regarding Oral Traditions passed down in Judaism. However, as the knowledge base for Judaism's literature is so incredibly vast, it is possible that some things I have written or spoken of here are done in such a way that I am misunderstanding the text. If this is true, please help to correct me and offer the right interpretation and meaning of the issues covered. Thank you.
I might use some terminology that readers aren't familiar with, so here's a quick guide,
HaShem = This is representative of our Creators Divine, Sacred Name. It literally means “The Name” and is used in place of it here in order to show deep reverence for our Heavenly Father. I do not follow the “ineffable doctrine” but more about my personal halacha can be read here. The original, transliterated into English, is I – E – U - E from the Ancient Phoenician alphabet and Y – H – V – H from Modern Hebrew. In Aramaic it was translated and written as Mar – Y – A, and some use the Samaritan pronunciation “Yahweh” (although according to Historical sources this is not how the Hebrews pronounced it). Whichever the case, this is the personal name of our Father in heaven that was revealed to Moshe and was meant to be used and remembered as a memorial for ALL generations as this is His name FOREVER (Exodus 3:14-15). It literally means “He Who is” but can be read (and pronounced differently) to say “He who was” or “He who will be” depending on what characteristic of the Creator you are trying to explain. It denotes His everlasting nature and can therefore by summarized and read in English as “The Eternal One”.
G-d = This comes from the Hebrew “E – L – O – H – I – M” which literally means Mighty One/Authority/Deity/Judge (depending on the context). It is spelt here with a dash so that, should this document be printed and possibly trashed, a Scripturally common name/title for our Heavenly Father will not be put into the garbage or trampled on the floor. Even though this term is not as sacred as the Divine Name above, and even though it is not in the original Hebrew but translated into an English equivalent, I still view it with such esteem because our Father in Heaven is THAT Kadosh (Set-Apart/Holy). For those who think it is a pagan name, please refer to this article.
Yeshua = Original Hebrew name of Jesus, a contraction of Yehoshua (coming from the root “hoshea”, to save) and meaning “HaShem [see above] saves” or “HaShem is our salvation”. It is pronounced Yeh-Shoe-Ah, NOT “Y – A – H – shua. In English it is Joshua.
haMashiyach = The Messiah (Greek substituted Christos, or Christ) pronounced Mah-She-Yak.
Torah = instruction; specifically, G-d's instruction (AKA instructions in righteousness). Often translated as "the law", but it is really G-d's perfect moral guideline for living righteously and worshipping Him properly (both as an individual, as well as a society). This guideline is found primarily in the first five books of Scripture, but it is expanded on throughout the prophets and the rest of the Scriptures. The difference of looking at the Torah as either Law or instruction is paramount. Often we associate the word "law" with punishment where as we look at the word "instruction" as a guideline that we should follow for our own good (as Moshe pointed out in Deuteronomy 10:13)
Talmud / Oral Torah = The oral traditions of the Rabbis/Pharisees which are man made rulings on how to observe the Torah that may or may not contradict the plain meaning of Scripture. It sometimes sets an unrealistic fence around Torah, shutting up the Kingdom of Heaven. This all depends on which Rabbi you are going to quote as your authority. Here we quote Maran Yeshua, the Mashiyach, as our authority. Some of the oral traditions may have played a part in the anti-Jewish attitudes that emerged in post-apostolic Christianity and is more accurately called “Jewish law” as opposed to the written Torah itself which is for all mankind. It must be stressed however that there are valid oral interpretations of the Torah and as such these oral traditions should not be discarded completely (see Rabbi Yehuda ben Shomeyr’s video here).
I use these terms because I feel they have a much richer meaning than their English or alternative terms (not because I want to sound more authoritative). My suggestion would be for everyone to research them and come to understand them for your own personal benefit as well. Now that this is out of the way, let's get started.
Every atheist loves to talk about the flaws in religion. They point out how religion has caused war, they point out the numerous contradictions, they bring up the Crusades of the Roman Catholic Church, the political agendas of many religious leaders over the centuries, and the cult like following of certain denominations. They call religious folk fools and hypocrites, and you know what? They're absolutely right. Absolutely right! They have EVERY right to mention these things and point fingers saying "shame on you"; but if only these same atheists would pay attention to the words of Yeshua, because he preached the EXACT same thing during His ministry.
Yeshua and Religion
Not very many people realize that Yeshua did not come to start a new religion. Even fewer people realize that Yeshua preached against religion altogether. Let's take a look at Matthew 15,
"And He answered and said to them, "Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of G-d for the sake of your tradition?
"You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you:
'THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS,
BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME.
'BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME,
TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE PRECEPTS OF MEN.'"
(Matthew 15: 3, 7-9, NASB with title edit)
Today, a mass multitude of people from all religious backgrounds transgress the very commandments of G-d, just so that they can hold on to their beloved (idolized) traditions. Very few make this connection though. Now Yeshua was quoting Isaiah 29:13 which states,
"These people come near to me with their mouth
and honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
Their worship of me
is made up only of rules taught by men. (Isaiah 29:13, NIV with Name edit)
Everyone's hearts are far from HaShem for one simple reason: they do not make HaShem their authority. Instead, they make the rules and doctrines of men as their authority. Many people have read in Paul's epistles the concept of being "under the law". What being under the law means is that you look upon the law and how it is taught in religion as your authority (and therefore as your means of justification). However, the law will condemn us all to death and is arguably both worthless and pointless without G-d, the GIVER of the law. This argument is based around the fact that the law can do nothing for us without Him; salvation is only from HaShem, who embodied and revealed Himself through Yeshua, His Son, here on earth. Paul emphasizes this when he says
"for circumcision is nothing, neither is uncircumcised; but the keeping of G-d's commands" (1 Corinthians 7:19, AENT, emphasis added)
The emphasis here is that a person should not circumcise themselves just for the sake of it; rather, they need to follow G-d’s command, and ONLY G-d’s. This is what really matters! Circumcision of course, is one of G-d’s commands, but the Gentiles at Corinth would not have come to the full understanding of this concept in their current spiritual walk. See, in Paul's day, there were Pharisees which were trying to force circumcision upon the Gentiles, making it just another legalistic tradition. I say legalistic because this forcing of circumcision was for the purpose of conversion, and many believed that if you were not converted to be a Jew, you could not be saved. Mashiyach cleared up this heresy when He gave Peter the vision in Acts 10 (that, according to verse 28, is correctly interpreted as applying to men, not animals). So Paul, being an advocate for Mashiyach’s truth, spoke harshly against this issue of circumcision because if the Gentiles circumcised themselves right then and there, they would be doing it under the authority of the Pharisees/Rabbis which falsely believed that one must be “converted” to be saved (downplaying the blood of Mashiyach). This elevates tradition over HaShem’s work of salvation through Mashiyach! This is not only dangerous and wrong, but if they were not to do the commandment, or any commandment, out of love inspired obedience to G-d, then the very act becomes pointless; it is brought to nothing (works without faith is also dead). Religious tradition, ideals, or doctrines are also pointless without an understanding that it is a commandment coming from G-d, and that understanding must be written on the heart by G-d Himself (Jeremiah 31:31-33). This principle applies to prayer, worship, "baptism" (which is really a mikvah), communion (which is really supposed to be the Passover Seder), and everything else you do in your religious denomination. You must understand that what you do comes from G-d; and if it does not, then you have to respectfully reason with your leadership and seriously question WHY things are being done this way and if G-d would approve or not. Be careful however not to isolate yourself from other Believers when you go through this, because then you set yourself aside as an easy target for the enemy. Rather we must, in love and unity, discuss these things according to guiding of the Spirit, seeking the will of HaShem. This then is truly how we can bring our hearts closer to HaShem. Sadly though, many people are content with doing what they've always been told to do, and never strive to truly bring their hearts closer to HaShem. It is the spirit of complacency in which they honor Him with well memorized prayers, an act of the lips, but not with an act of the heart. Even worse, most people don't know very well G-d's name, a true description of His sovereign and eternal nature. They only know Him by the influx of foreign titles/ideas that were previously applied to all manner of false idols and deities throughout the ages that, when mixed with the truth, ends up with myriads of denominations who cannot agree on anything.
The False (or Abused) Authorities(y)
But the big question now is, if people's hearts are far from G-d because they are not under the authority of HaShem, then just whose authority are they under? While HaShem appoints people into authority over His flock, when those leaders are not properly accountable to Him, they abuse that authority and lead people astray. Let's go over some of the common religions and who they answer to:
Rabbinical Jews are under the authority of the Rabbis (modern day Pharisees) and their rulings on how to walk out the faith and understand the Scriptures; things that are now written down in the Mishnah/Gemara (Talmud), Zohar, etc. Such writings have the aim to explain the Word of G-d, but sometimes it contradicts and/or legalistically twists around the truth. This happened very distinctly after the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD, and then later during the Middle Ages when Messianic theology was changed to combat missionaries. But one must trust the Rabbi of course, for he is the religious authority and knows best. In fact, what he says over rides the word of G-d (according to their tradition; see the introduction to the Mishnah which proclaims the Rabbi’s authority over that of the prophets). These oral traditions put a fence up around the Torah, which in theory sometimes looks good, but in reality it can shut up the Kingdom of Heaven by keeping people from Mashiyach’s truth. Yeshua however came to provide a better way. He came to break down this fence to restore the broken fellowship between us (both Jew and Gentile) and HaShem.
Messianic Jews can sometimes fall into a Rabbinical trap where they become bombarded by the traditions of the Pharisees found Jewish literature at the expense of running the risk of missing Mashiyach altogether. One must consult HaShem for a qualified teacher who is appointed by HaShem to help sift through this material so that the wrong seeds do not blossom to lead the flock astray.
Catholics are under the authority of the Pope and Vatican, who claim to know better than the masses and put their own authority above that of Scripture. Their model is very similar to Rabbinical Judaism, although it can be much more dangerous because it is full of more blatant paganism that likes to openly mock Mashiyach by regularly reading his words while depicting him still dead on a cross (HE IS RISEN!). But it must be stressed that anyone who challenges the authority of HaShem, His Torah, and His Mashiyach is an antichrist (in opposition and in place of). As well, "The New Saint Joseph Baltimore Catechism" states that "The ordained priest takes the place of Christ", so you can see right there whose authority you would be under if you are a Catholic. As a Catholic then, you must therefore adhere to their traditions and agree with all of their doctrine. And the Catholic doctrine, as many are aware, includes thing such as elitism, idolatry (graven images, etc.), necromancy (praying to the dead), etc. To become a Catholic is to put yourself "under the law" in the strictest sense of the word for your justification/salvation comes through their sacraments, not from the work of Mashiyach.
Muslims are under the authority of Mohamed and the Koran, which are in total contradiction to both Scripture and history, thus highly in opposition to the will of HaShem.
Mormons are under the authority of the ideas and writings of Joseph Smith that again, contradict both Scripture and history. They are also under the authority of their “president” who is one of the many “false Messiah’s”, taking over the place of Yeshua.
Jehovah's Witnesses are under the authority of the Watch Tower organization which serves to interpret Scripture for them while discouraging free thinking. This severs a true relationship with HaShem through Mashiyach and creates the very same fence which shuts up the Kingdom of Heaven that Yeshua preached against in Matthew 23:13-36). Besides the Gnosticism that is evident in their doctrine, it should be noted that their version of the Scriptures is purposefully mistranslated (see here_.
Protestant Christian's usually submit themselves to the authority of whatever traditions have been carried forward or grafted into their denomination, lest they choose to take an active role in pursuing G-d themselves instead of becoming complacent. The biggest trap in Christianity is simply going through the motions every Sun-day and thinking that that alone saves you. Depending on the denomination and organization an individual belongs to, they may or may not be asked to submit to the doctrine and authority of that particular place. Protestant Churches are "daughter churches" of Catholicism though and as such, carry a history of anti-Torah and anti-Jewish values that must be refined if we Gentiles are to assume the right identity and complete our calling of provoking physical Israel to jealousy.
Counter-fit Mashiyach VS True Authority
In every single one of those instances, there are leaders who are abusing their authority and in some cases, weren’t given it by HaShem at all (rather, they assumed it). For those who do not test the spirits and come under the authority of those people, they are now a victim of a counter fit Messiah. You see, since the dawn of the post-Flood world, Satan has been trying to install his counter fit Messiah to lead G-d's people astray. By allowing yourself to be under the authority of something other than HaShem and His appointed shepherds, you (sometimes inadvertently) believe that by doing what that authority tells you, you will be saved. But this is EXACTLY what legalism is. No one religion has the monopoly on legalism because anyone who trusts in their religion is a legalist. You see, regardless of what that authority tells you, that authority CANNOT save you. Salvation only comes from HaShem, through Yeshua the Mashiyach (whose name means HaShem saves) for,
"... there is not salvation by another man for there is not another name under heaven which is given to men by which it is proper to have life" (Acts 4:12 AENT)
This isn't meant to say, however, that anyone who is in a position of so called religious authority is rendered null and void. On the contrary, we are commanded to teach one another and to make disciples of all the nations (please see "the great commission" of Matthew 28:19-20). But in doing this we are commanded to act in a very precise manner, taking after Yeshua's example and heeding to His words which are as follows,
"But do not be called [My Great One]; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, the [Mashiyach]. But the greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted. (Matthew 23:8-12 NASB, with title corrections)
As mentioned, though we are commanded to teach one another, there is only ONE true teacher; there is only One true authority (and this authority is not your religion or it's denomination, even if what they say is correct). There is only One who is to be called Father, He who is in heaven (despite what Catholicism teaches). And there is only One leader, Yeshua haMashiyach. Not the Rabbi, not the Pope, nor the Pastor, or the Watchtower; nobody, except for Yeshua. The rest of us are only here to serve one another by encouraging each other to grow closer to G-d; to help guide one another to His Truth on the basis of Scripture, which is the only authoritative text to contain the words, teachings and instruction of our Master HaShem-Yeshua (Name reference from Acts 2:38, AENT). Pastor actually comes from the same Hebrew root word as shepherd: ha’vah, which means “to feed”. Yeshua is the bread of life (John 6:51), and we are to feed others His instruction, not our own. The office of leadership here on earth isn’t so bad so long as that leader is properly accountable to Mashiyach through a Beit Din and realizew that he has no authority separate from Mashiyach. If we could just understand this one single concept taught by Yeshua alone, we would be able to knock down ALL the fences set up between religious denominations, because we are all brothers (Matthew 28:8) and we are all ONE in Mashiyach as stated by Paul in his letter to the Ephesians,
"14For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, 15by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances (Gree: dogma; not a reference to Torah), so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace," (Ephesians 2:14-15 NASB)
"14. He is himself our peace, who has made the two (become) one, and has demolished the wall which stood in the midst, and the enmity, by his flesh; 15. And in his flesh (the) enmity and regulations of commands contained in his commandments are abolished (so) that in himself (an occurrence of the divine nature, or qnoma) he might make the two into one, establishing peace" (Ephesians 2:14-15 AENT)
The enmity and regulations of commands contained in ordinances (in Greek, dogma) refers to the distortion of Torah through dogmatic customs that were drawn out from bad theology. These are the things Yeshua preached against during His ministry when he argued with Pharisees and He had every right to call them out on what they were doing wrong because His authority came directly from HaShem. In other words, there were fences that were set up to shut up the Kingdom of Heaven, as mentioned earlier. These fences were what was stopping us from seeing Torah in it's true light and entering into fellowship with HaShem. Mashiyach came to break down that fence and restore that relationship for both Jew and Gentile alike. Let's take a step back though and quickly go over how this religious dogma, this… distortion of the truth, came to be in the first place. To start, the whole concept of a counter-fit Messiah began in ancient Babylon at the Tower of Babel, where paganism was born and where every single aspect of paganism throughout the centuries can be traced to (to learn more about that, please request to join "Shoresh Ha'Torah Yeshua Facebook Fellowship"). But the whole purpose of the counter fit Messiah by Satan is to turn people away from HaShem (and His righteous instruction/Torah) and to the things of this world. Satan wants us under the authority of something that will distract and draw us away from G-d's instruction (Torah), and the easiest way to do that is to take what’s true and add a little bit of leaven to it. And then a little bit more; and a little bit more, until, you are drawn away completely. This is what happened with the golden calf. But sometimes Satan is just blunt about it. One way in which he was blunt was through the sun worship that was born in ancient Babylon at the Tower of Babel. This sun worship worked so well that by the time of Daniel the prophet, only 7,000 Israelites remained faithful to G-d (and if you look at the statistics found in the book of Numbers, you will see how significantly small this is). But since that time, these aspects of sun worship actually remained! You can continue to see much of it plague our religious traditions today.
Oral Tradition and the Twisting of Torah
Believe it or not though, things got worse than just the influence of sun worship. Satan devised another tactic to draw G-d's people away from his righteous instruction (Torah) and this tactic I believe may be one of the things that turned post-apostolic Christians away from the Torah in the first place (leading up to why it's not emphasized and even completely rejected in churches today). The tactic Satan used was inserting a his own little seeds of heresy into the truth of Torah which I believe can be found mixed in with the Talmud, Zohar, etc. today. This is a controversial subject and I am going to say right up front that I am certainly not a karaite, but at the same time, if the Rabbi’s are given authority by G-d and yet they choose not to listen to Him but instead listen to the father of lies, then where does that leave us? I’m not saying that they never rule on Torah correctly; much of their Torah commentary is beautiful and amplifies the text wonderfully. I quote them when we study Torah on Erev Shabbat all the time. But they are not free from satan’s influence and the fact that he loves to get his hand in the cookie jar of truth makes the Rabbi’s a particularly special target. By distorting the Torah the adversary has the opportunity to turn people from HaShem to legalism, and that is exactly what Paul preached against when he talked about being "under the law" (a concept that was NEVER promoted in HaShem’s Torah). On that note, it should be mentioned that never once did Paul do away with HaShem's righteous instruction as some have been confused to believe; rather, he was there to establish a correct understanding of it (see Romans 3:31). Yes, Paul only ever was speaking against the false doctrines or bad theology that was carried forward within oral tradition. But if don't understand the cultural context of first century Judaism, you won't understand what Paul is writing in his letters. Now, to explain this distortion of Torah, we need to understand some things in Rabbinical Judaism (side note: although I do not endorse this, to be fair, for a Karaite opinion on this discussion you may watch "The Hebrew Yeshua VS the Greek Jesus"). In Rabbinical Judaism, which was in full effect by the time Yeshua showed up, there were (and still are) two Torahs: the written Torah and the oral Torah. The written Torah is the actual Word of G-d; the divine instructions inscribed on stone tablets by HaShem Himself, presented to Moshe on top of Mt. Sinai. The oral Torah contains the rulings and ordinances on how to walk out the written Torah which at various points in time (depending on which Rabbi you want to quote) contains legalistic doctrine promoted by the Pharisees. This is the fence we keep referring to, and while Torah says that we are to guard certain commands (come up with ways to help you avoid breaking it), when a fence around the real Torah which is built incorrectly, we shut up the Kingdom of Heaven for the sake of our tradition (Matthew 23:13-36). These same sort of fences are what exist today in many our current religions (some fences are higher then others, but they exist nonetheless from our failure at large to understand Matthew 23:8-12). Now, despites the oral Torah’s proper interpretation (fulfillment) of the written Torah, as it is not free from satan’s influence it can be susceptible to contradiction. The battle between the Word of G-d and an interpretation of it via the contrasting of written/oral Torah was the very beginning of the battle between truth and tradition; a battle that still exists today in Judaism, Catholicism and Protestant Christianity.
Now any of the distortions or incorrect interpretations and teachings that were being demonstrated or endorsed by the Pharisees was what Yeshua came to break down during His ministry (which is exactly what Paul is pointing out in Ephesians 2:15; he is not saying that HaShem’s Torah is done away with, and if you have a paraphrased translation that does say that [such as the NLT], GET RID OF IT, and pick up an accurate translation like the NASB or AENT). Now, everyone reading this is probably familiar with the "Sermon on the Mount" in Matthew chapters 5 to 7. What I don't think everyone is familiar with though is how one of the central themes of that sermon was introducing a concept of oral tradition and then explaining what the original commandment from the written Torah actually teaches. You see, every time Yeshua says "you have heard it SAID" He is referring to the oral traditions of the time (much of which has become the oral Torah of today recorded in the Talmud). You can call it "Jewish law" if you want, but it is not guaranteed to be a proper interpretation of the Torah of HaShem, and the Torah of HaShem was designed for everyone, both Jew and Gentile alike. Now let's go over an example of oral tradition against HaShem's truth to illustrate what Yeshua was doing,
"You have heard that it has been said that an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you that you should not stand against evil, but who hits you upon your right cheek, turn also to him the other. And he that desires to go to court with you and take your coat, leave to him also your cloak. He that compels you to go one mile, go two with him. He that asks you to give to him and he desires to borrow from you, you should not deny him." (Matthew 5:38-42 AENT)
Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth is indeed Scriptural, as you can see by referencing Exodus 21:22-27, Leviticus 24:19-20, and Deuteronomy 19:21. But taken literally, this course of action would contradict Torah by repaying evil with evil, transgressing the following commandments,
"Do not hate your brother in your heart. Reprove your neighbour, for certain, and bear no sin because of him. Do not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the children of your people; rather, you shall love your neighbour as yourself. I am [yud-heh-vav-heh]" (Leviticus 19:17,18 ISR)
If we were to literally repay evil for evil by taking out the eye of someone whom took out your eye, we would be doing so on the basis of hate, bearing a sin because of them. We would be taking vengeance upon them on account of our grudge against he who committed the initial sin. But rather, HaShem commands us to love our neighbour as ourselves. Yeshua in Matthew 5:38-42 is teaching this same thing in saying that we should not repay evil with evil, but rather, repay evil with good. Paul reminds us of this in Romans saying,
"For he that loves his neighbor, has properly understood Torah" (Romans 13:8b AENT)
"Love does no evil to one's neighbor because love is the fulfillment of Torah" (Romans 13:10 AENT)
If this is true, then what are the passages in Torah exclaiming eye for eye, tooth for a tooth really saying? Well, it is referring to fair restitution; not literally taking out an eye for an eye or a tooth for a tooth. Rather, the amount to be restored must be as close as possible to the value of what has been lost. Both legalistic judges and pagan cultures though opt for barbaric crime for crime punishment, and Israel throughout the ages was susceptible to this as well. But this is lawlessness of which Yeshua has no part of (see Matthew 7:23). Yeshua further raises the standard right after this lesson by teaching that we should love our enemies as opposed to the oral tradition of loving your neighbor only and hating your enemy (Matthew 5:43). We are to be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect (Genesis 17:1, 1 Kings 8:61, Psalm 101:2-6, Matthew 5:48).
Yeshua verses the Religious Elite
The above examples from the Sermon on the Mount are great examples to show that the teaching given and in-house debates had by Yeshua either had a large influence on Judaism at that time, or He agreed with some of the other Rabbi’s because the Talmud actually agrees with the above teaching and does not adhere to whichever oral tradition Yeshua was opposing at that time. But Yeshua maintained this truth against tradition theme throughout His entire ministry, and some of the other Pharisees were both mocked and insulted by Yeshua when either their religious dogma or their personal behaviour contradicted HaShem's Torah. A most prominent example is the legalism of the Sabbath, which made it a burden for many to keep, and this continues in some sects of Orthodox Judaism today. But any Netzarim or Karaite Jew will tell you what a delight it is to keep the Sabbath, as both groups adhere to a more balanced interpretation of HaShem's Torah, which Yeshua emphasized in saying that "the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath" (Mark 2:27). Other legalism attacked by Yeshua was the distorted washing rituals of the Pharisees in Matthew 15 and Mark 7, proclaiming that appearing to be clean on the outside will not change the fact that you are unclean on the inside. HaShem knows your heart, so you must seek His approval rather then the approval of men from a strictly outwardly righteous appearance. In other words, as continually pointed out in this article, HaShem must be your authority who justifies you based upon your humble turning towards Him, and no one else, for salvation.
Now the heat of the arguments Yeshua had with the religious authorities of the time comes to a climax when, in Matthew 23:13-36, Yeshua proceeds to list off eight woes to both the Scribes and Pharisees. Sadly, however, these same woes could be placed on many of our "religious leaders" today who claim to follow the very person that would be speaking against them.
The Teaching of Yeshua verses Today's Religion
The false doctrine within Pharisaical Judaism that was prevalent during Yeshua's ministry, the very bad theology that Paul spoke against, continued to distort the world with it's legalism (salvation by conversion, fasting, prayer and good works) and it’s attitudes (Gentiles are unclean and therefore unsaved) once Yeshua had ascended into heaven. This consequently was one thing which turned many away from HaShem's Torah, and eventually led to the all-Gentile church rejecting anything Jewish in general (this was most prevalent once Constantine became the authority instead of Yeshua. For more info, consider this video). Indeed, the fence remained, separating the two once more, reversing Paul's statement in Ephesians 2:15. The post-apostolic church may have been convinced that they had it right, but without an intricate knowledge of HaShem's instruction (let alone having it [the Torah] available for the masses to study and read so that they could discern for themselves what is pleasing to G-d as we now do today) how were they able to stay true to the "faith which was once delivered" (Jude 1:3)? Paul knew what was to happen when he said,
"I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock;" (Acts 20:29 NASB)
Already at the writing of the letter of Jude this was happening (see Jude 1:3-4), yet many fail to realize that the authorities they place themselves under are products of those very savage wolves. I'm going to try and be brief here, but let's go through some of the teachings of Yeshua and how they accurately describe practices found in our religions today. In Matthew 15 Yeshua states,
"And He answered and said to them, "Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of G-d for the sake of your tradition?" (Matthew 15:3 NASB with title correction)
The Joy of HaShem’s Shabbat (the Sabbath) was polluted by the legalism of the Pharisees. For example, in Matthew 12 Yeshua and his disciples were going for a stroll and picking and eating grain while walking through the fields. No where in Torah is it prohibited to go for a walk and eat the grains of the field on Shabbat; neither is it work, for the word for work is about “expanding your kingdom/domain”. So while picking grain to eat as you stroll is okay, gathering grain for future days would be considered “work”. Yet, the oral tradition of the Pharisees saw this permissible act as "work" and claimed that their behavior was not lawful. This legalism turned many off of observing the Sabbath, or viewing it as a "Jewish thing" even when Scriptures like Isaiah 56, 58, and 66 prophesize otherwise (see the next point for more information). Although some sects of Judaism take the position of Yeshua, some don’t. But there is an arguably worse attitude promoted by rabbinical tradition that transgresses the very commandment of G-d. For example, there is a tradition that Gentiles can do small tasks (work) on the Sabbath in your household so that you do not have to do any work (being a Torah observant Jew). However, this is a direct contradiction of the commandment with in Exodus 20:10 and Deuteronomy 5:14 which states that no work what so ever is to be done with in your gates. Traditions such as these help promote anti-Torah attitudes by making it seem that things like the Sabbath is for Jews only. This is the very fence Yeshua came to break down, for Shabbat is both a joy and a delight for everyone to observe.
Catholics, several denominations of Protestant Christians, and JW's have adopted the tradition of Sun-day worship in place of the Sabbath. History undeniably proclaims this fact and the fact that it was changed on purpose. The Catholics even boast over the fact they have the authority to change the Word of G-d; it is only a protestant idea that “any day can be the Sabbath” when really, they are adhering to Catholic authority. This was set in stone by Constantine on March 7, 321 AD, where soon after the feasts of HaShem were banned and then replaced by pagan celebrations. Despite all of this however, G-d commands that we all, as ONE body (nobody gets their individual Sabbath on whatever day they please) remember and observe the seventh day Sabbath (Exodus 20:8-11) for ALL generations (Exodus 31:16) and that the Shabbat and His Moedim (the feasts) would serve as a sign for ALL the generations (Exodus 31:13); a sign that you belong to HaShem and that He (not your religion) sanctifies you. As it is written in Numbers and prophesized in Isaiah, Gentiles are no exception to these things (Isaiah 56:1-7, Numbers 15:15-16), especially considering that we are grafted into the Olive Tree and Commonwealth of Israel, no longer strangers to the covenants (Romans 11, Ephesians 2:12). Yet, many transgress this commandment for the sake of Church tradition, despite the fact that Paul told the early Gentile believers right from the get go not to let people judge them for adopting HaShem's calendar, feasts and Sabbaths (Colossians 2:16). The post-apostolic church did just the opposite, however. Instead of adopting HaShem's set apart times, they kept their pagan calendar, pagan feasts, and made an effort to actually separate themselves from Hebrew tradition (as opposed to coming out and being separate themselves from the pagan world as Paul teaches in 2 Corinthians 6:17). Some say that this is a fulfillment of the prophecy in Daniel 7, the fourth beast being the fourth kingdom Rome (The Roman Catholics). Please also watch this - and this. By the way, Yeshua is Master of the Sabbath (Matthew 12:8, Mark 2:28, Luke 6:5) and was raised on the Sabbath just before sun down as told in Matthew 28:1 (sun down denotes the start of the next day, and in the case of the Sabbath, this would be the first day of the week). The idea of Sun-day being the "Lord's day" is a false tradition that transgresses the commandment of G-d. The "Lord's day" is more likely to be Yeshua's return (2nd Peter 3:10) and millennial reign (2nd Peter 3:8, Revelation 20:4).
On that note, the Roman Catholic church, separating itself from G-d's ways so it could hold on to it's pagan culture and control the masses, saw no problem integrating the faith with their paganism even though Leviticus 18:30, and Deuteronomy 12:30-31 and 18:9 forbid such practice for anyone who would become a part of G-d's people. Paul emphasizes these same teachings in saying "Or what agreement has the temple of G-d with idols?" (2 Corinthians 6:16a NASB with title correction) and "be not conformed to this world; but be you transformed by the renovation of your minds: and discern you what is the good and acceptable and perfect pleasure of G-d" (Romans 12:3 AENT). G-d clearly outlines what is good and acceptable to Him in the Torah (the first five books of Scripture) and G-d does not change (Malachi 3:6). Therefore, these traditions go against the very commandment of G-d for "That which is highly esteemed among men is abominable in the sight of G-d" (Luke 16:15 AENT). The fact of the matter is, we cannot take something abominable to HaShem and try and apply it to His worship. Deuteronomy 12:30-31 clearly states if something was applied the worship of a pagan god or idol that we are NOT to worship HaShem our G-d in that way. Israel, however, knowingly did this by depicting HaShem as a golden calf at the foot of Mount Sinai, and guess what happened? 3000 men died. Shall we make the same mistake unkowingly?
Roman Catholics and some Christians decorate their doors, gates, and entrances with christmass wreaths (originally symbolic of the womb of the “queen of heaven”, the fertility goddess called “Easter” [originally spelt “Ishtar”]), mistletoe, and other items of secular/pagan tradition that have nothing to do with Mashiyach's birth (which happened during the Feast of Tabernacles, not on the same day as Tammuz/Mithras/Sol Invictus’s birthdays). The early church tried to apply new meanings to these items, but when you break up with someone, you don't leave pictures of them up all over your house when you start seeing someone new. In the same way, HaShem wants you to put HIS picture up and get rid of the old ones. Therefore, this tradition replaces (and hence transgresses) the commandment of G-d in Deuteronomy 6:8 which commands us to write the words of Deuteronomy 6:4-5 on our doorposts and gates to be a reminder of who HaShem is and that we should love Him with all our heart, soul and might. But instead, we have these graven images of which remind nobody of HaShem (or at least, the true depiction of Him), let alone the birth of Mashiyach (see Isaiah 57:8). Even with the new meanings, they are today found everywhere, put on everything, and are impossible to escape from. They are of the world; and we are called to be set apart from the world unto HaShem. When there is not a clear distinction between the world and those who are redeemed from it, there is a problem.
The Roman Catholic tradition of praying to the dead (dead saints) is a direct transgression of G-d's commands regarding Spiritism (Leviticus 19:31, 20:6,7, Deuteronomy 18:9-12, 1 Samuel 28:3, Isaiah 8:19). Those of us who are ALIVE pray for one another, but in our personal prayer we can go directly to HaShem because of Yeshua. We don't need a counter fit mediator, and we especially don’t need a statue to pray to, heaven forbid! (FLEE from idolatry!)
On that note, the fact that Roman Catholic churches are filled with many statues of dead saints and other graven images which are used in both worship and prayer, is something that people need to realize is a direct transgression of the second commandment concerning idolatry (Exodus 20:4). But what is even more shameful is how in Roman Catechisms, their list of the Ten Commandments actually removes the second commandment concerning idolatry, splitting up the last commandment concerning coveting into two. When the Word of G-d is so blatantly changed for a very obvious reason and not many speak up against it, then we know there is something very, very wrong in the faith.
Anyone who partakes in the celebration of Easter instead of Passover will join the pagan tradition of eating swine meat, which transgresses two commandments from G-d. The first being the dietary instruction in Leviticus 11:7, and contrary to conventional Christian thought, Yeshua did NOT proclaim all “foods” clean in Mark 7:19, which is an added paraphrase by translators not reflective of the original languages. But even so, to a Hebrew mind, the only thing that constitutes as food are kosher items. Secondly, if this was what Yeshua was teaching then Peter didn’t get it because when he was told to eat unclean creatures in his vision in Acts 10, he was appalled at the very thought. This vision though was metaphorical for grafting in Gentiles to the faith (see verse 28 for confirmation) but remains divorced from it’s real context to justify the behavior of eating unclean animals. Other passages that are twisted around are the words of Paul in Romans 14 which is talking about vegetarianism, not kosher eating (see verse 2 for the setting of the context, and know that vegetarianism was being practiced BECAUSE of kosher eating and being afraid of eating meat that was not prepared in a kosher manner). Now swine meat, like demons, remains unclean, and Yeshua's stance regarding this is emphasized when He destroys both (swine and demons) in Matthew 8, Mark 5, and Luke 8. This is confirmation that HaShem does not change (Malachi 3:6). The second command broken was actually given to all GENTILES in Acts 15:29 stating "that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols" (in Torah this is found in Exodus 34:15-17). See, the tradition of swine meat eaten on Easter is done because the pagan deity Tammuz (Ezekiel 8:14) was killed by a wild pig, and thus it has always been sacrificed and eaten for him. Even if that's not what your intent is, it's still a tradition that you are unwillingly carrying on. For a general overview, please read this tract and you can also watch this video. Mashiyach is our Passover lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7), He is not an unkosher pig or fertility goddess egg from a bunny. The only time an unkosher pig was used was when the Abomination of Desolation was set up in the Temple by Antiochus Epiphanes during the time of the Maccabees. So please keep in mind how disrespectful it is to eat such an animal to honor or remember the sacrifice of the Jewish Messiah.
Now just a few verses later, Yeshua (in Matthew 15) quotes Isaiah to further his Truth,
"You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you:
THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS,
BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME.
'BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME,
TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE PRECEPTS OF MEN.'"
(Matthew 15: 7-9, NASB)
The Mormon LDS raises it's authority over Yeshua in adhering to the false prophetic teachings of Joseph Smith, and claiming that their president has obtained the "restored" authority of the Levitical priesthood (see this article). This is clearly a doctrine of the precepts of men, for Yeshua is now our true Prophet (Deuteronomy 18:15,18, Acts 3:22-26, 7:37), our High Priest (Psalm 110) and our Leader (Matthew 23:10); no one else.
The Jehovah's Witness's made their own version (not translation) of the Scriptures called the New World [mis]Translation. This version of the Scriptures is the poster for teaching as doctrines the precepts of men, as evident in the mistranslations that were done on purpose in order to support their proposed doctrine. I will go over some examples here. In John 1:1, the Word, made flesh as Yeshua, is referred to as being "a god" instead of G-d Himself. This is henotheism (multiple deities, but only one is worshiped, similar to the Pagan triads of Egypt, Babylon, etc.) and we know that Scripture clearly teaches that there is only ONE G-d. In Zechariah 12:10, they change "Me" (referring to HaShem) to "the one", canceling out the prophecy concerning Yeshua's execution where HaShem states that He will be the one who is pierced (and yet they mourn for Him (Yeshua) as one mourns for an only begotten son). Next, in Genesis 1:2, the Spirit of G-d is changed to "G-d's active force", de-emphasizing that His Spirit is His manifest presence within time and space that works within our lives and promotes their own doctrine where they don’t really believe in “spirits” at all. Other things we can see is that in Matthew 14:33 the NWT changes "worship" to "did obeisance". In John 8:58 a blatant change is when Yeshua states "I AM" with in the Greek (the same Greek word is used in the LXX of Exodus 3:14) but the NWT writes "I have been", denying the depth of Yeshua’s statement concerning His nature (compare to Exodus 3:14). Consider that if Yeshua only said "I have been" the crowd would not have wanted to stone him for blasphemy. Next, in Acts 20:28, they insert the word "son" (and this is admitted by putting it in brackets) which completely changes the meaning of the verse as you can see here: "Pay attention to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the holy spirit has appointed YOU overseers, to shepherd the congregation of G-d, which he purchased with the blood of his own [Son]" (NWT) and now the correct rendering from the Greek "Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of G-d which He purchased with His own blood." (NASB). Obviously for G-d to have purchased His assembly with His own blood (according to the Greek), He would have had to have been Yeshua in some form. At the same time, the JW”s are on track with the fact that G-d cannot truly bleed and die on a cross (or the universe would stop running), and if they had gone to the Eastern Aramaic, they would see how this is cleared up since it says "Mashiyach" instead of "G-d". Finally, in Colossians 1:16,17 we again have the same insertion of words in brackets that are meant to imply that Yeshua (as the Word) did not truly create everything, because Yeshua (as the Word) then would have to be G-d. Denying this Truth that is so evident in the Scriptures (and is even MORE evident in the Aramaic originals which you can see here) results in nothing other then a vain worship of HaShem, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men. King Solomon makes it very straight forward in Proverbs 30:5-6 “Every word of G-d is tested; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him. Do no add to His words or He will reprove you, and you will be proved a liar” (NASB with title correction, emphasis added). For a more thorough break down of this version, please click here.
Those who cut down the Jehovah's Witness Translation better be careful though, because in Protestant Christianity, the New Living Translation is no better! This highly paraphrased version of the Scriptures adds in countless words and phrases which distorts and even completely changes the meaning of Scripture. When you read the NLT, you are reading commentary based on a biased interpretation of Scripture. Let me be clear that you are NOT reading Scripture itself. I will give two anti-Torah examples to show you what I mean. In Colossians 2:16 the NLT states "So don’t let anyone condemn you for what you eat or drink, or for not celebrating certain holy days or new moon ceremonies or Sabbaths". The word "not" has been added into the text to completely change the meaning of the text to exactly the opposite of what it says. A literal, accurate translation is as follows - "Let no one therefore judge you in eating or in drinking, or in respect of a festival or a new moon or Sabbaths – which are a shadow of what is to come – but the Body of the Messiah." (Colossians 2:16-17 ISR). Every Greek and Aramaic manuscript is written exactly in that manner, which is basically saying not to let anyone outside the Body of Mashiyach judge you for keep the feasts of HaShem, but the anti-Torah translators of NLT insert their bias and change the very word of G-d. Another example is in Ephesians 2:15 which in the NLT reads "He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups." The entire phrase "ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations" is completely added into the text by twisting what it originally says. Let me take the same phrase from the NASB, which renders the passage faithfully - "by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace." The law of commandments contained (expressed) in ORDINANCES (Greek: Dogma; not a reference to G-d’s Law) refers specifically to the Oral Dogma/Tradition/Customs which was creating ENMITY (something that was abolished because Mashiyach came and brought true understanding of those particular matters). The prime example of this was how Gentiles were seen as unclean and therefore unsaved and had to be converted by circumcision in order to be acceptable to G-d. But this is heresy as Gentiles hearts are cleansed by faith also, and Mashiyach made this clear to Peter in Acts 10, which he reiterates in Acts 15. But once again, the NLT translators saw an opportunity to speak against Torah, G-d’s instructions for proper worship and righteous living, and they took full advantage of it. Although no translation is perfect, if you have an NLT I strongly suggest you put it away and grab an NASB, or an ESV at the very least. Both are still evangelical, but without the blatant change of Scripture to promote the precepts and doctrines of men that oppose the very word of G-d.
Although Marcion is considered a heretic, the Roman Catholics kept his titles of the “Old Testament” and “New Testament” for Scripture (though there is nothing neither “old" nor "outdated" about the Tanach other than the time which it was written, and the date of the history that it describes). But the truth of the matter is that "the Word of our G-d abides/stands forever" (1 Peter 1:25a / Isaiah 40:8b ) Keeping these titles, however, clings to Marcion's very incorrect perception of Scripture. Marcion also believed that the "evil god" of the OT was replaced by the new and loving god of the NT. This attitude can still be found in modern day Christianity where some people ignore the OT and emphasize that all you have to do is "love", forgetting all about the fear of HaShem (which is the beginning of wisdom so that you can decipher just what love truly is).
The Roman Catholic's hold the idea that if one is to be a Catholic, they must adhere to all the established doctrines of the Roman Catholic church. This means you must put yourself under their authority and adhere to their doctrine, regardless of its validity (which is exactly what it means to be "under the law" as I've stated several times). Despite being an uncanny re-creation of the very thing Yeshua rebuked the Pharisees for, the Roman Catholics take this further by A) inserting an "infallible" leader (the pope), transgressing Matthew 23:10; B) idolized the pope above other men, transgressing not only the second commandment concerning idolatry, but Matthew 23:11; and C) install their own priesthood in place of Yeshua, commanding that we call them a title which transgresses Matthew 23:9. In vain do Roman Catholics worship HaShem, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men. In vain do they treat HaShem's word, too – please read this and ask yourself if this is the kind of organization you want to follow. I choose to follow HaShem instead.
Despite Scripture's lack of explanation concerning the proposed trinitarian godhead, the influence of both Gnosticism and Greek philosophy (not to mention the abundance of Pagan triads found in many other cultures) ended up with the Roman Catholic church adopting the godhead idea of the trinity which states that the Father, Son, and Set-Apart Spirit are three distinct (meaning "distinguished as not being the same; not identical; separate") persons which are simply united in a godhead. G-d and His Spirit are not different persons (does either HaShem or Yeshua pray to the "holy spirit" in Scripture? No.) Yeshua, being fully human, is a distinct person from HaShem, but you cannot say the same about HaShem's Spirit. The fact is, if you believe in multiple divine personalities that can talk to each other in heaven, you are a polytheist who has just committed idolatry and broke the first two commandments. HaShem's Spirit embodied the vessel that was Yeshua's body (Isaiah 11:2, Zechariah 12:10. John 14:10, 2 Corinthians 5:19a, Colossians 2:8b-9, etc.) where the flesh of Yeshua then became the "arm of HaShem" (Exodus 6:6, Isaiah 53:1). We see this emphasized in places like Zechariah 12:10 where HaShem says they will look upon ME whom they have pierced, yet they mourn for HIM (Yeshua) as an Only Son. Other examples are when Yeshua says over and over again that His teaching, miracles, and authority are not His own, but His Father who sent Him. See, the arm is not separate from the body, nor does it act by it's own power, authority, or admission. Rather, it takes orders from the mind, which in this case, is HaShem. If you're wondering about John 1:1, the Word is G-d because we know G-d by His Word. But the Word is not a person, the Word is the eternal plan embodied in HaShem's grace and compassion that is revealed all throughout Torah and the Prophets and made flesh in the manifestation of Mashiyach Yeshua who has an occurrence of the singular divine nature of HaShem, making Him the exact image of HaShem's nature (Hebrews 1:1-3) where He continues to reveal HaShem to the world. And for clarification sake, despite the title, the Spirit of Mashiyach is the Spirit of HaShem (they are one and the same; see Romans 8:9, Acts 16:6-7). HaShem the Father just exists outside of time and space where as His presence inside of time and space is Mashiyach. This Spirit came and impregnated Maryam at Chanukkah and nine months later out pops Yeshua at the Feast of Tabernacles. To make this easier, think of three branches on the same tree (which are occurrences of the one divine nature); not three different trees that are of the same kind and in perfect agreement with one another (as the trinity teaches). The relationship between the Father, Son, and Spirit is that they are different ministrations (1 Corinthians 12:5) of a single divine nature which are fulfilled by occurrences of that nature, not separate "persons". Now, regardless of the evidence against the trinity, based on the lack of explanation in Scripture alone, holding on to this trinity idea is teaching as doctrine the precepts of men. It does nothing but confuses and brainwashes people from the simple precepts of Torah. Now the Jews who have a history of falling into paganism and idolatry are very careful to avoid making the same mistake again. As such, you will never see them fully embrace these polytheistic ideas in Christianity. We need to go back to the drawing board and re-examine passages. For more information please purchase an Aramaic English New Testament or view my Christology article here. To begin thinking like a Hebrew regarding this subject (which is the proper way to approach it) please also see this article.
The Roman Catholic church has fallen prey to the lie of Genesis 3:15 where haSatan claims that G-d told Eve not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, because when she does, she shall be like a "god" herself (knowing good and evil). Satan uses this lie because that's what he wanted (Isaiah 14:12-14), but of course he was unsuccessful. Now, this is the same lie that is the basis for all false religion, and Mormon's have especially eaten this one up if you study their doctrine. But the Roman Catholics are a little more discreet about this. In their catechism it teaches "For the Son of God became man so that we might become God. The only begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make them gods" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1994 edition , pg. 116, OR, Revised and Updated Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2001 edition, pg.129) Right there, the Roman Catholic church is promoting the very thing that Satan got kicked out of heaven for. Yeshua warned us in Matthew 24:3-5 that "See to it that no one misleads you. For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will mislead many" (Matthew 24:5a-6 NASB). Returning back to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the 2001 edition states on page 228 that "Let us rejoice then and give thanks that we have become not only Christians, but Christ himself. Do you understand and grasp, brethren, God's grace towards us? Marvel and rejoice; we have become Christ." (see also page 732-733). Please, everybody, listen to Yeshua in Mark 13:22-23, and beware of these doctrines which teach the precepts of men (and in this case, Satan).
The Jehovah's Witnesses hold to the stance that they are the one and only "true religion" because there is only "one god" (though I thought, according to John 1:1 in their version of the Scriptures, there was more then one god?). Despite the obvious self-righteous attitude, this statement places their religion (The Watchtower) above the authority of Yeshua (reference again Matthew 28:8-12, for it is the foundational basis of this whole essay). This is blasphemy. Placing any authority here on earth above Master HaShem-Yeshua is to treat G-d in vain ("without real significance, value, or importance; baseless or worthless"), elevating the precepts of men for your doctrine. For my in-depth thoughts on this concept of “true religion” please read my article here. Now in the Watchtower literature I have read, I see a few common trends. The first is that they are against free thinking, stating that
"Apostates often appeal to the ego, claiming that we have been deprived of our freedoms, including the freedom to interpret the Bible for ourselves. (Compare Genesis 3:15.) In reality, these would-be defilers offer nothing more than a return to the nauseating teachings of "Babylon the Great." (Revelation 17:5; 2 Peter 2:19-22) Others appeal to the flesh, urging former associates to "take it easy" because the humble work of witnessing from house to house is "unnecessary" or "unscriptural." (Compare Matthew 16:22,23.) True, such smooth talkers may look outwardly clean in a physical and moral way. But inside they are spiritually unclean, having given in to prideful, independent thinking. They have forgotten all that they learned about Jehovah...." (The Watchtower, November 1, 1987 pg.19,20)
Let me point out that if someone did not "think freely" in the first place, the Jehovah's Witness organization never would have been started (therefore by their own logic, they are calling their founder an "apostate"). Second, I often see the question of "What does the Bible Really Teach?" and my answer is, exactly what it says, so long as you have a correct translation and understand the context in which the various letters, prophecies and statements are being said. But, by elevating the precepts of men as their doctrine, Jehovah's Witness's will opt for the Watchtower's take on what the Scriptures [supposedly] teach. In fact, their "Bible studies" are based off of Watchtower publications, not the Scriptures themselves. Scripture (their version) is only used as a support for the message in their book. A clear examination of that reveals the authority to which they answer, and it is certainly not HaShem. Besides all of this blasphemy though, you cannot call yourself the true religion unless your worship lines up flawlessly with Scripture. Now, based on their Scripture version's errors alone (noted above), I think they've forfeited this true religion title.
There are many other examples I could go over from any religion or corresponding denomination, but I feel this establishes the point I've intended to get across. However, after saying this, there are some very important issues which must be addressed.
All Religion is False Religion
Every denomination has their own rebuke for some of the points I've brought up above, but regardless of what they say or believe, that does not change G-d's truth, and Paul clearly makes a points in saying this to the Romans,
"For if some of them have not believed, have they, by their not believing, made the faith of Elohim inefficient? Far be it: for Elohim is truthful, and every man false: as it is written: "That you might be upright in your declarations; and be found pure when they judge you." (Romans 3:34 AENT, emphasis added)
The fact of the matter is that EVERY religion is false (at least to a point), for only G-d is truthful, and His embodiment of Yeshua points to Mashiyach as being the only Way, Truth and Life. Only those denominations who put Him as their King and Authority are safe to follow, for anyone who elevates themselves above Him is falling prey to the very first lie of Satan in Genesis 3:5, which is the root of all false religion. Now, despite the difficulties of Yeshua's teaching, Peter knew all too well that Salvation comes from no one else in saying,
"My Master, to whom should we go? You have the words of life that is eternal" (John 6:68b, AENT, emphasis added)
In reality, at the end of the day, it does not matter what the religious institution believes for it is up to YOU to be upright in your declaration, and be found pure in your faith on the day of judgment (where the true believers will be sorted from the lukewarm). And the only One who has the words of life that is eternal is Yeshua the Mashiyach! He is the true Teacher; everyone else is but a brother/servant. In saying this, I must strictly emphasize that everything brought up in this essay alone should be taken with a grain of salt. Search the Scriptures (accurate versions please) for yourselves!! Study earnestly and pray diligently, for only G-d is truthful and I am but just one brother in Mashiyach to you all.
The Role of Religion and You
I hope that you have not found yourself asking the question "which religion should I follow then?" during the course of this essay. If so, then you've completely missed the point. The only One whom you should follow is Yeshua, for He alone is the Way, the Truth and the Life. In saying this though, I do not mean to imply that all religion is futile and worthless. On the contrary, our religions and their institutions can play a vital role in the faith of many who will then work towards establishing the Kingdom of Heaven (beginning from with in by having Torah written upon the heart). While it is true that some are certainly better than others, nonetheless, we all need guidance in order to be introduced to Yeshua, and not everyone is able to obtain this from their parents. The point I'd like to make therefore is that our religious institutions are stepping stones; a means to an end, but never an end unto itself. Mashiyach must be the goal, but in order to reach that, you need to free your mind from religious baggage and turn to HaShem directly. And to truly get to know Him and His Mashiyach, you need to do some work (all good relationships require work, right?). You can't rely on your religious institution alone, especially since their practices may not always be Scriptural as pointed out in this essay. Let me give an analogy to explain this further.
Growing up as kids, we need the structure provided by our parents as a means to learn and grow into the young adults we become upon leaving to start our own lives. During this transition from childhood to adulthood, we begin to become more and more independent, relying less on our parent’s guidance and more on ourselves. Despite this however, we should never stop going to our parents for both advice and guidance. Now, in much the same way, as children we require structure as a means to learn and grow in our faith in Yeshua the Mashiyach. But there too comes a transitional phase where we must begin to search the Scriptures for ourselves, relying less on our religious institutions, and more on Yeshua our Mashiyach (becoming His disciple in the process). Despite this however, we should still consult our brothers and sisters in Mashiyach for guidance and support, being careful not to stray from the path of Truth into the hands of the adversary. In saying this, I urge you all to discuss and give feedback (and I thank those who have already provided it; it has helped me to grow and I hope it is also helping you). But the point here is ultimately to rely on HaShem as our Authority/Father, who dwells in Mashiyach as our Leader and Teacher. We must not become complacent in our religious institutions but thirst for His Truth by reading the Scriptures daily. In doing this, we move our hearts closer to HaShem, and become what is called the faithful remnant...
The Faithful Remnant
If G-d is truthful and every man false, then surely those who search the Word of HaShem and thirst after His Truth will work towards the fulfillment of this prophecy,
"O HaShem, my strength and my stronghold and my refuge, in the day of distress the gentiles shall come to You from the ends of the earth and say "Our fathers have inherited only falsehood, futility, and there is no value in them." Would a man make god’s for himself, which are not god’s? Therefore see, I am causing them to know, this time I cause them to know My hand and My might. And they shall know that My name is HaShem!" (Jeremiah 16:19-21, ISR emphasis added)
Yes, most Christians have indeed inherited lies (falsehood) from the pagan cultural backgrounds of the Gentile church, those things that are foreign to Scripture (when Scripture is taught properly, you will find truth in the church). These sorts of things have been made reference to with in this article. For example, once again, many institutions have adopted a multitude of graven images for people who desire a sign, but as Yeshua clearly said, no sign will be given to this adulterous generation. Everyone wants a sign or an image to hold on to, but they forget what G-d has already given us. In regards to these sorts of lies, the following scripture should be considered,
"I am [HaShem], that is My name;
I will not give My glory to another,
Nor My praise to graven images. (Isaiah 42:8 NASB with Name edit)
We have attempted to give His glory to titles, images and traditions that never belonged to Him. The graven images in which we created (walk into any Catholic Church) are everywhere, and throughout all this time, we've forgotten His Name, His character; the very essence of who He is. His Name refers to His reputation, and these are concepts that are firmly based in Torah values and principles (not “church doctrine”). And truly it is the one memorial that was supposed to be remembered for ALL the generations. But the remnant knows that HaShem has glorified His name once before, and He will glorify it again as heard by everyone who surrounded Yeshua when He prayed to the Father in John 12:28.
We've also inherited the lie that it's perfectly alright to ignore HaShem's feasts, customs, laws, and instructions, all the while adopting pagan ones instead. But the following Scriptures command otherwise for ANYONE who would choose to be a child of G-d,
"When you enter the land which [HaShem] your G-d gives you, you shall not learn to imitate the detestable things of those nations." (Deuteronomy 18:9 NASB with Name edit, emphasis added)
" take care that you be not ensnared to follow them, after they have been destroyed before you, and that you do not inquire about their gods, saying, 'How did these nations serve their gods?—that I also may do the same.' You shall not worship [HaShem] your G-d in that way;" (Deuteronomy 12:30-31a ESV with Name edit, emphasis added)
"Thus said HaShem, "Do not learn the way of the heathen, and do not be awed by the signs of the heavens, for the gentiles are awed by them. For the customs of these peoples are worthless" (Jeremiah 10:2-3a, emphasis added)
"And you shall guard My Charge, so as not to do any of these abominable practices which were done before, so as not to defile yourselves by them. I am Yud-Heh-Vav-Heh your Elohim" (Leviticus 18:30 ISR, emphasis added)
"The community is to have the same rules for you and for the alien living among you; this is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. You and the alien shall be the same before [HaShem] : The same laws and regulations will apply both to you and to the alien living among you." (Numbers 15:15-16 NIV with Name edit, emphasis added)
But the remnant knows that HaShem's feasts and Sabbath were signs to remember for all the generations (Exodus 31:13) and that they are to show that we love G-d and that His love dwells in us (1 John 5:3). Truly, if Gentiles are to be grafted in as G-d's people too, set apart for Him, and loving Him with all of their heart and all of their soul, then they too were given these signs to observe, and that many will come to their observance in the end times anyway (Zechariah 14:16).
Going back to the original prophecy (Jeremiah 16:19-21), would a man make "gods" for himself which are not the one true G-d? Certainly! This happens constantly both with in and outside of our religious institutions. When life gets hard, we go running to our idols instead of HaShem, creating a false sense of support. We often talk about what we "think" G-d is thinking, or how He views something. Yet in doing this we often don't have a Scripture backing for it. Without Scriptural support, we create our own version of G-d by talking about how we'd like Him to be, rather then who He really is. The Catholic Church, as a political entity, has done this for centuries in trying to control the people, fulfilling the timeless prophecy of Jeremiah 16 (and the protestant daughter churches have inherited all sorts of weird ideas because of it). But the remnant knows that G-d is the beginning and the end; who is, who was, and who is to come, the Almighty! (Revelations 1:8) They know that He means what He says (He is a G-d of truth Isaiah 65:16) and that He does not change (Malachi 3:6). Therefore, the remnant pays attention to His everlasting word and takes Him seriously, thirsting their hearts after His Truth rather than seeking the praise of men. The remnant, amidst the sin of the world, seeks to please HaShem above all else, following after the command to "come out of her my people" (Revelation 18:4). For there is nothing and no one other than G-d in whom we can trust completely while on earth. And we indeed know that His Great Name is HaShem (Jeremiah 16:21)!
One in Mashiyach, not in Religion
If you've heard it said that it's not about religion, but a relationship, then that is absolutely correct. Religion is man's way of trying to work towards G-d with the traditions and rituals done in religious institutions, where as Yeshua the Mashiyach is G-d coming to us and offering us a relationship with Him. You see, the only true mediator between us and G-d is Yeshua; not the pope, nor anyone else (all they can do is introduce us to Him). The reality of this matter is that HaShem truly IS real, and Yeshua IS the promised Mashiyach who came first as a suffering servant (Mashiyach ben Yospeh) and will return as the reigning king (Mashiyach ben Dawid). This reality therefore means that G-d is working in our very lives right now, despite the religious doctrine we may be adhering to. The key for us is to pay attention and catch Him at work, and then draw closer to Him by actively seeking Him out. This is not just a personal quest, but one that should involve the whole body of believers. See, Yeshua did not want us to be a religion, let alone multiple religions. He wanted us to be brothers; to be One in Him (Ephesians 3:15), as He and the Father are One (John 17:11). He wanted us to be a community and a people who keep the same feasts (HIS feasts - Lev 23:2) and HIS Shabbat (Lev 19:30), not our "own sabbath" on any day of the week that we please. No, we walk together as ONE people with ONE Shepherd and ONE Torah. We walk according to the Spirit (HIS Spirit), loving one another as He loved (and continues to love) us (John 15:12); working together and serving the only perfect Authority worthy of our respect and submission. For all men fall short of the glory of G-d, as it is written, "there is none righteous, not even one" (Romans 3:10, Ecclesiastes 7:20). Religion divides, but Mashiyach brings together. He restores that which is lost; that which is broken. In this day and age with the multitude of religions and denominations, we are certainly both lost and broken when we consider what we have become as a whole since the apostolic era of early believers. I just pray that we may come together in perfect harmony through Mashiyach, not being divided by our religious dogma but rather, abiding in the love and truth of Mashiyach, for the glory of HaShem our G-d. It is not my objective to sow dissention or have anyone forsake the fellowship commanded by G-d (for we are always to be a community, not lone wolfs) but once again, our communities must not be “one man shows” but accountable to Mashiyach through a properly ordained Beit Din to lovingly settle disputes according to the will of HaShem.
I pray that this essay may be a blessing for all who read it, and that the words I have written here are an honest reflection of His words and His will; not my own. I pray that our hearts may be opened to His Truth; that we can give up any traditions or attitudes that may be keeping us from following His commandments and walking in the fullness of His blessing; the very commandments which set us apart from this world to abide in His love (John 14:15, 21, 15:10). Indeed, these commandments protect us as one body in Mashiyach. May we all have the faith of Abraham and follow the example of Mashiyach, loving one another as the true fulfillment of Torah (Romans 13:10). I ask for all these things in the blessed, mighty name of Yeshua haMashiyach. Amen.
PS - If you are a little overwhelmed by all of this, don't worry because HaShem is with you. As decided at the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15, you should learn Torah over time and apply it little by little as you come to get to know Him and become more set-apart, "For Moses from ancient generations has in every city those who preach him, since he is read in the synagogues every Sabbath" (Acts 15:21, NASB) Let us all come to repentance and turn back to HaShem through Yeshua the Mashiyach!