The Prodigal Church

“Again Yeshua said, “A man had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the estate that will be mine.’ So the father divided the property between them. As soon as he could convert his share into cash, the younger son left home and went off to a distant country, where he squandered his money in reckless living. But after he had spent it all, a severe famine arose throughout that country, and he began to feel the pinch.

“So he went and attached himself to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the carob pods the pigs were eating, but no one gave him any.

“At last he came to his senses and said, ‘Any number of my father’s hired workers have food to spare; and here I am, starving to death! I’m going to get up and go back to my father and say to him, “Father, I have sinned against Heaven and against you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired workers.” ’ So he got up and started back to his father.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with pity. He ran and threw his arms around him and kissed him warmly. His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against Heaven and against you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son — ’ but his father said to his slaves, ‘Quick, bring out a robe, the best one, and put it on him; and put a ring on his finger and shoes on his feet; and bring the calf that has been fattened up, and kill it. Let’s eat and have a celebration! For this son of mine was dead, but now he’s alive again! He was lost, but now he has been found!’ And they began celebrating.

“Now his older son was in the field. As he came close to the house, he heard music and dancing.  So he called one of the servants and asked, ‘What’s going on?’ The servant told him, ‘Your brother has come back, and your father has slaughtered the calf that was fattened up, because he has gotten him back safe and sound.’ But the older son became angry and refused to go inside.

“So his father came out and pleaded with him.  ‘Look,’ the son answered, ‘I have worked for you all these years, and I have never disobeyed your orders. But you have never even given me a young goat, so that I could celebrate with my friends.  Yet this son of yours comes, who squandered your property with prostitutes, and for him you slaughter the fattened calf!’ Son, you are always with me,’ said the father, ‘and everything I have is yours.  We had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead but has come back to life — he was lost but has been found.’” Luke 15:11-32 CJB

Before you say anything I know that this parable is Yeshua (Jesus) talking about individuals who have strayed from Adonai and return back again but I challenge you to look at it in a broader sense. As a “church” we have strayed far from Adonai’s intended purpose. As “Christians” we are not living according to John 10:16 where Yeshua says:

“Also I have other sheep which are not from this pen; I need to bring them, and they will hear my voice; and there will be one flock, one shepherd.”

You see…we were intended to join the Jews who believed and become one set of believers. That’s how it was in the beginning after the Messiah paid for our sins on the cross. Paul’s calling was to go out unto the Gentiles and convert them to Judaism and not to start a whole other religion called “Christianity”. It was this way until about the 6th century AD when Constantine began to steer believers away from Jewish practices (Constantine detested Jews even before his conversion). You will hear a lot about Constantine throughout this message because he, single handedly, did more to destroy the “one flock” that yeshua spoke of than another person or entity in history.

After Yeshua’s crucifixion and resurrection Messianic Jews and converted Gentiles still followed Jewish traditions such as The Appointed Times because these were, and still are, Adonai’s “Everlasting Covenants”. Everlasting means forever and they understood that. These Appointed Times just took on a new meaning but still symbolized everything that they lived for. Christians have lost that. What have we lost since we have stepped away from the Jewish heritage of our faith? That’s what this message is about. The devastating loss.

Let me start with the stark difference between the first church and today’s “church”. The first churches were held in peoples homes and the father of the house was the spiritual leader. They helped the community and each other. Today we have pastors in middle size towns, such as the one I live in, spending $5 million on a new church building instead of feeding the hungry. We have famous “pastors” who make $54 million per year, spend over $100 million to renovate a sports arena into a 600,000 square foot mega-church and won’t even open their doors to help house hurricane victims in their time of need.

We have “prosperity preachers” who preach about how God’s intent for you is to be wealthy while only lining their pockets with cash to better them selves so they can live in multi million dollar homes (such as Joel Osteen’s house shown below) while the members of their congregation are barely making ends meet.

In the first churches the only need they had for money was to continue their ministry and help those in need. No need for big fancy homes and “impressive” church buildings. They were focused on only three things. Bringing people to the God of Israel by Spreading the good news of Messiah Yeshua, getting closer to Adonai, and pleasing Adonai in all they did. They did this no matter the cost. Even unto death. Now we are afraid to even speak about our faith in the workplace for fear that we may get fired.

Next let’s discuss Adonai’s everlasting covenant and His Appointed times and how they continue to have major significance today.. In Judaism there are 7 feasts found in Leviticus 23 that we are told are a “permanent regulation through all your generations”. These are :

  • Pesach (Passover)
  • Hag HaMatzot (Unleavened Bread)
  • Reishit (Firstfruits)
  • Shavuot (Pentecost)
  • Rosh HaShanah (Trumpets)
  • Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement)
  • Sukkot (Tabernacles)

Passover (Pesach) commemorates God’s deliverance of Israel from Egypt and the Passover meal, seder, commemorates this deliverance from slavery in Egypt. Jesus ate the Passover seder with his disciples and the disciples continued to observe Passover after the Messiah’s crucifixion and resurrection. Yeshua became the sacrificial lamb and the blood that he shed on the cross is what covers our sins and causes death to pass over us.

The Feast of Unleavened Bread (Hag HaMatzot) is mentioned as a separate feast on the fifteenth day of the same month as Passover but today the feasts of Passover, Unleavened Bread, and Firstfruits have all been combined into the celebration of Passover so reference to Passover means all three feasts. In scripture, leaven represents sin and when the house is cleansed of and leaven before Passover represents removing any hypocrisy or wickedness.

Unleavened bread is called matzah which stands for “without sin” and today this represents Yeshua. Yeshua said in John 6:32-33 (CJB) “Yes indeed! I tell you its wasn’t Moshe (Moses) who gave you the bread from heaven. But my Father is giving you the genuine bread from heaven; for God’s bread is the one who comes down out of heaven and gives life to the world.” Yeshua is the Bread of Life and conquered the grave with his resurrection because he was not a sinner under the curse of death.

Firstfruits (Reishit) was a time when the Jewish people offered the first ripe crops of barley to the Lord as their way of dedicating the harvest to Him. Jewish people rarely celebrate Firstfruits today, but it has GREAT significance to Messianic Jews and is considered the most important day of the year because it represents Yeshua’s resurrection. Yeshua rose on the third day of Passover (16 Nisan, the day of Firstfruits). The apostle Paul wrote “But the fact is that the Messiah has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have died. For since death came through a man, also the resurrection of the dead has come through a man. For just as in connection with Adam all die, so in connection with the Messiah all will be made alive. But each in his own order: the Messiah is the firstfruits; then those who belong to the Messiah, at the time of his coming;” (1 Corinthians 15:20-23 CJB).

Pentecost (Shavuot), also known as the Feast of Weeks, is the time when Jews would present an offering of the new grain of the summer wheat harvest to the Lord. It shows their joy and thankfulness for the Lord’s blessing of the harvest. After Yeshua’s resurrection he told his disciples to wait in Jerusalem and on the fiftieth day after the Sabbath of Passover week the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples and filled them. This is how it is described in the book of Acts:

“The festival of Shavu‘ot arrived, and the believers all gathered together in one place. Suddenly there came a sound from the sky like the roar of a violent wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then they saw what looked like tongues of fire, which separated and came to rest on each one of them. They were all filled with the Ruach HaKodesh and began to talk in different languages, as the Spirit enabled them to speak.”

Acts 2:1-4 (CJB)

And then we learn in Acts 2:41 that on that day “about three thousand people” were saved! Praise God!

The Feast of Trumpets / New Year (Yom Ha Terran / Rosh Hashanah) is the beginning of The Ten Days of Repentance and ends with Yom Kippur. These ten days make up what is called the High Holy Days because jewish tradition says that God writes every person’s words, deeds, and thoughts in the Book of Life, which He opens and examines on that day. During the Ten Days of Repentance people can repent of their sins and do good deeds to increase their chances of being inscribed in the Book of Life. Today, the only way to have your name inscribed in the Lamb’s Book of Life is by having faith in Yeshua as Messiah and once it inscribed into the book it is permanent. The saved now know that once the trumpets sound we will be called up into heaven to be with our Savior and God.

The Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) was the day that the high priest made atonement for sin in the temple. In biblical times the high priest sacrificed an animal to atone for his sins and the sins of the people and when he was finished he would release a goat into the wilderness that would carry the sins of Israel away never to return (this is where we get the term “scapegoat” from). We now know Yeshua as our scapegoat because he was without sin and bore our sin and took it away. Keep in mind though, that Yeshua’s sacrifice on the cross was never meant to be a license to do whatever we want because we have been saved by grace. It was meant to be there because no matter how good we try to be we are going to mess up and grace is there to restore us.

The Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) commemorates the Israelites forty years in the wilderness. In jewish tradition it is a weeklong celebration of the fall harvest and they build temporary shelters made of branches to remember how the Hebrew people lived under God’s care during their time in the wilderness. It is a reminder of God’s faithfulness and protection. Today the Feast of Tabernacles represents the final harvest when all nations and people will partake in the joys and blessings of God’s kingdom.

When Constantine converted to Christianity he began to cut the church off from its Jewish heritage and graft it into the root of Greek paganism which created a loss of the values and world view that God had taught the people of Israel. He brought the church a completely different way of looking at God, Scripture, and the Christian way of life. The Biblical feasts are only foreign to us now because they were forcibly removed from the Christian church during the Middle Ages. The pagan holiday of Easter was given Christian meaning and took the place of Passover and the birthday of the sun god Sol Invictus became Christmas.

God warns us in Ezekiel that when pagan practices are brought into His temple (His Church) then His presence will depart. We can actually can see this in churches today and wonder why civilization seems to be moving further and further from God. It’s because over time we have tried to adapt God to the world instead of adapting the world to God.

Throughout the Bible, God placed great importance on establishing a particular cycle of life for His people. He has always desired to get us into a cycle of blessings to bring us closer to Him and away from the oppression of the deceiver while bringing us into an ever-expanding experience of His goodness. You don’t have to keep the Appointed Times to get into heaven but just because you don’t have to do something doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t want to…long to make every effort and take every opportunity to get closer to Adonai.

“Christianity” has become so twisted that it barely resembles the early church of Messianic Jews and even of the converted Gentiles. We have perverted it and watered it down so much that it is almost everything that Paul warned the early church not to become. Many pastors today believe that their interpretation of scripture is the correct one so if your interpretation differs from their’s then they label you as a “false teacher” or “heretic”. Pastors throw around the “false teacher” label like this generation throws around the “racist” label to anyone who doesn’t agree with what they say. I’m sure many will label me as a “heretic” and I will gladly embrace that label.

The Church has wandered away from God in much the same way as the prodigal son but, like the prodigal son, Adonai is waiting with open arms for His Church to return to Him. When will you turn around and start heading back Home?

“When the Lord your God cuts off before you the nations whom you go in to dispossess, and you dispossess them and dwell in their land, 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 the Lord your God in that way, for every abominable thing that the Lord hates they have done for their gods, for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods. Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it.”

Deuteronomy 12:29-32 ESV

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