Articles on topics that are widely debated in Christianity, Judaism, Hebrew Roots / Messianic and more!
It has been taught in churches for hundreds of years that all men are equal in the eyes of The Creator. "God loves everyone equally. He loves sinners, and only hates sin," they say. But is that concept true? It is a bit of a trick question. The answer is both yes and no.
To begin, I want to clarify that I do believe all men are equal. That is, every person should receive the amount of respect due to all humans. No person is a "mistake." However, that does NOT mean that everyone is on the same level of righteousness. There are varying rewards mentioned in Scripture, and not everyone will receive the same. As I said, this is a bit of a trick question. Elohim created every one of us and yes, it is His desire to see that all men (and women) have salvation (1 Timothy 2:4). It is also His intent to give this gift in equal amounts to all those that trust in Him and have faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). But there is so much more to it than that.
Modern Christianity has formed the opinion that by saying a prayer and living a decent (though they always say "not perfect") life, you become a 'Christian' and therefore have salvation. They say The Father gives salvation to all who believe in Him; and that salvation is the same for everyone. This is mostly true. The only thing missing is clarification of what constitutes faith [belief]. Ephesians 2 says salvation comes by faith. However, faith must be lived, not just thought. It is not enough to simply believe in the Messiah, for even the demons believe (James 2:19). Faith must be lived out by DOING something, not idle belief.
26For just as the body apart from the spirit is dead, even so firmness (faith) apart from works is dead. – Ya'aqov / James 2:26 (SQV)
A really good example of this can be found in verses 15-17.
15 And if a brother or sister is naked and in lack of daily food, 16 and one of you tells them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled"; and yet you did not give them the things the body needs, what good is it? 17 Even so firmness, if it has no works, is dead in itself. – Ya'aqov / James 2:15-17 (SQV)
What this means is that simply having faith that one’s brother or sister will be clothed and fed is not enough. One must ACT on it, or else (verse 16) that faith (firmness) is useless. A fairly large fallacy can then be seen in this Christian idea of 'faith' and 'works.' If salvation is only by faith, then what do I need works for? I can continue having faith and just do whatever is right in my own eyes, and still have salvation, right? As Paul would say, "May it never be!" The major issue here, however, is the mental separation. Just as Christianity has made a point to separate the so-called "Old Testament" from the so-called "New Testament" (which terms, mind you, appear nowhere in Scripture). Indeed, even our English Bibles have a page that separates Malachi (or 2 Chronicles, depending on translation) from Matthew. This is intentional separation to give the mental picture of setting the two at odds with one another. That way, in our modern day Greco-Roman mindset, we see only either or. Old or New, works or faith. Again, this was done intentionally. The fact of the matter is, this separation should not exist.
Paul says in Romans 3:28, "28For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the law." (NASB)
Meanwhile, as we read earlier, it would seem that James disagrees, would it not? Yet the two Apostles are actually in perfect agreement. Paul says it is by faith (firmness) that we are justified. This faith must (obviously) be alive in order for this to take place. If this faith is dead, it is no longer good enough. In order for the faith to be made alive, it must be accompanied by works¸ which is what James was pointing out. The two concepts (faith and works) are not to be viewed as enemies, but rather as co-requisites. For instance, if you have only works, you are not justified (as Paul says rather clearly). However, if you have not works, then you do not have true faith, and therefore you are not justified. Faith is not merely thought, but rather it is lived. We’ll see more of this throughout this study (see article "Salvation: The Great Misunderstanding").
The next problem is this: Scripture is very clear on rewards of varying degrees.
19 [YHWH is] great in counsel, and mighty in work; whose eyes are open to all the ways of the sons of men, to give everyone according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings – Yirmeyahu / Jeremiah 32:19 (SQV)
12 Also to You, YHWH, belongs loving kindness, for You reward every man according to his work. – Tehillim / Psalms 62:12 (SQV)
12 Behold, I come quickly. My reward is with Me, to repay to each man according to his work. – Galah / Revelation 22:12 (SQV)
So here we see a pretty clear pattern. But what is the reward, salvation? Consider this: when Yeshua comes, what does He come to do? He returns to set up His Kingdom on earth and reign for a thousand years (see article "The Return of Messiah & The Millennial Kingdom"). Part of what He does is set up His Saints as rulers (kings and priests) with Him. This is the reward that is dependent on your work; your position in the kingdom. This is displayed in a "three class system" according to Scriptural example. The first class we’ll call the "great" in the Kingdom. The second class is the "least" in the Kingdom. The third and final class is the "defiant" class. We’ll use multiple Scriptural examples to show this.
Class number one, the "great" in the Kingdom, is defined by Yeshua in Matthew 5. To be technical, all three classes are defined by Yeshua in Matthew 5. But we’ll focus on one at a time.
19 Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commands, and teaches others the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of the heavens; but whoever keeps and teaches, he shall be called great in the kingdom of the heavens. – Mattithyahu / Matthew 5:19 (SQV)
Yeshua Himself said that whoever keeps and teaches "these commands" shall be called "great" in the Kingdom of Heaven. But what commands is He talking about? Most Christian scholars say that Yeshua is talking about the beatitudes, which He spoke about just a few verses prior. However, verse 17 shows very clearly that He is talking about the Law (Torah) and the Prophets (Nevi'im). So those that keep the commands (Torah) and teach others to do the same will be called "great" in the Kingdom.
1 It shall happen, if you shall listen diligently to the voice of YHWH your Elohim, to guard to do all His commands which I command you this day, that YHWH your Elohim will set you on high above all the nations of the earth: 2 and all these blessings shall come on you, and overtake you, if you shall listen to the voice of YHWH your Elohim. – Devarim / Deuteronomy 28:1,2 (SQV)
Deuteronomy 28 goes on to list all the many blessings for those that continue to walk in the commandments (Torah).
25 But he who looks into the perfect law of freedom, and continues in it, not being a hearer who forgets, but a doer of the work, this man will be blessed in what he does. – Ya'aqov / James 1:25 (SQV)
James says the one who looks into the perfect Law (Torah) and continues in it will be blessed.
13 For it is not the hearers of law who are righteous before Elohim, but the doers of law will be justified. – Romaios / Romans 2:13 (SQV)
Well that’s pretty self-explanatory. So to sort of tie it all together, we have the definition of our first "class," so to speak. The "great" are those that keep the commandments of YHWH. This is reminiscent of Revelation 12:17 (among other verses in Revelation).
17 The dragon grew angry with the woman, and went away to make war with the rest of her seed: those who guard the commands of Elohim and hold the witness of Yeshua. – Galah / Revelation 12:17 (SQV)
Here we see the definition of the Saints. They that "keep the commands of Elohim and hold to the testimony (witness) of Yeshua."
We see a good picture of this in the Millennial prophecy of Ezekiel 44.
15 "But the priests the Levites, the sons of Tsadoq, who guarded the charge of My set-apart place when the children of Yisrael went astray from Me, shall come near to Me to minister to Me. They shall stand before Me to offer to Me the fat and the blood," says Adonai YHWH. – Yechezqel / Ezekiel 44:15 (SQV)
23 They [the sons of Tsadoq] shall teach My people the difference between the set-apart and the common, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean. 24 In a controversy they shall stand to judge. They shall judge it according to My judgments. They shall guard My Torot and My statutes in all My appointed feasts. They shall make My Sabbaths set-apart. – Yechezqel / Ezekiel 44:23,24 (SQV)
Now, we know that Zadok (Tsadoq) was a priest. This prophecy could be applied in a couple of different ways. Since all of Ezekiel’s prophecies concerning the Temple have not yet come true, we can automatically assume this one is included, since most of the entire chapter pertains to Temple service. That being said, the prophecy regarding the "sons of Zadok" is a spiritual one. As I said, Zadok was a priest, but this is in reference to the "spiritual" sons of Zadok. Zadok means "righteousness" (is from tzadiq), so it makes more sense that these priests are the "sons of righteousness."
I believe that these are the ones that are brought up in the first resurrection. (See Revelation 20:5-6 and Isaiah 66:21). These are the "kings and priests" spoken of in Revelation. They are in the inner court of the Temple (House) where Yeshua dwells during His Millennial Reign.
So again, the "great" class are those that keep the commands and teach others to do so as well. Next we have the "least" class.
Matthew 5:19, as we read earlier, details the "least" and the "great." The "least" are said to be those that "annul the least of these commandments and teach men to do so." So what does that mean? Let’s look at a couple more examples. To put it simply, the "least" class are those that do not know Yeshua. Their eyes have not yet been opened to the Truth by the Father. Yeshua says in John 6:44 that no one can come unto Him except the ones whom the Father draws. The fact is that the Father calls everyone, just not all at the same time.
Where else can we see examples of the "least" class?
22 When you shall err, and not observe all these commands, which YHWH has spoken to Moshe, 23 even all that YHWH has commanded you by Moshe, from the day that YHWH gave command, and onward throughout your generations; 24 then it shall be, if it be done unknowingly, without the knowledge of the congregation, that all the congregation shall offer one young bull for a burnt offering, for a pleasant aroma to YHWH, with the meal offering of it, and the drink offering of it, according to the judgment, and one male goat for a sin offering.
25 The priest shall make atonement for all the congregation of the children of Yisrael, and they shall be forgiven; for it was done unknowingly, and they have brought their offering, an offering made by fire to YHWH, and their sin offering before YHWH, for doing it unknowingly: 26 and all the congregation of the children of Yisrael shall be forgiven, and the sojourner who dwells among them; for in respect of all the people it was done unknowingly. – Bemidbar / Numbers 15:22-26 (SQV)
Sins committed unknowingly can be atoned for. There is a sacrifice that remains for the things done unwittingly. That is to say that although it is still a sin to eat shrimp, the person that does it without knowing that it’s a sin can still be forgiven. They are the ones that do not keep the commandments, and teach men to do the same, because they do not KNOW the commandments. This may sound redundant and confusing, but there is a difference between teaching to not keep the commandments (for lack of knowledge), and teaching against the commandments. One who does not keep them and teaches men to not keep them is the "least" according to Yeshua. Yet being "least" in the Kingdom, they are still IN the Kingdom. One who teaches AGAINST the Torah is not the same as one who teaches to not keep the Torah. One could be considered a "layman," who simply is not concerned with it. The other is one who directly opposes the Torah.
Because it is still a sin, there is still a punishment for it. (Remember, sin = death [Romans 6:23]). However, there is still a "sacrifice" for this unintentional sin per Numbers 15. Again, these are not the same as the people that went and directly and openly opposed and defied YHWH. Rather, these people simply do not have knowledge. They are not among the "great" because they have not "kept and taught" the commandments. Yet they were also not defiant. This would include all the people who not yet received the opportunity to accept Yeshua. Those alive at His second Coming that neither know Him nor have rejected Him. This also, by extension, could include the people who have died in the past without knowledge of Him. Though this concept is a bit murkier in Scripture. To be sure, there will be people in the Kingdom that are teaching (Isaiah 2, Ezekiel 44 and Micah 4) so there must be people learning. Those that are the "least" will be learning the commandments. What we also know is that every human being, past present and future, will get the opportunity to accept or reject Yeshua. Whether it be now, at His Second Coming, or at the Second Resurrection, only The Father knows.
Lastly, we have the "defiant" class. Back to Matthew 5 for our first example.
20 For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. – Mattithyahu / Matthew 5:20 (SQV)
What about the Pharisees made them righteous or unrighteous? They were hypocrites who taught the Torah but did not keep it properly. They were self-centered, only concerned with what was being seen on the outside. They did not have a circumcised heart. They lifted the laws of man to equality with, and sometimes above, the Law of YHWH. The problem with the Pharisees was that they KNEW the Torah, yet they CHOSE to do things their own way, to follow the commands of men, rather than the commands of Elohim. They openly defied the command of YHWH. So Yeshua is saying that in order to enter the Kingdom, you must be more righteous than the Pharisees. In order to be more righteous than the Pharisees, one must have the Torah on the inside, not just the outside. We have to "love YHWH with all our heart, mind, and strength."
Numbers 15 will yet again yield to our discussion, giving us more information on our third class.
32 While the children of Yisrael were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks on the Sabbath day. 33 Those who found him gathering sticks brought him to Moshe and Aharon, and to all the congregation. 34 They put him in custody, because it had not been declared what should be done to him. 35 YHWH said to Moshe, "The man shall surely be put to death: all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside of the camp." 36 All the congregation brought him outside of the camp, and stoned him to death with stones; as YHWH commanded Moshe. – Bemidbar / Numbers 15:32-36 (SQV)
In our minds, this seems far too excessive. This man was simply gathering sticks, what’s the big issue? Sure it was on the Sabbath, but he still shouldn't be put to death, right? Wrong.
Notice that this account follows IMMEDIATELY AFTER the regulations given for sins committed unknowingly. If the man had not known that was he was doing was a sin, he would have repented, they would have offered a sacrifice, and he would have been forgiven. However, that was not what happened. That’s because this was not done unknowingly. This was done in defiance. This is AFTER the entire Torah was handed down by Moses and AFTER all the people of Israel agreed to it (Exodus 19). So this man was acting defiantly, knowingly breaking the Torah of YHWH.
On top of that, we know that open defiance, rejection and rebellion lead to utter destruction. The man in Numbers 15 was put to death for living that way.
Ezekiel 38-39 deals with the invasion of Jerusalem that is coming in the future. This invasion leads up to the return of Messiah, which is talked about in Isaiah 66, Zechariah 14 and Revelation 19 as well. To summarize all four readings, it looks like this: Israel’s enemies surround her and at the last moment YHWH (or more specifically, Yeshua [who "comes in the Name of YHWH"]) returns to render destruction to His enemies. This battle ends in the death of a great multitude of people, those that openly oppose Him. Revelation 19:17-18 and Ezekiel 39:4 both say that when the enemy is struck they are fed to the birds of the sky. Revelation 14:20, 19:15 and Joel 3:13 all speak about vengeance taken upon those that oppose Jerusalem, using the same terminology of a winepress. The "winepress" is filled with the "ripe grapes of the harvest." This harvest is of those that are gathered to destruction for their defiance of YHWH. See article "The True Rapture" for more on this.
The last section of Scripture to mention in regards to the "defiant" class is Hebrews 10. Hebrews 10 describes what appears to be a very harsh judgment for those that know YHWH and yet still continue in sin. This chapter is very difficult for most Christians to explain, as it flies in the face of their "once saved, always saved" doctrine. It also seems to disagree with the idea that sin is normal. True, everyone has sinned, but the Father’s desire for ALL MANKIND is to STOP sinning. It is possible, despite what Christians may tell you. Now that's not to say you can ever "redeem" yourself through righteous living, because you have already sinned in the past, everyone has. Adam and Eve were handed the death sentence for one single sin. Even if they never again sinned the rest of their lives, they still would have deserved the death penalty for their initial sin.
There are those in Scripture that were counted blameless. And not just in the Tanakh, either. Job, of course, as we all know. But how many know there were "blameless" people in Yeshua’s time?
5 There was in the days of Herod, the king of Yehudah, a certain priest named Zekaryah, of the priestly division of Aviyah. He had a wife of the daughters of Aharon, and her name was Elisheva. 6 They were both righteous before Elohim, walking blamelessly in all the commands and righteous deeds of YHWH. – Loukas / Luke 1:5,6 (SQV)
Did you catch that? Both Zekaryah AND his wife were blameless, walking in all the commandments of YHWH. This is why I hate it when people say that it is impossible to keep all the commandments. And it is easier today than it was then! There is no established Levitical priesthood today, there is no Temple today, there are no slaughter offerings today, etc. It is said in Deuteronomy 30:11,
11For this command which I command you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach.
John even reiterated this in one of his letters.
3For this is the love of Elohim, that we keep His commands; and His commands are not burdensome. – Yochanan Alef / 1 John 5:3 (SQV)
They are not burdensome, they are not too difficult for us. The point is that everyone has still, at some point, sinned by breaking at least one of these commands. We have all chosen, at one time or another, to willfully disobey YHWH. That is why Paul said "For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of Elohim." (Romans 3:23). However, having sinned in the past we should be able to move on WITHOUT continuing in sin. After all, repentance is more than just an apology. It is to "turn back" away from sin. If you have a problem with lying, then to repent is not to say, "I’m sorry for lying, God, please forgive me." Repentance would be to STOP lying, to "turn back" to speaking the truth and walking in the Commands of The Almighty.
With this in mind, let’s continue to Hebrews 10.
26 For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remains no more a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and a fierceness of fire which will devour the adversaries. 28 Anyone who sets aside the Torah of Moshe dies without compassion on the word of two or three witnesses. 29 How much worse punishment do you think he will be judged worthy of, who has trodden under foot the Son of Elohim, and has counted the blood of the covenant with which He was set apart a common thing, and has insulted the Ruach of grace? – Ivrim / Hebrews 10:26-29 (SQV)
Sobering words to say the least. Now, let’s go ahead and clarify a few things. First off, we know all have sinned. Secondly, we know we have all sinned after having received knowledge of the truth; does this mean that we all are now awaiting judgment and fierceness of fire? No, because there is repentance. Again, repentance is the cessation of sin. What Hebrews 10 is saying is those that WILLFULLY disobey and continue in their sin after receiving the knowledge, THOSE are the ones that await the fire. Those are the "defiant" class we have been studying.
Now, as a quick side-note, we need to say something about the Book of Hebrews. This book deals only with two major issues. The first is the changing of the priesthood from the Aaronic Order to the Melchizadek Order (See article "The Law that Changed"). The second is the Day of Atonement. In this particular example, the writer of Hebrews (whom I believe to be Paul) is making reference to Numbers 15. He says willful sin cannot be purged with a sacrifice (I'm paraphrasing, of course), which is exactly what Numbers 15 shows us. The only sin that can be purged with a sacrifice is unintentional sin. This, of course, brings us back to Yeshua, whose death was the ONLY sacrifice that was capable of taking away all sin.
The key is to STOP sinning. If we live in open sin, openly rebelling against the Father after KNOWING what we’re doing is wrong, then as verse 26 states, "there is no longer a sacrifice for sins." Notice that this is written in present tense, as is verse 28, which also gives credence to the fact that he is referring to Numbers 15.
17 To him therefore who knows to do good, and does not do it, to him it is sin. – Ya'aqov / James 4:17 (SQV)
Again, this does not mean that when you slip up after receiving knowledge you are now eternally damned. It means that if you turn to a life of sin willfully, after receiving knowledge, then you put yourself in danger of destruction. Because in doing so, you are not deceived, but rather have sinned knowingly, and thus deserve death. It is about having the knowledge of truth, and choosing to do good, as James says. In the case of Adam and Eve, they did not fall until after Adam ate the fruit. I submit that the reason for this is because Eve sinned unknowingly, and was deceived, whereas Adam had knowledge.
[NOTE: Per 2 Cor. 11:3 and 1 Tim. 2:14, it was the woman who was deceived. Gen. 3:7 says that their eyes were opened, but not until after Adam ate the fruit. We find no evidence that Eve's eyes were opened as soon as she ate.]
Paul said in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11:
9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the Kingdom of Elohim? Do not be deceived. Neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor the effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortionists, will inherit the Kingdom of Elohim. 11 Such were some of you, but you were washed. But you were set apart. But you were declared right in the Name of the Master Yeshua, and in the Ruach of our Elohim.
Notice this section is PAST tense, meaning they are no longer reckoned as unrighteous. This does not mean that anyone who has ever committed fornication cannot inherit the Kingdom, or that anyone who has ever been drunk cannot inherit it. It means those that STILL PARTICIPATE in these open sins cannot inherit the Kingdom. Those that live their lives in open rebellion, contrary to the Word of YHWH.
So we can see these three classes represented throughout Scripture. From Numbers 15, through the prophets, on to Matthew 5, we see pattern after pattern and example after example. Going back to Ezekiel 44, we see that even there we can find the example of three classes of people: the rebellious Israelites, the Levites that disobeyed, and the righteous sons of Zadok. (Note that the Israelites are said to have been "rebellious" (defiant), the Levites are said to have gone "far from" YHWH, but still get to do the "little things" in the House (least), and the sons of Zadok are those that did not turn away from Him (great).)
And just as there are varying rewards based on merit, so too will there be various positions based on merit in the Kingdom. These positions are the "reward" that Yeshua mentions when He quotes numerous Scriptures like we looked at above, about a reward based on your works. This "reward" is not salvation, as salvation is equal to all who have it: eternal life.
But consider also the parables Yeshua gave such as the talents of gold in Matthew 25. He uses the example of THREE people: one who had five talents, one who had two talents, and one who had one talent. The "great" one had five, and doubled that to make ten. The "lesser" one had two, and doubled that to make four. Both of these servants received greater rewards than what they had. But the one who had one talent did nothing with it, and he was thrown out.
We also find that immediately following this, is the parable of the sheep and the goats (can't be a coincidence, right?). But each of the three men did "works" with what they were given. According to their "works" they also received their reward. The one who acted wickedly and did no works, he was thrown outside, which is a metaphor for being outside the Kingdom during the Millennium.
To close, let’s review these three classes that we’ve been going over. The "great" are those that keep the commands of Elohim and teach them to others. The "least" are those that do not keep them and do not teach them. The "defiant" are those that KNOW the commands, yet CHOOSE to rebel against them. Notice there are even three classes in Revelation 3:16: hot, cold, and lukewarm. The assembly of Laodicea is punished because they are "lukewarm." It is about a mixture. A mixture of hot and cold. A mixture of knowing the commands and the continual worldly lifestyle. Just as there are currently three classes in this world now, in the end, after the Millennial Reign of Yeshua, there will only be two: sheep and goats; wheat and tares; for Him, or against Him. This is why we see evidence that there will be people still learning the Torah during the Millennium (Is. 2 & Mic. 4), and there will still be people that are able to disobey (Zech. 14, which shows they can choose to not come up for Sukkot). Jeremiah 31 says that a day is coming "when a man will no longer say to his neighbor, 'know YHWH'" for everyone will know Him. That day is coming, and we pray for it evermore earnestly.
I pray this study has blessed you. Be Berean. Shalom.