Before and After: Reading the Book of Acts through a Jewish Lens

Many see the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost as having ushered in the era of the Church. However, a distancing from what came before Pentecost has also brought alienation from the Biblical/Jewish foundation and from the broader narrative described in the Bible.

Pentecost is Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks – one of the 3 pilgrimage feasts described in the Bible that God commanded His people to observe throughout their generations (Exodus 34:32). In the book of Acts we read that the followers of Yeshua faithfully continued observing this holy day. This was the reason why they and many others were in Jerusalem during that time of the year … culminating in the miracle of Pentecost.

When looking at the Book of Acts through a Jewish lens, we see that after Pentecost, the Messiah’s disciples did not cease to be Jewish nor did they sever their connection with the people of Israel. The only difference (though an important one) was being immersed into the Holy Spirit, setting in motion the work of sanctification in the disciples’ lives and the power to fulfill the great commission.

The New Covenant confirms the promises made to Abraham and his descendants, the people of Israel. It also includes additional conditions for His followers and provides the means for fulfilling the Lord’s commission to the whole world. Preaching the Good News is an essential part of it. Israel’s call to be a light to the world was further magnified in the life of the first followers of the Messiah as God enabled them to perform mighty miracles (Isaiah 60). Their ministry was overcoming the dark stronghold of this world – its anti-God mentality. Everyone immersed into the Holy Spirit has now become part of this great call. This is why Paul when writing to the Colossian believers, reminded them that God

“delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love” (Colossians 1:13).

To the End of the Earth

“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you shall be witnesses to Me in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

Almost two thousand years later, we are witnessing a re-emergence of the first century trend. God is raising up Jewish disciples of the Messiah who will go forth from the Land of Israel, bringing the living Word to the end of the earth. There is a growing hunger in many nations for the Word of the Lord from Zion.

Years ago when Dan Juster and Eitan Shishkoff were talking about the rise of the apostolic in Israel, I remember having reservations. But by His grace, even our small congregation of 150 has begun to bring the Word of the Messiah to distant lands.

In May 2016, after Passover, our congregation was blessed with the opportunity to send our ministers on short missions abroad with the sole purpose of bringing the Word of the Lord from Israel.

“For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2:3).

God sent a stiff-necked Israeli named Jonah out of Zion, to the nations, to bring the entire city of Nineveh to repentance. He can do similar things again, in our day!

This article originally appeared in Return to Zion’s Newsletter, July 2016, and reposted with permission.