In this series we will publish extracts from a new book by Johannes Fichtenbauer, an Archdeacon and part of the Charismatic Renewal of the Catholic Church.
Four rabbis find Yeshua
For 1,400 years, between the 4th and 18th centuries, there was not a single Messianic Jewish church or congregation on earth. Then suddenly, in the late 17th century, in a sovereign and supernatural way, the Holy Spirit began to bring Jews back to their Messiah Yeshua (Jesus). It was like a resurrection from the dead!
The first event that we know about happened in a small town in southern Poland, Pinczow (near Krakow), around the year 1680. Four well-known rabbis – Rabbi Krokeffer and Rabbi Sender, both from what is now the Czech Republic, and Rabbi Chaija Chajon from Turkey met with the Chief Rabbi of Pinczow, interestingly called by his people “Rabbi Megalleh Amukkoth” (the one who discovers deep mysteries).
After intensive studies of the scriptures, especially as they compared the Hebrew Prophets with the New Testament, the veil began to fall from the eyes of the four rabbis. They saw that many of the Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled in the person of Yeshua the Messiah (Jesus Christ). They began to understand that Yeshua of Nazareth is the Messiah of Israel and the Savior of mankind. These four rabbis shared two convictions: It was clear to them they should not join any Gentile Christian church for if they did, they would cease to be Jews. They would preach the Gospel only in secret among close friends.
The Messianic Jewish Church begins
In the beginning of the 19th century many Christians suffered under the invasion by Napoleon of Europe and saw it as the beginnings of the End Times and the coming Anti-Christ. As a result, many Protestant groups were awakened to take an interest in the future of Israel. By studying the scriptures, they understood there would never be a fulfillment of prophecy and God’s plans for the Last Days without the return of the Jews to their homeland in Israel. In order to hasten the Second Coming of Christ, many Protestant churches (mainly in Britain, the US and Germany) began to take an interest in inviting Jews to become followers of Jesus Christ (Messiah Yeshua).
Until then, Jews who accepted Yeshua as their Messiah had to give up all Jewish elements of their lifestyle. Now, for the first time, these Jewish believers in Yeshua were allowed to continue living as Jews. Many congregations among the Anglicans, Baptists, and other denominations helped to develop what was called the “Christian Hebrew Movement.” Jews, who accepted Yeshua as their Messiah, formed Hebrew groups inside and under the umbrella of Gentile Christian churches. This was a radical missionary concept for that era.
The Church’s Ministry Among Jewish People (CMJ) is an Anglican example of this kind of missionary society founded in 1809. Their missionary agenda for reaching Jewish people with the Gospel included:
- Declaring the Messiahship of Jesus to the Jew first and also to the non-Jew
- Endeavoring to teach the Church its Jewish roots
- Encouraging the physical restoration of the Jewish people to Eretz Israel (the land of Israel) and forming an independent state in the Holy Land, decades before Zionism began as a movement
- Encouraging the Hebrew Christian/Messianic Jewish movement
- Engaging in pro-Israel advocacy.
In 1813, a Hebrew-Christian congregation called “Benei Abraham” (Children of Abraham) started meeting at the chapel in Palestine Place, east London. This was the first recorded assembly of Jewish believers in Jesus and the forerunner of today’s Messianic Jewish congregations.
In its heyday, CMJ had over 250 missionaries. It supported the creation of the combined Anglican and Lutheran Bishopric in Jerusalem in 1841, and the first incumbent was one of its workers, Michael Solomon Alexander, a former Jewish rabbi. The society was active in the establishment of Christ Church, Jerusalem, the oldest Protestant church in the Middle East, completed in 1849, which is still operated by CMJ though not under the control of the Anglican Church.
The next step occurred in Moldova, a region belonging to Russia in the late 19th century. A Jewish merchant named Joseph Rabinowitz, who lived in Kishinev was very concerned about the growing antisemitism throughout the entire region. He began helping young Jews emigrate from Russia to the Eretz Israel to escape persecutions. During one of his regular trips to Jerusalem, while walking on the Mount of Olives one day, Rabinowitz had a strong religious experience. He saw Jesus as a Jew coming towards him, saying: “I am the one whom you seek; I am the solution to your problem.” After this experience, Rabinowitz was convinced that Yeshua was the Messiah and Savior. From that moment on, his life changed. He decided to cease working so hard to bring Jews to Israel, but instead, to invest all his energy and resources on Jewish evangelism in Moldova to win them to the Messiah.
Those who were saved, in his hometown of Kishinev, formed the first independent congregation of Messianic Jews since the first centuries. He insisted that his congregation was not affiliated with any Christian church. This marked the birth of the completely independent Messianic Jewish Movement in the modern era.
Hatikva: a nation brings hope
By the end of World War 11, six million Jews had been slaughtered. The United Nations took action and on November 29th, 1947 a majority of 33 states voted for the creation of an independent Jewish state. On the 14th May 1948, Ben Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister, announced the creation of the sovereign state of Israel. This event changed the perspective of Jewish people the world over giving them Tikvah (hope) for the future in a direct fulfillment of Ezekiel’s prophecy.
And it happened that in the very year that Israel was established, many Jews began to recognize Yeshua as their Messiah. Others, who were already secret followers of Yeshua, decided to make their faith public, both in Israel as well as America and Europe. The momentum of Messianic growth multiplied exponentially after the Six Day War in June of 1967 and the restoration of Jerusalem to the Jewish people.
There was something about the newborn state of Israel standing up against enormous odds and in real danger of extinction when all the surrounding Arab nations tried to annihilate the Jewish people and “cast them into the sea” as they once boasted. When Arab armies with tanks came from all sides in June of 1967, and again, a miracle happened and “little David beat Goliath,” people around the world wondered: “How could such a thing have happened?”
When the Jews re-took the Old City of Jerusalem, the Temple Mount and the Western Wall from Jordanian domination in a war against all the Arab armies that lasted only six days, Jewish people felt blessed and proud. For many Christians and Jews this was a clear sign that God had not abandoned them. The many Jews now following Yeshua the Messiah even produced their own Messianic National Anthem, Hatikvah. In 1948, there were about one and a half million Jews in Israel. By the end of the Six Day War in 1967, the number had grown to 2.5 million.
There are many important prophecies about Israel in the Bible and with the return of the Jewish people to Eretz Israel, at least four of these seemed to have been fulfilled:
(1) The Jews will possess the land of Israel again as their own independent state (Amos 9:11-15).
(2) The Jews will return to the land, coming from the four corners of the earth – north, south, east and west (Isaiah 43:5-6).
(3) The arid desert land will become a huge green garden. Today Israel is a lush green garden, while many of the surrounding countries are barren deserts (Isaiah 35:1-2; 41:18-20).
(4) Before the end times, Jerusalem will be freed from the dominion of the Gentiles and will be the capital of Israel (Zechariah 1:17; 2:4; 12:1-9).
All articles in this series can be found here: Mystery of the Olive Tree
Extract prepared by Paddy Monaghan, founder of Christian Friends of Israel, Ireland.