Summaries of Conference Sessions

The following is a summary of the main points of the speakerís messages. We cannot possibly give all of the scriptures or historical notes that the speakers used to prove their conclusions.

Dean Wheelock, publisher of Hebrew Roots, gave the background of his ministry in his first session. He became a Worldwide Church of God member in 1968, attended Ambassador College, and then attended the Church of God International from 1979-84. He felt he learned many things during all of those years and has no regrets.

Wheelock believes we are in a marriage covenant with Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus the Messiah). We need to think more in the frame of mind of the female direction to understand this. When a woman is betrothed to a man, wouldn't she want to learn more about him, his customs and his religion? Since the Father sent Jesus as a Jew, Wheelock concluded that we all need to learn more about being a Jew (though Wheelock made it clear that he has no intention of converting to Judaism).

Wheelock said Yeshua never condemned the way the Jews worship—He took issue with their heavy burdens they placed on the people. Wheelock said that the Jews have maintained the oracles of God: the Hebrew scriptures, the synagogue service (patterned after the Temple service), the calendar, and the oral law. Wheelock does not believe that we have to accept every oral tradition—some of the oral traditions conflict, but provide the basis for challenge, study and growth.

In his second session, Wheelock made numerous comparisons between the life of Christ and his understanding of the ancient Jewish wedding ceremony—and further showed how our modern wedding ceremonies are almost exactly opposite. Parallels included: bride = church (ekklesia); the groomís father chose the bride = the Father calls believers; the bride had the right to refuse the groom = individuals can reject Yeshua; ketubah (betrothal & marriage contract) = covenant with believers; a price was paid for the bride = believers are "bought with a price"; the bride accepts the contract by drinking glass of wine that groom pours = believers accept Yeshuaís blood which he poured out; groom leaves the bride to prepare a hoopa (wedding chamber) for bride = Yeshua went to heaven to prepare a place for us; the bride is veiled when she goes out in public = people do not know who the bride of Yeshua is today; groom has two attendants = Yeshua had Moses and Elijah; the groomís father decided when the wedding would take place = only the Father knows when Yeshua will return; the bride and groom spend seven days together in the chamber while the guests feast outside = believers celebrate wedding with Yeshua in heaven at his return (Rev 19:7); bride and groom wear crowns = Yeshua and believers will wear crowns.

Wheelock further explained that at a Jewish wedding, it is said that the two shall become one, in the Hebrew echad—the same word used to describe how the Eternal is "one" (Deut 6:4). Wheelock said the Torah was our friend—it helps us understand Messiah. A question was raised as to what are the primary sources explaining ancient Jewish wedding practices—some information is in the Bible and some is in the Mishna and Talmud.

In his third session, Wheelock talked about "Who is a Jew?" He refuted the teaching of some groups that claim modern day Jews are non-Israelites pretending to be Jews—John 11:1 records that Yeshua (a Jew) "came to his own and his own received him not." Also, modern DNA tests have been able to establish clear Jewish, Levitical, and priestly descent. Wheelock said we should not be picky about racial descent—of the two righteous people who saw both the Exodus and entered the promised land, Caleb was a Gentile and received part of Judahís inheritance (Josh 14:6; 15:13; Gen 15:18; 36:9).

Wheelock also spoke against "replacement theology"—the concept that the Eternal has rejected the Jews and replaced them with Christians. He said God has entrusted the oracles to the Jews whether they believe or not. "Salvation is of the Jews" (John 4:22). Wheelock said Gentiles are wild olive branches and God is the husbandman and He chooses whom he will graft in. Wheelock further stated that the tree is Israel—we are not grafted into a gentile church or tree—we become Jews.

This writer cannot think of one person who did not like Dean Wheelockís gentle manner of speaking—he always seemed open to other points of view.

 

Ronald L. Dart, founder of Christian Educational Ministries, spoke twice: Thursday and Friday. In his first message, he talked about the lack of knowledge that many Sabbatarians have about the story of the birth of Jesus—a survey of their youth found that half did not know the name of the mother of Jesus. Dart explained that many people misinterpret Deuteronomy 12:31 which says that "for every abomination to the LORD which He hates they have done to their gods." It says everything He hates, they do—not He hates everything that they do. The difference is that some people attempt to reject all religious practice that they find among pagan religion—even if the practice is also encouraged in the Bible.

In the process of learning to hate all of the pagan elements in the Christmas story, many of us have accidentally learned to hate the parts in the Bible. Mary is an excellent example for women to emulate today. When the angel told her what to do, she did it without question (Luke 1:38)—many of the other famous people in the Bible did not have such a record. Dart explained that the example of Maryís praise of the Eternal, the humility of staying in a stable, and other lessons that traditional Christians have learned—but many Sabbatarians pay little attention to.

In his second session, Dart talked about the "Torah codes." The theory behind "Torah codes" is that each letter of Torah is divinely decreed—that the universe is built from the Torah letters and all significant events can be found in the Torah by rearranging the letters in various mathematical ways. Names of Jewish rabbis, Israeli leaders, gulf war figures, and numerous other things can be found in this manner. However, since these names almost never appear in a certain pattern, these prophecies are only useful in hindsight—they cannot be used to predict events. If the lives of everyone were already predicted in the Torah, how could the Eternal hold us responsible for our sin? We would have to commit the prophesied sin in order to fulfill the Torah codes. Dart explained that nearly all prophecy is conditional—if people repent, the prophesied evil will not come (Jer 18:8).

Dart went on to explain that there are several families of Hebrew manuscripts with at least 130 differences and errors. Dead Sea Scroll research has shown that the Hebrew text used during the first century has differences from the 7th to 9th century Masoretic texts which we use today. The Septuagint (Greek Old Testament) was probably translated from something similar to the first century Hebrew texts. The text we have today is very, very good—but is not letter perfect.

Dart went on to say that there are few if any people who have been convinced the Bible was inspired from Torah codes—the major use of them seems to be for one religious group to try to establish authority over another. Some people have tried to use Torah codes to establish rabbinic Judaism. He believes that they cannot be used to establish the Jewish "oral law" either.

Drifting somewhat from his original subject, Dart mentioned that he has great respect for Jews and is not anti-Semitic, but believes that Rabbinic Judaism comes from man, not God. He mentioned that the Babylonian mystery religion has infiltrated Judaism as well as Christianity.

 

Joseph Good has been involved in teaching the Hebrew origins of Christianity for many years. He has television and radio programs, a tape ministry, has done some writing, and takes guided tours to Israel. He has no previous connection with "Church of God" groups. Good believes our calling is to get to know Messiah and that God created the Jewish people so we could get to know him. Yet Good classifies himself as a Christian and firmly believes that Yeshua (Jesus) was sacrificed for our sins.

Joe Good spoke on the same subject for all three sessions: "Hanukkah & Prophecies." He believes that it is vital to understand Hanukkah and Purim to understand prophecy—that we may perish if we do not. John 10:22 shows that Yeshua was in the temple on the "feast of dedication" which is Hanukkah. Antiochus Epiphanes IV tried to enforce Hellenism (Greek culture) on the Jews. He commanded them to stop circumcision, Torah readings and sacrifices. Antiochus made idols of Jupiter Olympus or Zeus but replaced the face with an image of himself. He ordered all priests to sacrifice a pig to Zeus. Mattathias refused to do this, but said, "All who love Torah and God, Follow Me!" He fled to the wilderness more as a personal stand—he did not intend to start a war. But many others followed him. They began to study Torah and learn to fight. Good tied in Daniel 11:31-39 to this action.

The Maccabees were the leading family in resisting the evil Antiochus. Good explained that Maccabee means "hammer" which is often symbolic of Messiah.

Good believes that Antiochus was a type of false Messiah and that in the end time (very soon) a false Elijah (Revelationís "false prophet") will come preparing the way for a similar false Messiah. Good believes that the false Messiah may look exactly like the pictures of Jesus that people often see. Why? Because many of these pictures are patterned after the face on the "shroud of Turin," a Catholic relic that is purported to be the burial cloth of Jesus. Recent evidence shows that this shroud is truly ancient. Coins appear to cover the eyes of a dead person—a Greek burial custom to provide money for passage across the river Styx on the way to the afterlife. The coins appear to be leptons, coinage that was in use in 100 B.C.

Good displayed pictures of the shroud that appears to have marks where the man was beaten and a spear was put in his side, but the shroud did not match many other Biblical descriptions of Yeshua: "His visage was marred more than any man..." (Isa 52:14); His beard was plucked out (Isa 50:6); He was not buried in a Greek manner but a Jewish manner (John 19:40); Yeshua had a separate cloth on his face, it was not all part of one big shroud (John 20:7); and other differences.

Good read from other archaeological reports that indicated the face on the shroud is the same as the face of Zeus Kurios—which is the face of Antiochus Epiphanes. Many scriptures mention an image being nailed to a tree and worshiped (Isa 40:18-20; 44:9-20; 45:18-21; 46:5-7; 41:7). Good believes that this has been fulfilled by Catholics and others who have nailed the image of Antiochus Epiphanes to a cross and worshiped it. He believes Satan has been working all this time to set up his false Messiah that people will believe is the true Messiah. Good stressed that the Message of Hanukkah is to get rid of images of men and study the words of the Eternal.

In his third session, Joseph Good related the prophecies of Daniel and revelation to produce a time-frame for the false Messiah and the true Messiah. None of the Servantsí News staff were able to capture this high-speed lecture accurately enough to attempt to convey it here. If you are interested, please get the tape. Good did state that he felt another temple would be built and that the Messiah would return on the Day of Atonement.

Good also mentioned that he is involved in helping to build a model of the temple in Israel, that other Jews are building a full-size tabernacle (the portable version) and other Jews have made extensive preparations to build a temple on the traditional site. Good is certain that the original site of the Holy of Holies was right in the middle of the Dome of the Rock mosque—and that the Eternal will have to give them the land in some miraculous way. At this time, priests have been trained, and are now practicing sacrifices with blemished sheep. Temple vessels have been made. Good said that Melody, the red heifer reported in the press as being essential to make the water of purification may become disqualified, but that there have been other red heifers born in Israel that are not well known. Good noted that sacrifices could begin at only an altar, at the tabernacle or at a quickly built temple. Good expects these may begin some time in 1998.

 

Ray Wooten of United Christian Ministires had been a Worldwide Church of God minister for many years, but has worked as an independent minister for 3 years. He spoke on the topic of the Two Adams (1Cor 15:45-58) for all three sessions. He believes that God making man in His image is the theme of the Bible (Gen 1:26-27). The first couple, Adam was given a chance to perform this function, but they departed from Godís way, so the job had to be done by the second Adam, Jesus Christ (Yeshua HaMashiach). Through one man sin entered the world (Rom 5:12-15). Adam and Eve were direct creations of God. They had no human father or mother. They were not like anyone else—some things that they did had an effect on the whole human race.

There is no one else like Jesus Christ. He also affects everyone. Without Him, eternal life is not available (1Jn 5:11-12). Wooten explained that He sacrificed Himself for us—He did not simply die "in place of us." In the Old Testament, God spoke by various people in various ways, but now He speaks to us by His Son (Heb 1:1). He taught a way of service—those who want to be great in His kingdom have to serve others (Matt 20:20-28).

Wooten explained his understanding of the Kingdom: there will be little need for enforcement because Satan will be removed, people will have the Holy Spirit, and they will have a natural tendency to do what is right. Righteousness will come from inside. "but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter" (Rom 2:29). "For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.... There is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free..." (Gal 3:26,28).

Wooten encouraged those who have a ministry from God—large or small—to be diligent to perform it (Luke 13:29-35). Jesus did not fear the religious leaders or Herod. On the other hand, He did not get involved or try to bear influence on the political issues of his day.

In his final session, Ray Wooten emphasized the need for Godís grace—it does not negate His law, but it fills the void in us. Wooten believes that the believers are now being scattered.

"Oh, that they had such a heart in them that they would fear Me and always keep all My commandments, that it might be well with them and with their children forever!" (Deut 5:29). Wooten said they simply could not do it without the Holy Spirit. He showed that today, true fellowship comes with Messiah—we cannot stop with His coming, death and resurrection—we must fellowship with Him now. We all have the same Messiah, but need forbearance for one another. The New Testament records Gentile converts, and thousands of Jews zealous for the Torah (Acts 21:20). There is one body, one baptism, one spirit. We are all different so that we have to exercise and learn forbearance. Wooten explained that Messiahís body functions through spiritual gifts, not hierarchical positions.

Even with the great power that was manifested in the New Testament, Godís grace is also manifested through weakness (2Co 11:1-2, 16-30, 12:10).

 

Norman Edwards, editor of Servantsí News, spoke on Where have we been? He started by expounding the condition of the Old Testament figures: Adam, Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, etc. These men had relationships and knowledge of the Eternal, but did not have either Judaism or Christianity. They had no Torah, no priesthood, etc. There were numerous other people alive at that time—they were not all created in vain. Even after the covenant with Israel, there were Gentiles without knowledge of the covenant to whom the Eternal gave specific rewards or punishments based on their actions (Abimilech, Rehabites, Amorites, Ninevites, etc.).

From the above, Edwards stated that we should learn that the Eternal does not have to work with everyone the same way. Today, there is a vast amount of truth and error mixed into mainstream Judaism and Christianity. From the large number of papers received by Servantís News, Edwards was convinced that he is going to die long before he is able to thoroughly study everything that might have a bearing on his spiritual life.

Our spiritual lives should not primarily consist of the groups we join, but what we do with the knowledge we have. There is probably more difference between the true seekers of God and the bench warmers within any given organization than there is between all the differing groups.

Edwards stressed that the people of this world, today, need to know the basics of truth more than we need to know the esoteric things that many of us are striving after.

Edwards read Matthew 11:20-24 which shows that Gentile cities will fair better in judgment than those that know the Torah, but do not do it. We do not have to be connected to a big organization to do the Eternalís work. We need to seek Him so that we can do what he wants us to do. Divine intervention is available in our life if we ask in faith, not seeking our own will.

Edwardsí second session was an effort to highlight the most important things from the scriptures. Ultimately, we must live by every word of the Eternal (Deut 8:3), but some things are more important. There is an account for everything that has been done (Ecc 3:9-15). We will be judged by how well we obey Him (Ecc 12:13-14). "He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?" (Mic 6:8).

Some passages specifically ask the question: "What is important?" Edwards read Mark 12:28-34—Love the Eternal with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself. Psalm 40:1-10 and 51:10-19 show that the Eternal did not originally want animal sacrifices. Luke 10:25-37 shows who our neighbors are—not just the people who believe like we do.

Matt 19:16-21 shows where Yeshua told a man he had to sell all of his possessions to receive Eternal life—the 613 points did not require this, but Abraham had to get up and leave everything. Paul, at one time, simplified his teaching by saying "For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified" (1 Cor 2:1-5). Hebrews 6:1-2 lists six basic doctrines that we should all understand. Edwards suggested that we all make sure we understand them—and that we might not understand judgment as well as we should. Matt 25:31-46 shows that people will be judged positively even though they did not know that they seemed to be unfamiliar with Jesus (Yeshua) and the scriptures. Luke 12:35-48 indicates that there will be correction (stripes) in the judgement, not simply death or life.

Edwards third session was on "Where are we going?" He said it is easy to see where the big long-time groups are going. These kind of groups have existed so long that virtually all questions have been asked and answered along the way—most study and writing is to better defend the groupís position. Edwards concluded that these groups will last as long as stability can be maintained and any corruption kept hidden. Leaders are usually chosen by some political process that has little to do with righteousness.

Edwards also pointed out that groups dwindle because members begin to study individually and eventually disagree. If an organization begins to change its doctrine, far more people will begin to study independently. Fracturing can continue even over obscure doctrines or leadership.

In the first century, there were many groups of Jews. The Qumran group was so righteous that they completely removed themselves from Jerusalem. A double lesson can be learned here: (1) they were so separated that they had no influence in the New Testament at all, but (2) in their strangeness, the Eternal still used them to preserve their writings for our day.

Edwards emphasized that we really need to seek the Eternalís will for us. It may be quite varied. John the Baptist was out of the public for a long time, but then later came to do public works. He was a loner and then a preacher to everyone. He did not receive all the Old Testament promises of long life and prosperous fields and to see his children and grandchildren, yet Jesus said that he was the greatest man living at that time. Some of us may suffer great things in life, some may not.

Edwards pointed out that the Eternal could have sent Apollos to the Gentiles, but he sent a Jew, a Pharisee that was schooled after Gamaliel. Also, Jehu, king of Israel was not righteous but did some obedient things and was blessed for it. Even unrighteous people can teach truth (though we should discourage people from being teachers who do not meet the qualifications of 1Tim 3 and Titus 1).

Edwards concluded by talking about how we seek the Eternalís will for our lives. The Bible does not say "John Doe, go do this...." Edwards said that the Eternal speaks to some in dreams or visions, others by overwhelming feelings to do something. We should not superstitiously interpret all events in our lives as signs from the Eternal, but pray specifically for Him to show us His will, and then wait for His answer.

Edwards went on to say that most former "Church of God" members have learned a lot of truth, but also learned that hierarchies do not work. Much has been invested in these people—they have certain experience that few others have. Edwards believed that as the Jerusalem church was scattered in Acts 8:4 to preach the Gospel, so we have been scattered so we can teach others. Are we going to be survivors or not?

 

Jim Rector gave the Sabbath sermon entitled Connecting With God. He began by saying "This is the day that the Lord hath made. Let us be glad and rejoice in it" (Pslm 118:24). Below, we list his five main points:

(1) Recognize the purpose of God. Even when someone is sick there is some godly purpose being worked out (Jn 11:1-4). Samson had great power, but failed to see the purpose—was so self consumed and ended up in Delilah's barber shop (Jdg 16). Hezekiah was a much-blessed man yet got too involved with Babylon (2Kngs 20). Job, Joseph, and others had trials for a purpose.

(2) Realize there is a process of God. This may be different than what we may expect. Abraham was promised a son at age 75, but had to wait 24 years. Jesus (Yeshua) allowed Lazarus to die—people told him that he waited too long. Throughout Scripture, God works in many unusual ways.

(3) We must believe in a God of the now. It is easy to believe in the God of the past (who did great things in the Bible) and a God of the future (that will fulfill prophecy some day. It is hard to believe in the God of the now, yet we are commanded to do so (Matt 6:34). he is the God of the living, not the dead (Matt 22:32). How many of us really want to walk in the footsteps of the Messiah? How many are really willing to do what He did? Live as He lived? Not just want to do it but actually take steps to do the things that He did?

(4) We need our stony heart taken away. (Ezk 11:19, 36:26, John 11:38-39.) No fertile ground in stony places (Matt 13:5). Like circumcision, we must remove the hardness of our flesh. It can get painful to remove the stone from our heart.

(5) God wants to move us from death to life. (Rom 6:3-5; Is 25:6.) God is a God of the now. We can't just rest on the past or the future. Consider every moment of your life valuable—even when pain is involved. God is not interested in just making better versions of ourselves. He is trying to make new creatures in us, a transformation unlike anything that we can imagine. Walk in the footsteps of Messiah. Go where He went, do what He did. Walk His walk. Make it real.

We love to be religious. But we fear to change. We need to live the spirit-filled life as they did in the book of Acts. Very few are really involved and doing as Messiah did and really living the power. We have a way to go. God is the God of the living and we must be connected to Him.

 

Yaffah daCosta spoke at one session. She was raised as a Roman Catholic, but has since found that her ancestors were probably Portugese Jews that were forcibly converted by the Catholic inquisition. She has 30 years experience working as an adult educator and management consultant, but also produces her own radio talk show teaching Torah to Christians.

DaCostaís message was essentially a book-report on "Jesus the Pharisee" by Orthodox Rabbi Harvey Falk. She asked, "Who are we supposed to exceed in terms of righteousness? The Jews?? No, the scribes and Pharisees" (Matt 5:17-20). DaCosta explained that beginning around 30 BCE, two schools of Pharisees developed, the School of Hillel and the School of Shammai. Shammai said that the only way Gentiles could be in the World To Come was to keep the 613 commandments and all of oral law. Hillel said "no". This same argument was found in Acts 15.

DaCosta explained that there were over 350 major arguments between the Schools of Hillel and Shammai. Yeshua nearly always supported the Hillel position. In 70 CE (A.D.), the year the temple was destroyed, the Halachah [offical, binding teaching] was decided in favor of Hillel. Rabbinic Judaism believes that the reason for the destruction was "hatred without cause", which turned out to be the severe hatred the Jews had for the Gentile world, especially the occupying Romans. This hatred was a doctrine of Shammai and abhorred by Hillel. For centuries, most of the Christian world that justified hatred of the Jews from the scriptures did not realize that they were basing their hatred on arguments against the Shammai school which had been long dead. The official Rabbinic position today is to not hate others but to love them, respect them and honor them.

DaCosta posed this question: "You Sabbath keepers, you rest from your labors and keep the Sabbath holy, yet you engage in usery and interest, you engage in unjust weights and measures, you make covenants with the ungodly and their gods. Would those who read about this statement 2000 years later consider me to be one from your midst or as an outsider, bashing you?" She said that she would probably be considered an outsider, even though she was here as a part of the group. Similarly, then, daCosta asked: could Jesus have been less of an outsider to the Pharisee community than we previously have thought?

—Norman Edwards & Norman Arthur


Conference Tapes

For tapes of In The Footsteps of the Messiah sessions, write to Mitchell Smith, 405 North Main St, Lindale, TX 75771, 903-882-7446. If you would like to make a donation it would be greatly appreciated. The cost to record and mail each tape is approximately $1.00.

Dean Wheelock:

____ Background of Hebrew Roots

____ Messiah in the Jewish Wedding

____ Who is a Jew?

Ronald L. Dart:

____ Birth of Jesus from the Bible

____ What do "Torah Codes" Prove?

Joseph Good:

____ Hanukkah & Prophecies, part 1

____ Hanukkah & Prophecies, part 2

____ Hanukkah & Prophecies, part 3

Ray Wooten:

____ The Two Adams, part 1

____ The Two Adams, part 2

____ The Two Adams, part 3

Norman Edwards:

____ Where Have We Been?

____ What is Important?

____ Where Are We Going?

Jim Rector:

____ Connecting With God

Five-Speaker Panel Mod er ated by Rob Feith:

____ Questions and Answers

Yaffah daCosta:

____ Jesus the Pharisee


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