Where hymns mislead us about life after death

You already know the gospel isn’t “believe in Jesus so you’ll go to heaven.”

But what does the Bible actually say about heaven? I’ve been a Messianic believer my entire life, yet “going to heaven” has always been fuzzy to me.

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Pop religion has misled us into thinking Jesus is returning to earth in order to take us to heaven. It’s almost become a goal of Christian life: believe in Jesus so that you’ll go to heaven when you die. We think of heaven as the ultimate destination, as our eternal home.

While the Bible does tell us we will dwell with God after death, heaven is only temporary. Our eternal residence will be here on earth, not in heaven. It will be here on earth, with transformed and resurrected bodies, not in heaven as a disembodied soul.

Despite Judaism and Christianity sharing the hope of the resurrection -- as assured by the Tenakh and the New Testament -- many Christians mistakenly think Messiah is coming back only to bring us to heaven. In this perspective, resurrection is almost an afterthought; eternal life achieved by disembodied soul in heaven, rather than resurrected physical body on earth.

Renowned Christian scholar N.T. Wright comments that this unbiblical view of heaven has even made its way into traditional Christian hymns. He points out that many well-loved hymns in the church paint an unbiblical picture of Jesus returning to earth in order to take everyone to heaven.

In his book, Surprised by Hope, Wright says of the much-loved How Great Thou Art:

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Wright is calling out misleading hymns that suggest Christ is returning to earth in order to take us to heaven. Such a view is contrary to the Bible’s picture of the Messiah’s appearance.

The Bible’s picture is Messiah coming to earth as king/leader/president/prime minister. It’s David’s descendant who will sit on the throne of Israel forever. This is the Kingdom of Heaven, the Kingdom of God. It’s not in heaven, it’s here on earth.

The Bible says he’ll be king over the whole earth: all nations will be folded into one nation: the nation of God, what the gospels call the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven.

Messiah will bring us, his people, into that place – centered around Jerusalem, yes, the earthly Jerusalem in the land of Israel.

Going to heaven isn’t our final destiny.

It is true that when we die, we will be with the Lord. Paul says in the New Testament, “I desire to be absent from the body and be with the Lord.” 

Likewise, the Jewish Maccabees said of their eternal destinies, “For if we die, Abraham and Isaac and Jacob will welcome us, and all the fathers will praise us.”

But that’s only a temporary state. Going to heaven is not the end goal.

The end goal is to be with the Lord here on earth. He will be king over the whole earth, over all nations. This nation of God, this Kingdom of Heaven, with its capital in Jerusalem, ruled by the Jewish Messiah instituting world peace – this is our eternal home.

Dead? A miracle from God will resurrect you, transforming your body into a state without sickness, suffering, or death. Its pristine state. Then he’ll bring you to his kingdom in Jerusalem.

Alive? You’ll be caught up with Messiah in the air as he descends to the Mt. of Olives just outside Jerusalem’s gates, and you’ll join him with the saints in his coronation in Jerusalem.

That’s our eternal home. Not the airy spiritual place of disembodied souls.

Our eternal home is the earthly nation of God, where Messiah reigns as the Jewish king in Jerusalem over the whole earth, raises the dead, removes sickness and disease, puts death away forever, culminating in the restoration of all things.

That’s your eternal home, fine Kineti reader, and it will take place right here on earth, the place where God put you.

Officiating a Messianic wedding

Summary: Officiating a Messianic wedding? Here are the words I used. Thoughts on becoming a minister in the US.  Plus, Messianic wedding music.

I officiated my first wedding the other week. The couple attend my congregation and asked me to officiate the wedding. It was a real honor to do so and join two Messianic believers together in marriage.

Photo from the wedding I officiated

Seeing as how I’ve never officiated a wedding before, I had little idea what to say. I did a bit of research and found some traditional words spoken at Jewish and Christian weddings. Things like Ruth’s vow, the Shehekianu, etc. But I also wanted to add my own words as well. (I’ve been married for 11 years, after all! I have some wisdom to contribute. Smile)

What I put together for the wedding may be useful to you, fine Kineti reader / Google searcher. Smile

Below is my Messianic Wedding Officiating template. Feel free to use it as-is, or tweak for your liking.


Dearly beloved and honored guests, friends, family, and disciples of the Messiah, we are gathered together today to join ___ and ___ in the holy covenant of marriage.

Marriage is a divine institution that God ordained in the beginning. He says in the opening chapters of the Scripture, “It is not good for man to be alone.”

So as ___ and ___ join in marriage today, they are in fact fulfilling a mitzvah, a commandment of God, by joining together as God intended.

Marriage itself is woven throughout the Scriptures. In the Hebrew Bible, God relates to his people using marriage terminology, saying in the prophets, “I am a faithful husband to my people Israel.”

And likewise in the gospels, Yeshua the Messiah is likened to a bridegroom coming for his people: we who are to be the wise, patient and faithful bride of the Lord.

Messiah himself amplified and strengthened marriage: when the religious authorities of the 1st century permitted divorce for almost any reason, Messiah rebuked them and called for husband and wife to remain as one barring only extreme circumstances.

Marriage is not something to be entered into lightly or flippantly. The Scriptures present to us a high calling of marriage, one in which the bride is prepared with purity, clothed in righteous deeds, a lesson of kindness on her tongue, having eyes only to please her groom.

Likewise, the groom comes to the bride willing to sacrifice his own life for her, and forsaking all others in order to love and serve his wife alone.

When husband and wife are in mutual submission to one another, a peaceful and holy environment for raising Godly children is created. And in doing so, the couple fulfill the mitzvah to be fruitful and multiply.

Marriage is accomplished by three unions: a union of the heart, of the mind, and of the flesh.

In the union of the heart, the husband and wife share the same desires and work towards the same life goals for their marriage and their family. Instead of individuals traveling in separate trajectories, the hearts of a husband and wife work together and encourage one another in their unified direction. Together they are stronger than they were as individuals, their goals and desires of their heart now closer and more attainable as each spurs on the other.

In the union of the mind, husband and wife are no longer dueling intellects with disparate and diverging views. Instead, the minds of husband and wife in a God-ordained marriage converge, complementing the other’s understanding and wisdom, each filling in for the other’s weaknesses. The two minds of husband and wife become a unified, complementary intellect, making whole and complete both husband and wife, to the glory of God the Father.

In the union of the flesh, husband and wife are no longer distinct individuals to be addressed alone. When the husband is blessed, so is the wife. When the wife is blessed, so is the husband. When a person speaks to the husband, he is speaking also to the wife. When a person speaks to the wife, he is also speaking to the husband. As a unified front standing together, being bound together by their joining today, ___ and ___ no longer belong to themselves alone, but each to the other.

With this knowledge, as set-apart children of God and adopted son and daughter of Israel, ___ and ___ come now to be wedded as one before the Holy One, blessed be He."

This day, ___ and ___ both take up and commit to the ancient Biblical covenant:

___ and ___ repeat after me:

“Ani l’dodi
V’dodi li”

“I am my beloved’s,
and my beloved is mine.”

Therefore, let no man come between these two, as God has called ___and ___ to join together this day, and to remain as one until the last day of their lives.

Today, ___ (groom) confirms the words of Ruth, as he says to his bride,

“Wherever you go, I will go
Wherever you stay, I will stay.”

Today, also, ___ (bride) confirms these words and says to her groom,

“Your people will be my people
And your God will be my God.”

For this reason, a man shall leave his parents and cling to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.

___ (groom full name), I pray this blessing from the Scriptures upon you as you join yourself to your bride this day:

“Blessed are you, ___ (groom full name), man who fears the Lord
Blessed are you, ___ (groom full name), who walks in the ways of the Lord
May you eat the fruit of your labor
May you be joyful and prosperous
May your bride be as a fruitful vine in your house
May your children be as olive plants around your table
May the Lord bless you from Zion
May you see the good of Jerusalem all the days of your life
May you live to see the return of Israel’s king
May you live to see your children’s children
And may you live to see God’s shalom upon Yisrael.”

___ (bride full name), I pray this blessing from the Scriptures upon you as you join yourself to your groom this day:

“Blessed are you, ___  (bride full name), woman of valor
Blessed are you, woman who fears the Lord
Your value is beyond pearls
May your husband’s heart trust in you
May you prove to be your husband’s greatest treasure
May you bring good, and not harm, to your husband and your home
May the Lord bless the work of your hands
You will be like a merchant ship, bringing sustenance from afar
You will extend your hands to the needy
And you will open your arms to the poor
You will rise while it is still nighttime and provide food for your house
Strength and dignity will be your clothing
You will neither worry nor fear, but you will laugh at the days to come
You will open your mouth and speak wisdom
You will be known for your kindness and gentle spirit
Charm and beauty are temporary
But you, ___, woman who fears the Lord, will be praised.”

Amein.

Baruch atah Adonai eloheinu melech haolam
Shehekianu v’qimanu v’higianu lazman hazeh

Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the Universe
Who has kept ___ and ___ in life
Sustaining them both, and preserving them until this special time

Amein.

Do you, ___ (groom full name), take this woman of God, ___ (bride full name), to be your lawfully wedded wife, to live with her in obedience to the Most High and trust in the Messiah?

[Groom says, ‘I do’]

"Do you, ___ (bride full name), take this man of God, ___ (groom full name), to be your lawfully wedded husband, to live with him in obedience to the Most High and trust in the Messiah?"

[Bride says, ‘I do’]

___ and ___ , what further vows and tokens do you bring to seal this union today?

[Exchange of vows and rings]

These solemn vows and rings are given as seals and outward signs of the covenant of marriage and as a public acknowledgment of the holy union between this man and woman.

In accordance with the Torah of Moses and the covenants of Israel, by the power of the Ruach HaKodesh, in the authority of the Master, Yeshua the Messiah, King of Israel, recognizing the authority of the Holy One alone in ordaining marriage, I declare this union sealed in the name of the Messiah, and now pronounce you, ___ and ___ , as husband and wife.

___ , you may now kiss your bride!

[kiss]

Ladies and gentlemen, I give to you Mr. and Mrs. ___


There you have it, folks! These were the words I used in officiating a marriage of two Messianic believers. I hope it is useful to some of you.

Who’s a minister? Everyone! And no one.

As a side note, becoming an official minister in the eyes of the United States government is, shall we say, a low bar?

While I actually am a minister in the real sense of the word – I help run Tabernacle of David Messianic congregation – I didn’t have to prove that I was a minister in any real capacity. The state government didn’t care whether I was actually a minister. It seems almost anyone can be a minister in the eyes of the US government, given a page or two of paperwork and $20 at the county courthouse.

In my opinion, that cheapens marriage and lessens the sanctity of the role for those who do minister and perform weddings.

Even so, I recognize the authority of God alone in ordaining marriage. The local government is a mere formality along the way.

Messianic wedding music for the reception

At the wedding reception, I played some Messianic songs appropriate for a wedding. Live music is always best, IMO. Then you can lift the groom on a chair and parade him around the room to Hava Nagila! (We did this and had a real joyful time.)

But, if you need some background Messianic music fitting for a wedding, see my previous post 14 Messianic Wedding Songs. Some beautiful, some joyful, all fitting for a Messianic wedding.

Ascending the Temple Mount: A Firsthand Account

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Rumors.

That’s the given reason for dozens of stabbings in Israel over the last month. Palestinians stabbing Jews over rumors.

What rumors, you ask?

Why, the rumors that Israel is changing the status quo on the Temple Mount, of course!

What’s the status quo on the Temple Mount?

Read for yourself. Below is a firsthand account from a Messianic woman who visited the Temple Mount just days ago as part of the HaYovel group.


“We spent the day yesterday in the old city of Jerusalem. In the last few days, we’ve had speakers each evening and have learned so much about Jerusalem and the Temple Mount that I felt like I knew Jerusalem much better this time as we came into the city. One of our speakers was named Ezra and he was one of the soldiers who fought in 1948 for the survival of Israel in its earliest days of statehood. He experienced an incredible number of miracles and God saved his life on a number of occasions. A couple of his stories had us all literally on the edges of our seats, eyes wide, just waiting to hear how he made it out of the situation.

“Our Jerusalem has been waiting for us for 2000 years!”

His words and his face showed so much love and passion for the Land as a whole and for Jerusalem specifically. They had tried to liberate Jerusalem in that war and it touched me deeply to hear him recount how he had told his commander how they needed to focus on Jerusalem because... “our Jerusalem has been waiting for us for 2000 years!” He said that as the soldiers gathered together to fight the Jordanians for Jerusalem, they were all excited...“We were on wings of excitement! Everyone looked so different, so bright. I thought the Maccabees must have looked the same before they went to liberate Jerusalem.”

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They weren’t able to keep the city and they lost it to Jordanian control until 1967. Ezra told us that he lived those in-between years “with one eye on Jerusalem.” And then as he told us about the miracle of finally liberating Jerusalem in 67, he quoted the words of Psalm 118 – “I shall not die, but live and proclaim the works of the Lord!”

I wish I could repeat the whole evening for you word for word. It was amazing.

Back to yesterday morning: I helped in the kitchen, getting breakfast ready and serving it, and then ran to gather my things and to get on the bus. This time, because of the security situation, once we reached Jerusalem, we didn’t walk down the Mount of Olives like we have done many times in the past; we just drove down it, across the Kidron Valley, and then up to the Old City. We entered through the Dung Gate and then stood in line waiting to be able to go up to our first stop - the Temple Mount.

The Temple Mount and the Status Quo

The Temple Mount has been a big deal lately in Israel and the world – it’s been in the discussions of the Israeli government, it’s been all over the media, and the Palestinians have been rioting because their religious leaders have been claiming that Israel is going to allow Jewish people and others (anyone other than Muslims) to pray on the Temple Mount. They also have been claiming that Israel has no historical connection to the Mount, that it’s always been Muslim and that Jewish people going up on it defiles it. You always hear government leaders of the world speak of needing to “maintain the status quo” on the Temple Mount.

A little modern history lesson – in 1967, Israel recaptured the Old City of Jerusalem from the Jordanians who had held it since the Israeli War for Independence in 1948. The Temple Mount came into Jewish hands for the first time since the Romans destroyed the Temple back in 70 AD. Moshe Dayan, the Defense Minister at the time, (in what I consider to be a misplaced and irresponsible attempt of a “good neighbor”, “gesture of peace”) gave the Temple Mount back into the control of the Jordanian religious leaders, the “Waqf”. The Muslims saw it as a sign of Israeli weakness. Since then, until today, the Jordanians have religious control and the Israelis have police/security control. It makes for a very tense and volatile combination.

Tour groups, and especially Jewish groups of people, who go up on the Temple Mount are often harassed by the Palestinians.

No one is allowed to wear any kind of religious symbol like a cross or a Star of David on clothing or jewelry. You’re not allowed to bring a Bible or prayer book onto the Mount. If you’re not dressed according to their modesty standards, (which can change from day to day) they will make you buy a shawl to cover up. Women call or scream things like “Allah huAkbar!” (meaning “god is great”), over and over at the groups, and usually the Muslim religious “guards” will come and harass the groups. (The guards don’t actually have any authority.) They watch to see if anyone is praying so that they can have them arrested, they try to get them to leave, they block their way and try to intimidate or anger them so the Jewish people or tourists react and then get escorted from the Mount. Lately the screaming ladies have been blocked from coming up on the Mount during the morning “visiting hours” so things have become a bit more peaceful. Because of all this, we didn’t know what it would be like as we visited the Temple Mount. The last couple times the HaYovel groups had tried to go up, their times on the Mount were very short.

Our group split into 2 different groups and were led by tour guides. I was in group #1 and our guide’s name was Oren. We entered the platform and moved around the Mount in a clockwise direction and stopped a few different times and learned about the Mount and about the 2nd Temple.

A couple of fascinating facts that we learned...

  • In the 1870s, a sign/plaque was found in a house in an archeological dig right next to the Temple Mount that said basically, “No gentiles past this point.” It would have been posted on the wall that separated the Court of the Gentiles from the rest of the Temple area in the days of Yeshua (Jesus).
  • There were several gates in the walls surrounding the Temple showing a heart of hospitality and welcome...a way of saying, “Please come as much as you can!”
  • The building called the Dome of the Rock was built in 691 AD and only after it was built did the Muslims attach a tradition to it.

Then, at our 4th stop, a handful of Waqf guys (Waqf is the Jordanian religious authority) came over and spoke to our guide in Hebrew and Arabic, telling him that he couldn’t be there, that we all had to leave. They kept interrupting him when he tried to speak. One man in our group knows Arabic and he told us later that the guards were confused about who we were. They thought we were a Jewish group and wouldn’t believe the tour guide when he told them we were a Christian tour group. When asked to speak in English, one of the Waqf guards answered that he didn’t speak English.

The next several minutes were a bit chaotic. The guards were yelling, an Israeli policeman came over and Oren was talking to him, trying to explain. We all slowly moved forward along the path. The Waqf guards would stand in front and talk loudly and try to make us stop, and then someone in the front of the group would start moving (usually our friend, Mr. Pauls) and we would all just keep walking forward – around and past the Waqf guards.

Eventually Oren left the Israeli policeman to work it all out and just went back to giving us our tour – speaking loudly over all the noise. One of the young ladies in our group, Erica, had helped him focus by asking questions; raising her hand and calling loudly...”Excuse me? I have a question. Could you tell us ...” I was proud of her. : )

Another of our ladies, Teresa, approached one of the Waqf guards, asking if he wanted to see her passport, and trying to visit with him. At one point, he stepped closer and explained quietly that he didn’t have a problem with us being there, but that they didn’t want our tour guide there and that he was telling us lies. He said, “He’s telling you this is the Temple Mount and it’s not! It’s the Al Aksa.” (The Arabic/Muslim name for the Temple Mount) Teresa thought to herself, “You say our tour guide is the one who is lying? You just said a few minutes ago that you didn’t speak English!”

After several minutes, the Israeli security guard reaffirmed our right to be there on our tour and we continued walking. The Waqf guards and a handful of others continued to walk alongside of us, watching Oren closely, and sometimes taking pictures of us. Toward the end, a group of Muslim ladies shouted at us, but they kept their backs turned so they couldn’t be identified. We ended up being able to walk around the entire perimeter of the Mount and were able to conclude our whole tour so we were very thankful.

I experienced a strange mix of feelings while there. I was so blessed and thankful that we serve a God who can hear our prayers that are spoken only in the heart. I was praying a lot while I was there, and the Waqf guards had no idea. I was grateful for the opportunity to be up on the Mount at all. Many times people are turned away. I was also angry – that even the most simple and basic religious rights, such as prayer, are not allowed in a place so precious to those who believe the Bible. I can pray silently inside, but I shouldn't need to in that place. Yeshua loved the Temple. It made me wonder what He would have done if He had been there with us. I prayed about my feelings...I want to always stand for Truth, for what’s right, and not back down...but in a kind and honoring way, not nasty or bitter. I was proud of our tour guide and the others who held their ground and didn’t let the intimidation push them back. The rest of us, our “group 2”, experienced more opposition than we did (I’ll hopefully share the videos when I get my photos put together) and yet everyone kept their cool and didn’t give the Waqf the satisfaction of getting a reaction.

I also felt a quiet joy, a bit of satisfaction in the fact that I had an Israeli flag patch on my backpack that the Israeli security hadn’t noticed when we went through security, so I was able to take it with me up on the Mount. (Israelis have been arrested for waving the Israeli flag on the Temple Mount.) The colors blended in with the rest of my backpack so it wasn’t obvious at all and no one saw it except our Israeli friend, Doron, who was with us (who had arranged the opportunity to buy the backpack a few years ago). But other people seeing it wasn’t important to me. I was just glad that I could take an Israeli flag up on the Temple Mount.

Once we had left the Temple Mount area, we gathered in the street. Our tour guide told us, “Many many thanks for coming to this ancient holy site. Thank you for being brave, for not listening to the Waqf, for keeping on going. Thank you for joining us and supporting me, my people and country.”

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We went straight from there to the Kotel (the Western Wall) and had a time to pray. The Jewish people welcome and allow anyone who wants to, to come and pray at the Wall – no matter their religion, their nationality, etc. It was a quiet morning at the Wall and our time there was sweet. I was able to quiet my heart and have a time of praise and thanks, and prayer and petition. I was struck by the extreme differences I had experienced. In a matter of a couple hours I

“The Jewish people welcome and allow anyone who wants to, to come and pray at the Wall – no matter their religion, their nationality.”

felt exclusion and welcome, harassment and acceptance, shouting and intimidation and peace and quiet. I was filled with gratitude for the Jewish people who have allowed the world to come to their most special place (since the Temple Mount is, for the most part, off limits to them right now) without any kind of censoring. There’s respect, honor, and hospitable welcome. I’m challenged to remain generous with what God has given me, by their example.

In case you hadn’t guessed, : ) I’m not at all politically correct about the Temple Mount. I fully support the right of the Jewish people and everyone else to be able to pray on the Mount. I greatly look forward to the day...I pray for the day, when prophecy is fulfilled and the next Temple is built and that mountain becomes, once again, “a house of prayer for all nations”. (Isaiah 56:7)


Thanks to Ardelle Brody, an acquaintance of mine, who relayed this story from a friend, Megan, who visited the Temple Mount just 4 days ago.

Sadly, the status quo on the Temple Mount is unlikely to change. The Israeli Prime Minister has pledged to uphold the status quo. It will take bold leaders who are unafraid of world opinion to do otherwise.