17 Sep A Day of Judgment
In the last two articles about Rosh HaShanah, we’ve looked at the day as the Jewish New Year, the day of the coronation of kings, and at a very interesting legend that poses the return of Messiah on a future Rosh HaShanah. You can see those two articles here:
But perhaps the most permeating tradition around Rosh HaShanah in the Jewish community is that at this time, God comes as a Judge to inspect mankind and determine our future. Beginning on Rosh HaShanah and continuing through Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), Jewish people the world over will pray daily kotvenu b’sefer ha-chayim, “Inscribe us in the Book of Life”. The idea is that God draws close on Rosh HaShanah, the heavenly books are opened, and God begins to judge each person according to their deeds. In the Talmud we read:
“Rabbi Kruspedai said in the name of Rabbi Johanan: Three books are opened on Rosh HaShanah: one for the utterly wicked, one for the wholly righteous, and one for those in between. The wholly righteous are at once inscribed, and life is decreed for them; the entirely wicked are at once inscribed, and destruction destined for them; the average class are held in the balance from Rosh HaShanah till Yom Kippur; if they prove themselves worthy, they are inscribed for life; if not, they are inscribed for destruction.” (b. Rosh HaShanah 16b)
Immediately, R. Abhin asks, “Where does this teaching come from?” [Not from scorn, but rhetorically] The answer is a quote from Psa 69:29—
“Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, and they shall not be written down with the righteous.” (Psa 69:28 in our English versions)
The Talmud goes on to say that the School of Shammai (a famous sage just before Yeshua’s time) says:
“There are three divisions of mankind at the Resurrection: the wholly righteous, the utterly wicked, and the average class. The wholly righteous are at once inscribed, and life is decreed for them; the utterly wicked are at once inscribed, and destined for Gehenna (Hell), as we read, “And many of them that sleep in the dust shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” [Dan 12:2] The third class, the men between the former two, descend to Gehenna, but they weep and come up again, in accordance with the passage: “And I will bring the third part through the fire, and I will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried; and he shall call on My name, and I will answer him.” [Zech 13:9]” (b. Rosh HaShanah 16b)
So the long standing tradition is that there are 3 groups of people, and hence 3 different books—The Book of the Righteous (also known as the Book of Life), the Book of the Wicked, and the Book of the Intermediates, where most people fall.
But is there any Biblical support for this rabbinical idea? In the passage above, Daniel 12:2 and Zech 13:9 were quoted, but do they really support what was said? The Daniel passage certainly shows that there are at least two groups of people at the resurrection, but the Zechariah passage probably isn’t saying that God will bring this third group through Gehenna (Hell) and then bring them out again. But obviously the Psa 69 passage declares that there IS a Book of the Living (Life) that sinners are to be blotted out from.
If this sounds strange to you, it should! There’s no clear teaching in the Scripture that God writes down all our actions and judges us based upon what’s written down, but there certainly are references to this throughout the Scripture. For instance, when the children of Israel created the Golden Calf at the foot of Mt Sinai, God was very angry with them. During Moses’ intercessory prayer for the people, Moses and God have this dialogue that goes like this:
“So Moses returned to Adonai and said, ‘Alas, this people has sinned a great sin. They have made for themselves gods of gold. But now, if You will, forgive their sin—but if not, please blot me out of Your book that You have written.’ But Adonai said to Moses, ‘Whoever has sinned against me, I will blot out of My book.’” (Ex 32:31-33)
This is the first mention of God’s book at all. How did Moses know God had a book? We don’t know, but he did. And God acknowledged that He indeed did have a book that sinners would be blotted out of.
In the book of Daniel, we find another reference to these “books” of God.
“A fiery stream issued and came forth from before Him [Ancient of Days]: thousand thousands ministered unto Him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him. The judgment was set, and the books were opened.” (Dan 7:10)
Of course, the writings of the Apostles are full of references to those “whose names are written in the book of life” (cf. Lk 10:20/Phil 4:3/Heb 12:23/Rev 3:5; 13:8; 17:8). We find a similar scene to Daniel’s in the Book of the Revelation:
“And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the Book of Life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.” (Rev. 20:12)
Here we find the scenario at the end of days where God judges all the dead that have ever lived according to their works, and everyone whose name is not found in the Book of Life will be thrown into the lake of fire (vs. 15). This idea wasn’t thought up by the apostle John. Nor was it a new revelation to him. This idea of God’s final judgment, according to what is written in the books, is Jewish through and through.
Every year, from Rosh HaShanah to Yom Kippur, a rehearsal is made of this future event. These 10 days, known the Yomim Noraim, or the Days of Awe, are a yearly reminder that God is a Judge. According to the tradition, every year on Rosh HaShanah, the “gates are open” and God begins weighing men’s hearts. During these 10 days, God is inscribing all men in one of the books—the righteous, wicked and intermediates. At the close of Yom Kippur, the “gates are closed” and the books are sealed.
On that Day
The picture created here is incredible. Let me lay out a scenario for you. We’ve already seen how Rosh HaShanah pictures the day when Messiah will return “at the last trump”, and send His angels to gather His elect from all over the earth. At that time, those who are part of the Body of Messiah will have changed from mortal bodies to immortal bodies. But contrary to the modern mainstream Christian idea that we will be taking a leave of absence for 7 years, the prophets paint the picture that this regathering of Adonai’s elect will occur in the land of Israel.
“As I live, says Adonai, surely with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm and with wrath poured out I will be king over you. I will bring you out from the peoples and gather you out of the countries where you are scattered, with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and with wrath poured out. And I will bring you into the wilderness of the peoples, and there I will enter into judgment with you face to face. As I entered into judgment with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so I will enter into judgment with you, declares Adonai. I will make you to pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant. I will purge out the rebels from among you, and those who transgress against me. I will bring them out of the land where they sojourn, but they shall not enter the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am Adonai.” (Eze 20:33-38)
Now look at what that passage just said. There is coming a day when Adonai will repeat what He did during the exodus from Egypt! “With a mighty hand and an outstretched arm” He will gather Israel [and all those grafted into Israel!] from among the nations and bring them back the land of Israel, specifically into the Wilderness of the Peoples. And just as He judged Israel face-to-face in the wilderness of Sinai, He will again judge His people at that time. Like a Great Shepherd, Adonai will cause us to “pass under the rod” for inspection, and He will bring us into the bond of the Covenant just like He did at Mt. Sinai! But this time, it’s a New Covenant!
“I will take you from the nations and gather from all the countries and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes and be careful to obey My judgments.” (Eze 36:24-27)
You see, what most Christians don’t understand is that the New Covenant is a covenant between God and the people of Israel. Jeremiah said, “Behold I make a new covenant with the House of Israel and the House of Judah…” (Jer. 31:31). Those of us who are gentiles are “grafted in” to Israel. That’s how we participate in this New Covenant. But as you’ll notice in the passages above, this new covenant is a future event. But how can that be? We’re in the New Covenant now, right? Yes, kinda…
According to the apostle Paul, what we are experiencing now is not the fullness of the outpouring of God’s Spirit, but a “foretaste”. The Holy Spirit that now abides within us is a “pledge” of a future outpouring.
“In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in Him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of His glory.” (Eph 1:13-14)
“And it is God who establishes us with you in Messiah, and has anointed us, and who has also put His seal on us and given us His Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.” (2 Cor 1:21-22)
“For while we are still in this tent [our bodies], we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed [not desiring to ‘leave the body’], but that we would be further clothed [be outfitted with an immortal body], so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.” (2 Cor 5:4-5)
“For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” (Rom 8:22-23)
There is a day coming when Yeshua returns, that our bodies will put on this immortality. And at that same time, those from among the Jewish people will see and recognize Yeshua as the true Messiah of Israel. According to the prophet Zechariah, they will—
“Look on Me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn.” (Zech 12:10)
Yeshua repeated this prophesy in Matthew 24 when He said,
“Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the land (Israel) will mourn [referencing Zech 12:10], and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out His angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” (Mt. 24:30-31)
So when we put all these things together, a bigger picture emerges. When Yeshua returns at the last trumpet, those in the Body of Messiah will suddenly find themselves in immortal bodies. Simultaneously, those from among the Jewish people will see Yeshua and finally recognize “Him whom they have pierced”, and they’ll mourn in repentance before Him. Yeshua will gather all of His elect from the four winds of the earth—not only the Jewish elect, but all the gentiles that are grafted into Israel as well. But where are we going to be gathered to? Some celestial resort for 7 years? No. We’re going to be gathered to the Wilderness of the Peoples, and Adonai is going to meet us there face to face, just like He did when He gathered Israel out of Egypt. And there in the wilderness, we will be purified of our uncleannesses, and He will pour out the fullness of the Spirit, of which we have the firstfruits now.
It’s here in this wilderness, that our marriage to Adonai will be consummated. We are currently promised to our Messiah Yeshua, and He is currently preparing a place for us, but when He returns, we will be married in full. We find this picture prophesied by Hosea. Notice the similar themes to what I’ve pointed out above.
“Therefore, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. And there I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Trouble a door of hope. And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt! And in that day, declares Adonai, you will call me ‘Husband’, and no longer will you call me ‘Master’. For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be remembered by name no more. And I will make for them a covenant on that day with the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the creeping things of the ground. And I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land, and I will make you lie down in safety. And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know Adonai.” (Hosea 2:14-20)
This is what will occur during these 10 Days of Awe, between some future Rosh HaShanah and a future Yom Kippur. Being gathered from among the nations to the wilderness, we’ll be protected by our Father as our forefathers were at Mt Sinai. And though judgment will begin with the people of God in the Wilderness, it will by no means end there. During this time, Adonai will also “gather together the nations against Jerusalem to battle” (Zech 14:2).
“Then Adonai will go out and fight against those nations as when He fights on a day of battle. On that day His feel shall stand on the Mount of Olives that lies before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two…And this shall be the plague with which Adonai will strike all the peoples that wage war against Jerusalem: their flesh will rot while they are still standing on their feet, their eyes will rot in their sockets, and their tongues will rot in their mouths. And on that day a great panic from Adonai shall fall on them, so that each will seize the hand of another, and the hand of the one will be raised against the hand of the other. Even Judah will fight at Jerusalem. And the wealth of all the surrounding nations shall be collected, gold, silver, and garments in great abundance. And a plague like this plague shall fall on the horses, the mules, the camels, the donkeys and whatever beasts may be in those camps.” (Zech 14:3-4, 12-15)
The very next verse in Zechariah goes like this:
“Then everyone who survives of all the nations that have come against Jerusalem shall go up year after year to worship the King, the Adonai of Hosts, and to keep the Feast of Sukkot (Tabernacles).” (Zech 14:16)
And there we have it—3 groups:
- Those who have been gathered to the Wilderness and married to Adonai as the Body of Messiah (consisting of both the Jewish remnant and gentiles who have been grafted in). They are written in The Book of Life.
- The armies of the nations who gather against Jerusalem to make war that will be destroyed. They are written in The Book of the Wicked.
- The survivors from among the nations that did NOT come against Jerusalem. They are written in The Book of the Intermediates.
We’ll revisit some of these ideas next time when we talk about Yom Kippur in more detail.