A Different Gospel
There continues to be a steady increase in the intrigue and popularity of the Hebrew Roots Movement, and as such, I continue to post articles addressing it. The more I read about this movement, the more clear it becomes to me that this is “a different gospel” which is “no gospel at all” Gal 1:6-7. This embrace of Jewish law and custom is repeating the error of the Judaisers who the Apostle Paul reproved because their teachings suggested that the cross of Christ was insufficient. Is it a cult? Judge for yourself. From “Got Questions.org” Describing cults:
A cult claims to be part of a religion, yet it denies essential truth(s) of that religion. Therefore, a Christian cult will deny one or more of the fundamental truths of Christianity while still claiming to be Christian.
The two most common teachings of Christian cults are that Jesus was not God and that salvation is not by faith alone. A denial of the deity of Christ results in the view that Jesus’ death was insufficient to pay for our sins. A denial of salvation by faith alone results in the teaching that salvation is achieved by our own works.
The Hebrew Roots Movement, as presented by Mark Biltz, teaches that Christians are required to honor the Sabbath, celebrate feasts and honor other laws of the Mosaic covenant. The book of James gives a strong warning on this very topic:
“For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” – James 2:10
In Galatians 3, the Apostle Paul had this to say in response to Judaisers of his day:
“O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? 2 This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? 4 Have you suffered so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain?”
– Galatians 3:1-4
Below is an audio teaching about the Hebrew Roots Movement by Alan Kurschner. The full transcript is beneath it.
I first talked about the “Hebrew Roots” [movement] and how they propagate a false gospel, enslaving new covenant believers under the old law. I explained that the old covenant has been abrogated by Christ at his first coming and that new covenant believers are under the new law of Christ, not the Mosaic law, or even part of the Mosaic law such as the sabbath. The Hebrew Roots cult is a new form of the Judaizing heresy that Paul said was an accursed false gospel. This provided background for me to talk about Mark Biltz’s blood moon theory, which is a false and sensationalist theory. I responded to Biltz’s use of the Shemitah in his blood moons theory, as well as to his new hedging of date-setting.
(FOR THOSE WHO PREFER TO READ THE TRANSCRIPT:)[…]There’s a growing disturbing phenomenon that I have witnessed with many who are interested in Bible prophecy but are lacking in discernment of who they are reading. Not just discernment on prophecy, but on the gospel itself. How is it that some of the most popular prophecy teachers out there, they reject the biblical gospel? Of course, they will not come out and say, “Hey, I reject the biblical gospel,” but by their teachings they reject it. I think it’s because many believers think they can compartmentalize their prophecy studies. You can’t do that. They think they can disconnect the doctrine of– put the doctrine of gospel over here from biblical prophecy. You can’t do that because there is a connection between the two. This is why I find it disturbing that I see many evangelical prophecy students of the Bible consuming and endorsing these false teachers and propagating a heretical – yes, a heretical – gospel. And namely, the person I am going to be talking about in the show today is Mark Biltz of El Shaddai Ministries, who wrote a popular book titled Blood Moons: Decoding the Imminent Heavenly Signs. He is a Hebrew Roots teacher.
Hebrew Roots is a growing movement that’s, in my view, it’s enslaving New Covenant believers under the Old Covenant teaching, requiring them to observe, for example, the feast days, dietary laws, the Sabbath, even the shemita. This is an aspect of the Mosaic law. The shemita is something I’m going to talk about a little bit later.
Before we get into Mark Biltz, I want to give some background to his Hebrew Roots theology because I think it might help explain some of his prophecy sensationalism and bad eschatology. Over the years, I’ve seen a tendency from Hebrew Roots teachers to date set. It’s like it’s in their DNA. They can’t resist not to date set. The connection between their heretical view of the gospel and their interpretations of biblical prophecy is based on a really bad hermeneutic, and that is their system of biblical interpretation. And again, as I mentioned, this is why they get into these crazy theories, sensationalism, and often dangerous interpretations of biblical prophecy from these Hebrew Roots teachers.
My critique of the Hebrew Roots cult has to do specifically with the gospel itself. Let me just say that I’m not against learning about Judaism, or the Jewish background of the Old and New Testament, or the Jewish way of life today, including rabbinic studies. I’ve done doctorates research in rabbinics. In fact, I live in New Jersey, one of the most concentrated areas of Jews in the country. There seems to be a synagogue or a Jewish Center on almost every corner. I can walk to one right now and get there in about five minutes. In fact, I’m taking advantage of this, and actually studying with a rabbi at a local Jewish Center. In fact, I’m going to be attending in a few weeks some of the holiday services of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, not because I’m commanded to. I’m not commanded to, as a New Covenant believer, to observe them. But I say all of this because I have a special interest in the interface between Jewish studies and Christianity, because Christianity grew out of the Jewish religion. And here’s my point. When I surround myself with Jews and unbelieving Jews here in New Jersey, I’m not enamored. I don’t have the sensation of like I’m enamored as a Christian to go back to the regulations of some of the aspects of the Old Covenant, the Mosaic covenant. I don’t feel some emptiness that needs to be fulfilled in my Christian life as apparently many Hebrew Roots individuals evidently feel. As if there needs to be something more to Christianity and going back to the Old Covenant somehow fulfills that. Or not just going back to the Old Covenant all the way, but maybe mixing some of the Old Covenant with the New, which can actually be more deceptive.
When Christians do this, essentially, they are slapping God in the face and they’re saying that your grace is not enough for me.Your New Covenant ethic is not enough. I need to go back and draw some out of the Old Covenant. Hebrew Roots people may not explicitly say it like that, but that is what they are doing. My theology is – and I believe it’s the biblical theology – and that is the Old Covenant, the Mosaic covenant. It has been abrogated. It was fulfilled by Christ. It does not continue. Let me say this again.
The Old Covenant does not continue. Christ fulfilled the Mosaic covenant. We are New Covenant believers, not Old Covenant believers. And we’re not mixed covenant believers as well.
The system of holding on to the Old Covenant regulations, this is not new. We find the heresy of the Judaisers in the very first generation of the church in Galatia. Arguably, the book of Galatians was the very first book of the New Testament that was written – written by Paul. He’s refuting this Galatian heresy of Judaisers that these leaders in the church who believe that the work of Christ was not suffficient. They felt compelled to add aspects of the Mosaic system into their new found Christian faith. Just listen to what Paul has to say here. In Galatians 1, he says,
“I’m astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – not that there is another one. But there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preach to you, let him be accursed.”
And then, he also says,
“Now, before came, we were held captive under the law, that is enslaved, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed.”
Hebrew Roots people, they want to go back. They want to be imprisoned, apparently, under the Old Covenant again. For them, the New Covenant faith is not sufficient. It’s not adequate for them. Paul, in Galatians 4, says,
“Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise. For freedom, Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”
Look. I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, or put whatever aspect of Mosaic covenant in there – Sabbath days, feasts, shemita, whatever. Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify– let me just stop there. Christ will be of no advantage to you. Really? That’s pretty serious. And some translations will have Christ is of no avail or help. That in itself should be a warning not to go back to the Old Covenant, because essentially, you’re saying Christ is not sufficient. The work of Christ is not sufficient. And they’re saying, Christ, I’m going back. I need to fill in what’s missing here. That’s basically what they’re saying. Paul goes on, he says,
“I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ,” Paul says. “You who would be justified by the law. You have fallen away from grace.”
And that’s why it makes it a heretical gospel. It’s a false gospel. Paul could not explain it more clear than that. And as New Covenant believers, we’re not under The Decalogue, the Mosaic law, the Old Covenant. We’re not under that. That’s been abrogated. And that includes the Sabbath. That law was made to, not the nations, not to America, it was made to the nation of Israel. And Paul teaches, in Galatians and the first epistle in Corinthians, that the New Covenant– or in the first epistle to the Corinthians. He says that the New Covenant– because we’re no longer under the Mosaic law, we’re still under a law, by the way. We’re under a new law. That’s the law of Christ. Actually, it’s a heavier law. It has higher demands than the Mosaic law could ever have. We’re able to obey the law of Christ because we’re enabled by the new work of the Spirit. We’re not under the Mosaic law, Paul says, anymore. We are under the law of Christ, which is revealed in the New Testament in his teachings. Christ fulfilled the old law and institutions given to Israel.
And Christ is our Sabbath. He is our Sabbath of rest. (Hebrews 4)
It’s interesting that the passage in the Bible that teaches about that Christ is our Sabbath rest, you know where that’s found? It’s found in the book of Hebrews. And guess who the author wrote the book of Hebrews to. It was written to a group of Jewish believers, warning Jewish believers who were thinking about going back to the Old Covenant, the old system. The book of Hebrews is very relevant today for Hebrew Roots people. Hebrew Roots people should be reading the book of Hebrews and taking the warnings. I mean, there’s a lot of warnings about losing salvation in the book of Hebrews. Of course, in my theology, I believe that a true believer will not lose their salvation. Professing believers, God perseveres your faith through these warnings, and a lot of them are found in the book of Hebrews. Christ is our Sabbath. We’re not commanded to adhere to the Sabbath that was instituted given to Israel. Christ on the Sermon on the Mount.
The Sermon on the Mount is so misinterpreted today. A lot of people think that Jesus was functioning as– like he was some Talmudic rabbi correcting misinterpretation of the Mosaic law or expounding on it. No, he wasn’t. He was giving a new law. But I say unto you, Christ is the new lawgiver. We should be living under the law of Christ as revealed in the New Testament, not trying to go back to the old law or mixing the old with the new. This biblical theological issue of the relationship between the law and the gospel, this is one of the most important things Christians need to understand about the Bible because it’s the heart of the gospel. I continue to talk, but I want to recommend some bibliography for you and I’ll put the recommended books in the show notes. And you can do some further reading on the subject, on the relationship between the law and the gospel. The show notes can be found at alankurschner.com/six.
That being said, I want to make a couple of comments about one of these Hebrew Roots teachers, Mark Biltz, who has popularized this Blood Moon theory, and I want to respond to a recent article he wrote just a few days ago. It’s called “Will Tribulation Begin A Year From Now?” And also leave the link to the article in the show notes. Mark Biltz, in the past, has predicted– yes, he has predicted. I get people writing and saying, No, Mark Biltz is not predicting the return of Christ. No, he actually has. And I want to correct people who are writing me and saying, “No, he’s not predicting.” Yeah, he’s hedging now, but there is a prediction on record. A lot of people are not aware of this. He’s predicted the return of Christ in conjunction with the Blood Moon by the fall of 2015, next year. Basically, in a year from now, Biltz has predicted the return of Christ in a year from now.
A few years back, he had an interview with J. R. Church and Gary Stearman of Prophecy In The News. I want to read part of the transcript, which again I’ll leave a link in the show notes of the transcript for people. J. R. Church, host of the show, he has Mark Biltz on the show, and this is what he says. He says, “This we are going to see in 2015 on the first day of the first month and again on the first day of the seventh month.” And Mark Biltz says, “Exactly.” J. R. Church says, “Which is the Jewish New Year? And that concludes it is Tishri one that concludes the Sabbatical year.” Biltz: “Yes.” Church: “Wow.” Biltz: “Yes.” Church: “It’s time for the Messiah to show up, right?” Biltz: “Yes!” And he gives an emphatic yes as well. It’s kind of interesting, in the history of date setting, there have been typically three responses from the date setters themselves when their date setting didn’t come to fruition, it was unsuccessful. Of course, none of these responses are actual repentance.
I don’t know if there has been any date setters that have repented in the past. I’m sure there’s got to be a few of them. I’m not aware of any. But basically, they don’t repent, unfortunately. And their pride makes them give all these excuses to explain why their date setting did not come to fruition. There’s been typically three common responses. Number one, they’ll say, “I miscalculated.” The miscalculation excuse [chuckles]. We’ve all heard that. And then, of course, what do they do? They make another prediction. And that doesn’t come to fruition, and then they say again, “Hey, I miscalculated.” Another response is that– here’s a classic one. “God changed his mind.” Have you heard that one before? How convenient is that, right? I would love to be privy to the mind of God that these date setters claim to have. A third response is– here’s a third one. It’s not as common as the first two, but it is out there. The date setter will say, “Jesus did come, but only in the spiritual sense of the term.” We all know the most notorious example of that is Jehovah’s Witnesses in the early part of the 20th century. I could add a fourth response, but this fourth example is a little bit different because it happens, not after the unsuccessful date setting, but it happens before. And what they do is they hedge their predictions. In fact, the closer they get to the date, you will hear them begin to change their language. And often, we’ll here them begin to say the word like “possibility” and other forms of hedging language. And that’s exactly what Mark Biltz is doing now in recent days. In fact, not just in recent days, but not too long ago, Mark Biltz, in response to actually my criticism back a while ago, he responded by saying, in typical date setting fashion, “Well, I’m only being neutral with the facts. I’m only ‘providing’ the data.” Have you heard that one before? Yeah. This is a tactic of date setters. But with Mark Biltz, you don’t get the impression that Biltz is just “the messenger” providing the data, and people can take the data and do with it however they want with it. No. He actually believes that this event is pointing to the fulfillment prophecy. Even if you go to his El Shaddai website, you can order things like – I’m not kidding – Blood Moon bumper stickers, and T-shirts, and coffee mugs. Yeah. You’ve got to love capitalism. Sadly, capitalism can be used to– I mean, it’s a good thing in itself, but it can be used to fleece the people of God.
The most recent hedging by Mark Biltz is an article he wrote a few days ago entitled “Will Tribulation Begin A Year From Now?” I just want to say a few things about it. There’s a lot of hype last winter and this past spring over his Blood Moon theory, and during the summer began to fizzle out. But he’s giving it another shot of fresh blood – no pun intended – which I think is actually more of an act of desperation and trying to legitimize his theory again. It’s not working.
Let me get it right. I does work with undiscerning people who don’t know their Bible. It works with those people.
In the first two paragraphs of his article, Biltz is trying to make some connection between the Blood Moons and – are you ready for it? – ISIS and Ebola. How convenient is that, right? You have to hand it to these sensational teachers for being quite creative. In this article, he’s trying to piggyback on the latest rage with Jonathan Cahn new sensationalist theory of the shemita, where Israel was commanded to give the seventh the year of their land rest.
And, of course, Cahn’s major problem is that he’s assuming that the command to Israel applies to all nations. It comes back to what I was saying earlier. The Mosaic covenant, it was given to Israel, not all the nations. And it’s been abrogated.
It’s wrong headed for Cahn to apply the shemita to America today and in all nations, and trying to tie it into the American economy and global economy.
Getting back to Biltz’s article where he tries to connect the shemita with his Blood Moon theory, he says, “In plain English, the seven-year tribulation could begin next fall.” Notice, first of all, he’s hedging. Could. The word “could”. Not too long ago, he was saying, “Yes!”, emphatically. Yes! Now, it’s, “It could begin next fall.” And, by the way, notice that Biltz is presupposing pre-tribulational categories here. And then, he goes on, “If it does not begin next fall, then that means it will not start for another seven years since it is just a continuation of God’s orderly time clock. I’m not saying that the Lord will return next fall.” At one time, he did, actually. Now, he’s either– he hasn’t repented of his previous prediction. And if he has, I’m not aware of it. But most likely, here he is just contradicting himself. And then he goes on. He says, “I am not saying that the rapture will take place next fall. I am just saying, regardless of where you want to put us on God’s timeline, the seven-year tribulation is part of that timeline and will happen as part of the shemita cycle.” So, now he’s incorporating Jonathan Cahn’s latest “insight” into his Blood Moon insight, decoding – in fact, that’s part of the title – decoding. Decoding the mysteries, right? In this article, notice what he’s claiming. Biltz is claiming that the rapture apparently can only happen at the beginning of the seven-year period.
I find it ironic that Biltz, in the past, he said that he’s not concerned about the rapture question. He actually says this should not be a issue we should not concern ourselves with, even though Jesus and Paul are adamant that it should. And yet, again, he’s presupposing pre-tribulational categories. Here’s my main concern, my main criticism of Biltz. And it’s a criticism I have with a lot of these guys.
They elevate their pet theories above what scripture clearly teaches. That’s why you find these terms in the titles of their books – mystery and encoding. What does that imply? It implies, hey, I’m not going to teach you what scripture explicitly teaches. I’m going to teach you something that I’m going to impart on you. Sounds like Gnosticism emerging its ugly head in biblical prophecy studies.
They elevate their pet theory above what scripture says on the second coming. And with Biltz, he’s elevating it on what the Bible actually teaches on the celestial disturbances that will signal the return of Christ. I have a major section in my book, Antichrist Before The Day Of The Lord, on the celestial disturbances. You won’t find any NASA charts in my book. That’s because I decided I want to do a biblical, sober exposition on what the Bible actually teaches on the celestial disturbances, and not be sensational on it.
Not only is Mark Biltz’s Hebrew teaching heretical, but his Blood Moon teaching is dangerous because it distracts God’s people from actual biblical teaching on the second coming.
I have harsh criticism to Biltz, but I have prayed for him.
We need to pray that Biltz will come to repentance from his date setting, or his hedging, all of that. And, of course, his false Hebrew Roots teaching, and by extension, the false gospel. They will be held accountable for their teachings and misleading the people of God. It’s a sober thought.
Makes me reflect on what am I teaching? Do I have some blind spots? I want to make sure I’m teaching God’s truth in a God-honoring, Christ-honoring fashion. They think they’re doing a service to God, but they’re doing a disservice to God. When Jesus and Paul warn of false teachers and warn not to be deceived, we cannot assume that the false teachers are going to emerge only outside of the professing church. I think most of them will emerge within the professing church, in my opinion. They’re going to wear ties, and use the Christian terminology, and they may be even very nice people. But scripture must be the touchstone to test their teachings and their so-called revelations and insight. And one of the most important gifts of the spirit that we must possess in the coming days in order to persevere is discernment.
In the show I said I would provide the following bibliography and links.
I want to recommend several books that explain the biblical relationship between the law and the gospel; i.e., New Covenant believers are not under any of the Mosaic law, including the Mosaic law of the Sabbath, which Christ fulfilled. Instead, we are under the law of Christ:
The End of the Law: Mosaic Covenant in Pauline Theology by Jason C. Meyer
New Covenant Theology by Tom Wells and Fred Zaspel
From Sabbath to Lord’s Day: A Biblical, Historical and Theological Investigation by D. A. Carson
But I Say Unto You by John G. Reisinger
In Defense of Jesus, the New Lawgiver by John G. Reisinger
Abraham’s Four Seeds by John G. Reisinger
The First London Confession of Faith, 1646 Edition: With an Appendix by Benjamin Cox