by Bill Nugent
The Bible speaks of four reformations of Judaism. Two reformations are in the past and two are in the future. This is not to be confused with German Reform Judaism of Moses Mendelssohn (1729-1786). A proper understanding of the four biblical reformations of Judaism is vital to understanding how God’s grace impacts all of world history.
When we think of Judaism, we think about Moses, the Ten Commandments and dietary laws. However, Judaism began over 400 years before Moses.
Abraham was the first Jew. God founded the religion of Judaism under Abraham. Abraham didn’t call himself a Jew. The word “Jew” is derived from Abraham’s great-grandson, Judah, (Hebrew: Yehuda). The tribe of Judah produced the kings of Israel. The chosen people were not called Jews until centuries after Abraham.
Early Judaism, which we could call Abrahamic Judaism, had very few laws. There was the covenant of circumcision: All males had to be circumcised. Abraham also offered animal blood sacrifices on stone altars as did Isaac, Jacob, the 12 sons of Jacob and the generations that followed for over 400 years.
This was before the giving of the Ten Commandments. They had the Noahide laws of Genesis nine. The chosen people also had revelation from God regarding right and wrong in their consciences. They also had the concept of natural law. Natural law is the concept that God’s wisdom and morality are embedded in nature and can be discerned from observing nature (Romans 1:20).
Each man, each head of his household, was the priest of his family. There was no Aaronic priesthood, no sons of Aaron officiating at altars. The priesthood was dispersed among all the men who headed families.
Abraham and his immediate descendants lived in the land of Canaan. They later migrated to Egypt and centuries later were oppressed and subjected to slavery. And then God intervened in a powerful and spectacular way. God changed the expression of Judaism in the earth in one generation!
The First Reformation of Judaism
In the First Reformation of Judaism, God raised up a great prophet, named Moses, to whom he spoke directly and gave great revelation. By contrast, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had visitations from God very seldom and went for years without any direct revelation from God. Regarding Moses, it is said in the scriptures in Numbers 12:8 and elsewhere, that God spoke to Moses openly and frequently “as a man speaketh unto his friend” (Exodus 33:11).
God gave revelation through Moses in plain words, not just in mysterious sayings. Revelation in plain words is called propositional revelation. Propositional revelation is the laws of God spelled out in plain sentences. It is to be distinguished from revelation given by the light of conscience or by the implications and impressions of what can be observed from the natural world, i. e. natural law. This was a major shift. Abrahamic Judaism had very few laws; Mosaic Judaism had hundreds of laws.
Moses was given over 613 laws, as tallied by the traditional rabbis. Included in these were the Ten Commandments. The animal blood sacrificial system was spelled out in exhausting detail in The book of Leviticus. The entire tribe of Levi was set aside to be teachers and magistrates. Within the tribe of Levi, Aaron and his descendants were the high priests and priests that offered the sacrifices. The people were commanded to bring their sacrificial animals to the Tabernacle of Moses to be offered by the Aaronic priests as recorded in Leviticus 17:1-9. This is all a radical departure from Abrahamic Judaism. God, not man, was doing this!
There was resistance among the people against the Mosaic reformation of Judaism. They resented the change from Abrahamic Judaism to Mosaic Judaism. In Numbers chapter 14, verses 2 to 4 there’s a an outcry and people were calling for a leader from among themselves to lead a return to Egypt.
In the book of Numbers, chapter 16, there was the infamous Korah’s rebellion and it’s deadly aftermath. Men rose up against the Aaronic priesthood. They seemed to resent the fact that the priesthood was limited to Aaron, the high priest, and his sons. God swiftly intervened and the rebels who resisted the Mosaic Covenant and Mosaic Judaism were judged severely. God affirmed the Aaronic priesthood and miraculously signified it by the miracle of Aaron’s Rod that budded, as we read in Numbers 17:1-10.
It’s also interesting that during all this radical change and introduction of hundreds of new laws that in Deuteronomy 18:18-19 Moses gave the following words from God: ” I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him.” In this passage Moses is actually giving a prophetic prediction of yet another reformation to take place in the future! This future reformation would be the Second Reformation of Judaism.
The Second Reformation of Judaism
The second reformation of Judaism was conducted by the Messiah. The promised Messiah of Israel is Jesus of Nazareth. The New testament in Acts 3:22-24 affirms that Jesus of Nazareth is indeed the prophet like unto Moses that was predicted in Deuteronomy 18:18-19. Jesus was a prophet and as Messiah, He is more than a prophet. Jesus brought about a change in the expression of Judaism in the earth in one generation.
Judaism went from Mosaic Judaism to Messianic Judaism through the prophet like unto Moses. Jesus lived a sinless life and kept and fulfilled the law of Moses down to the last detail. Jesus became the perfect sacrifice when He took all the sins of all mankind upon Himself and suffered the punishment of the sins of all mankind and died and rose from the dead. “The LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). Jesus fulfilled and superseded the animal blood sacrifice system.
The animal blood sacrifice system, that was given in such detail in The book of Leviticus, has been fulfilled, superseded and made obsolete. Animal blood sacrifices are no longer required to be offered to atone for sins. The fact that Jesus fulfilled the animal blood sacrifice system is described in detail in the book of Hebrews 10:1-18. The book of Hebrews in the New Testament is a book written especially to the Jewish people.
Another passage discussing the Mosaic sacrificial system, namely, Hebrews 9:9-10 reads as follows: “both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make the worshiper perfect in conscience, since they relate only to food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until a time of reformation” (NASB). This verse, which uses the word reformation, clearly states that there has been a reformation of Judaism. This new Judaism is called Messianic Judaism or Christianity, which I regard as equivalent terms.
You recall that there was resistance to the reformation brought about by Moses when Judaism went from Abrahamic Judaism to Mosaic Judaism. Similarly, there was great resistance to the Messianic reformation of Judaism. The New testament describes in abundant detail the resistance offered up by the Pharisees and Sadducees. The book of Acts and the Epistles also describe resistance to the Messianic reformation by Jewish people who preferred to remain in Mosaic Judaism. This resistance continues to this day. The majority of Jews around the world today remain in Mosaic Judaism.
The Third Reformation of Judaism
It’s interesting to note that there’s a prediction in the New testament of a future reformation of Judaism. Yes, Messianic Judaism will undergo a radical reformation in the future! Judaism will have a third reformation. God will change the expression of Christianity (Messianic Judaism) in the earth in one generation. The New testament, in Acts 3:19-21, prophetically predicts a future time of reformation at the second coming of Jesus Christ (Messiah and Christ mean the same).
Acts 3:19-21 reads: “Repent therefore and return, that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy Prophets from ancient time” (NASB).
This passage essentially gives a brief outline of the past 2000 years of the church age. It says that times of refreshing would come from the presence of the Lord. This refers to the times of great revivals and moves of God all down through ancient history, medieval history and down to our present time. The revivals in the early church, the revivals in Ireland in medieval times, the Great Awakening in America in the 1740s, the Welsh revival of 1904, the Azusa outpouring of 1906, the Latter Rain revival of 1948, the Charismatic Renewal of 1967 are examples of revival outpourings of grace and power which are “times of refreshing.”
Acts 3:21 refers to the fact that Jesus is in heaven “until” the time of the restoration of all things. “Until” is a time word, which means it’s in the future. The “restoration of all things” refers to the millennial reign of Christ and the radical transformation of culture, politics and religion that will occur during the 1000 years when Christ reigns on this earth, from His throne in Jerusalem. The Millennium will start at the second coming of Christ. This will be the Third Reformation of Judaism.
This prediction of the coming radical transformation of Judaism (i.e. Judeo-Christianity or Messianic Judaism) is very explicitly described in the 20th chapter of the book of Revelation in verses 1 through 10. This passage describes the fact that Satan will be bound for a thousand years. Thrones will be set up and those who sit upon them will be given power to rule and reign with Christ for a thousand years. We could call this new Judaism: Millennial Messianic Judaism. The Millennium will be a glorious time of transformation upon the Earth in which Isaiah 11:1-10 will be fulfilled when the wolf will dwell with the lamb and the lion will eat straw like the ox and “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:10).
The Fourth Reformation of Judaism
At the end of the 1000 years there will be a Fourth Reformation of Judaism. This fourth Reformation of Judaism is described as coming after the Millennium and after the resurrection of the dead and after the final judgment recorded in Revelation 20:11-15. Revelation, chapter 21 describes the new heaven and the new earth and the holy city of Jerusalem coming from God down out of heaven. This is a glorious time of heaven upon earth and the reversal of the curse of sin. It is a time when God will dwell among men on earth. This glorious time, which will come after the end of the Millennium can be called Post-Millennial Messianic Judaism.
In the Bible, Judaism progresses from Abrahamic Judaism to Mosaic Judaism to Messianic Judaism (Christianity) to Millennial Messianic Judaism to Post-Millennial Messianic Judaism. God has indeed blessed all nations of the earth through Abraham and his descendants. You can partake of the salvation offered to you when you turn to God and repent of your sins and ask for forgiveness of sins through Christ who died for your sins.
Steps to salvation:
Jesus said “Ye must be born again” (John 3:7).
Prayer to receive salvation:
“Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13).
To receive the salvation that Jesus purchased for us at the terrible cost of His suffering and death on our behalf I invite you to pray this simple prayer:
“Dear heavenly Father, I thank you for sending Jesus, the promised Messiah, to die for my sins. I admit that I am a sinner. I repent of my sins and I ask for your forgiveness on the basis of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I ask you to fill me with your Holy Spirit to empower me to serve you under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, Amen.”
If you prayed this prayer in the humble sincerity of your heart then you have received everlasting life, which includes power to live right in this life and entrance into heaven in the afterlife!