You who are about to read this, for the most part, I believe are Sabbatarian in spiritual background, maybe upbringing-or you are interested in Sabbatarian history. Since this is part of a church history section which is composed of various histories of revivals that became denominations, this church history section by design is intended to help believers from those revival/denominations know how their various denominations got started. Part of the motive is to help people return to the early faith and spiritual zeal that got their "revival/denomination" going in the first place. But this study of the revivals of the Sabbatarian Churches of God is slightly different. It is designed to show origins, the ancient origins of these Sabbatarian Churches of God. Understanding the light of where you came from will help you recognize the incredible significance of a very recent revival of the Jewish branch of the body of Christ. This revival of Messianic Judaism is unusual, since the early Messianic Jewish branch of the body of Christ was completely wiped out, killed off by the church located in Rome which became the Roman Catholic Church. For 1700 years Messianic Jewish believers in Yeshua (Jesus) did not exist, period. If a Jew wanted to convert to Christianity he had to totally abandon any Jewish customs and beliefs he had. The early Christian Church of God, up until about 150 AD was about 73 percent ethnic Jewish, and about 27 percent Gentile. So this early Christian church was basically Messianic Jewish. After Acts 15, which is more thoroughly explained to the Roman Church of God in Romans 14, the apostle Paul said that the choice for days of worship, i.e. Sabbath/Holy Day observance or Sunday observance was optional, and the individual believer had a choice. Most of the Messianic Jewish Churches of God, due to their high percentage of being ethnic Jewish racially, chose to continue observing Sabbath and Holy Days on a voluntary basis (as do most Messianic believers today). But the Church of God in Rome had an interesting mixture of Jewish and Gentile believers. The Jewish believers, by the very wording of Romans 14, were Torah-observant Messianic Jewish believers. That means they felt the whole 10 Commandment law of God, and the Holy Days of Leviticus 23 and the dietary laws of Leviticus 11 were still in full force for the believer. Paul said they were optional, but told the believers in Rome that if your Christian conscience told you they were not optional, then you must follow your conscience (cf. Romans 14:22-23). By 280AD, 130 years later, the Church was around 50-50, 50 percent Jewish racially, 50 percent Gentile racially, with an estimated 3.2 million members [figures taken from Rodney Stark, The Rise of Christianity, 1996]. But after 325AD the Jewish Sabbath/Holy Day observing congregations disappear from the scene. Historically, the mere fact of their existence is not to be found in the annuls of "Orthodox" church history. We only have Polycarp's and Policrates' strongly worded letters to the "bishop" in Rome that the Asia Minor Churches of God would continue observing the Passover on the 14 Nisan, as they had learned from John, who learned from Jesus. If a 14th Nisan Passover were being observed, you can bet your life the other Holy Days and Sabbath were being observed as their days of worship as well, no doubt about it. The observance of the 14th Nisan Christian Passover represented the whole system of "worship days", not an isolated day of worship, as many would erroneously assume. Ask a Jewish scholar. Now in the early 300's AD, these same Torah-observant Messianic Jewish believers were chased out of Rome and moved into southern France (later to become part of the Waldensian movement, which was Sabbatarian). This study shows that a remnant of the Torah-observant Church of God believers in Yeshua escaped annihilation, and ended up being chased, revival to revival, from Italy and Asia Minor, across Europe, England, and then became planted in the United States, where it migrated across the United States. The race of this ancient Church changed to reflect the nationality it moved into, so the Jewish customs were lost along with their ethnicity, they were no longer racially Jews. So if you are a part of that very old remnant, now as a part of its most recent revival, understand, your roots go way back to an early form of Messianic Judaism. Also understand that within an historically very short time-span the Lord has revived the entire Jewish branch of the body of Christ. I have a whole section devoted to this revival of Messianic Judaism [see http://www.unityinchrist.com/messianicmovement/messianicmovement.htm.] I spent 25 years in the Torah-observant Sabbatarian Church of God known by the name of The Worldwide Church of God, founded and led by Mr. Herbert Armstrong. I came to recognize and understand the whole Messianic revival, and the core of their belief system in record time due to the extremely close similarity in doctrinal teaching between Messianic Judaism and this Sabbatarian Church of God I had come from and received my spiritual education from. Marvin Rosenthal-a Messianic evangelist-wrote a book entitled The Feasts of The Lord, which aside from describing a lot of Jewish customs that got attached to the Holy Days, almost directly mirrors what we were taught within the Worldwide Church of God about the prophetic meaning of each Holy Day [To order "The Feasts of the Lord" log onto http://www.unityinchrist.com/messianicmovement/Daniel-Neb7.htm . The mailing address of Zion's Hope is 1390 N. Hancock Road, Suite 201, Clermont, Florida, 34711. The cost of the book is $17.95, but is worth every penny.] Marvin was not borrowing anything from The Worldwide Church of God when he wrote this book. The book is based upon Jewish and Messianic Jewish beliefs concerning the Holy Days. Amazingly enough, the core of the prophetic teachings about the meaning of the Holy Days is a near 100 percent match of what we were taught in The Worldwide Church of God. It has been estimated that there could be as many as 1,000 Messianic Jewish congregations worldwide now, with as many believers in Yeshua as 500,000 or half a million [Don Goldstein, I Have A Friend Who's Jewish-Do You?]. This immense growth within this revival took place all within a short 35 year time-span. So what The Worldwide Church of God taught about the prophetic meaning of the Holy Days was not the teaching of some half-crazed cultic nut, as many outside of that church believed-as proved in this high quality book The Feasts of the Lord. This is a well-documented book which I highly recommend. It places the Holy Days of Leviticus 23 in proper Biblical perspective, as well as explaining the many Jewish customs that were attached to them. You will also come to understand and appreciate your Jewish brethren in Yeshua as never before. This revival of the Jewish branch of the body of Christ is an end-time phenomenon brought on by Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit. It would be impossible without that moving of God's Spirit. Why? Let me explain. The entire history of the Jews in Europe and Russia was one of anti-Semitism brought on by the Catholic church, in the name of Christ. The ordinary Jewish person hates the name of Christ, due to this history. The German "Final Solution" during the 1940s was merely an extenuation for what had been taking place for 1700 years, first in Asia Minor, then in Russia, Europe and Germany. So for God to call a Jewish person is far harder, due to these prejudices, than it is for him to remove the scales from the eyes of some Gentile and make him or her a believer. The Jewish person is often disowned by family, synagogue and community for accepting Jesus Christ as their savior. So for the Lord to revive the Jewish branch of the body of Christ in 35 short years is nothing short of a huge, stupendous spiritual miracle. [further reading on this theme: Our Hands Are Stained With Blood, Michael Brown; A History of The Jews, From Earliest Times Through The Six Day War, Cicil Roth, and I highly recommend as a personal testimony of one Jewish person's Journey to belief in Jesus Christ, Kidnapped For My Faith, by Ken Levitt (out of print but copies can still be found on Amazon.com). Ken's personal story really drives home the hurdles of becoming a believer in Jesus for a Jewish person. I know Ken personally.] If you're a Sabbatarian, take note of this revival, and of your roots, for your roots go back to them in the antiquity of the early Church of God in Jerusalem, and yes, Rome. Enjoy this history of yours, and understand from whence you came. Satan has driven a huge gulf of mis-teaching and misunderstanding between anything Jewish and the Christian church. Roman Catholic teachings have made their way into most of the reformation churches and denominations, poisoning them toward their Jewish brothers in Yeshua, not necessarily by out and out hatred, but via doctrinal beliefs that are anti-Semitic. So there is this sort of spiritual-doctrinal non-man's-land between the Gentile Christian churches and denominations and the Messianic Jewish congregations. And where do you Sabbatarian Church of God members sit? You sit right smack in the middle of this no-man's-land, misunderstood by both sides, but especially misunderstood by the Gentile Christian side. Satan hates you as much as he hates the Jews. Why does he hate the Jews? First, before the birth of Yeshua, it was because Jesus, the Messiah was to come from the Jews. After his birth, it was because he came through the Jews, and he couldn't stop it. So his hatred for anything Jewish out-burns all his other hatreds. What can you do? Well, you can sit in no-man's-land, all on your own, or you can reach out to your Jewish brothers in Yeshua, reach out in brotherly love. A perfect gift for the Holy Days, and a perfect book to read is Feasts of the Lord, so be sure to order a copy for yourself. I am always ordering one for myself, because I am always giving my copy away to some Sabbatarian Church of God friend or acquaintance.
Understand, you who are Sabbatarian Church of God members, by your very strict adherence to the 10 Commandment Law of God as expounded upon in the Torah, and spiritually magnified by Jesus in Matthew 5:17-48 and through the apostles in the rest of the New Testament, you people are a perfectly preserved picture of the early Torah-observant Messianic Jewish believers in Yeshua haMeshiach [Jesus the Messiah] in the early Jerusalem Church of God. And even though there are large numbers of non-Torah observant Messianic believers today, there are some that are Torah observant. Romans 14 is clear evidence of Torah-observant Messianic Jewish believers right smack in the middle of the Church of God in Rome whom Paul addressed in Romans 14. Due to the very nature of a Torah observant Church of God rejecting all forms of syncretism that would change their adherence to the Old Testament 10 Commandments, Holy Days and dietary laws, your belief system has remained the same for almost 2,000. The Sabbatarian Churches of God are a perfectly intact picture of the early Church of God in Jerusalem before Acts 15 and Romans 14 were written. Even if the Churches of God in Asia Minor after Acts 15 and Romans was written became non-Torah observant, they were still observing the Sabbath and Holy Days voluntarily, as evidenced by Polycarp's and Policrates' letters to the Bishop of Rome stating that the eastern churches would continue to keep the Passover, as they had learned personally from the apostle John, who learned from Jesus. In the 300s AD this all changed, under the emperor Constantine, who decreed that all the Christian churches were now to observe Sunday, Christmas and Easter-and no one, under penalty of death, was permitted to observe Jewish days of worship. Somehow you guys escaped. Most didn't and were killed off. This is the story of that escape-and slow migration of the Torah-observant part of that ancient Church, the Church of God-halfway across the globe. For the rest of you Gentile Christians, to view a modern-day Sabbatarian Church of God, take a virtual tour, so to speak, log onto http://www.ucg.org. They're not weird, just ordinary Christians at the end of a long line of Sabbatarian Churches of God going back to Asia Minor in the first centuries of the Church. To read about their amazing journey halfway across the globe which took about 1900 years, keep reading. And be sure to read about their origins in the early church history section.
Enjoy, the editor.