The People of the Old and the Christian Gentiles of the New
Do Jews go to heaven? Several Protestant theologians from the past, and from today, remain convinced that all of them go to hell. Being a Roman Catholic, I do not subscribe to those beliefs. In contrast to this, the founder of modern Protestant Christianity, Martin Luther, became a virulent anti-Semite after feeling that the ‘Jews’ had somehow ‘spurned’ him and ended up writing some atrocious lies about the Jews which both Adolph Hitler and Karl Marx used centuries later as part of their anti-Semitic propaganda. Truth to tell, there have been individuals within the Roman Catholic Church who have been just as hateful towards Jews and Judaism. This has been counterbalanced with others who have been quite friendly. What is the official Roman Catholic Church policy on this issue? Any devout Jew who lives life with a faith in God and obeys the laws of Judaism is immediately rewarded after death with admission into Heaven to be with God forever. That is the Church policy of today and I am quite sure that it will never change. Indeed, there are twelve thrones specifically designated for the twelve tribes of Israel in Heaven.
Surrounding the throne I saw twenty-four other
thrones on which twenty-four elders sat, dressed in
garments and with gold crowns on their heads. From
the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings, and
peals of thunder.
– Revelation 4:4-5
Personally, I see, or visualize, a Heaven where the LORD Jesus Christ himself is surrounded by a large number of historically famous and saintly Rabbis, residing in some huge castle in the clouds. There they discuss and debate all the fine points of the laws of Judaism, along with a great many other subjects. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and his twelve sons, along with Moses and many others are also there. The House of LORD Jesus is probably not the only castle in Heaven. As Christ Himself said, ‘For in my father’s house there are many mansions.’ This is referring to the many houses of Israel mentioned in the Bible that include the House of Judah, the House of Esau, the House of Joseph, The House of David, and the House of Jason, along with dozens of others.
As a Roman Catholic, my beliefs have been shaped by the folk wisdom of the Church which claims that even though quite a few of us go to Heaven, most of us end up in Purgatory, while a very few are condemned to Hell forever. Jewish folk wisdom throughout the ages has mirrored this theory and both of them are probably fairly close to the truth. The Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church states quite clearly: ‘The Jews should not be spoken of as rejected or accursed as if this followed from Holy Scripture.’ The absurd theory, advocated by some Protestants, that all Jews are condemned forever to the burning fires of Hell is nonsensical and not really worthy of a response considering the very real fires that came from the genocidal ovens of the Holocaust. Pope John Paul II has made tremendous strides in eradicating such cruel notions from the minds of most, if not all, Roman Catholics. As the ‘liberal’ bumper sticker declares: ‘Hatred is not a family value.’ The Church could not have said it any better. It’s best that we all remember what King David stated in Psalms about what to actually expect when we pass away. It is as follows:
The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He leads me beside green pastures and past the still
waters. He restores my soul. He leads me on the right
path for the sake of His name. Yea, though I walk through
the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for the
LORD is with me. With his rod and staff he comforts me. He
prepares a table for me in the sight of my enemies.
He anoints my head, my cup overflows. Surely goodness and
mercy will follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in
the House of the LORD forever.
– Psalms 23:1-6
It should be mentioned that the Roman Catholic Church’s first Saints, meaning those whom the Church knows to be in Heaven are, in fact, Jews. They were never Christian, but were martyrs during the War of the Maccabees more than a century and a half before Christ. They include Judas, Simon, and Jonathan Maccabeus, along with seven brothers who laid down their lives by refusing to eat pork at the command of the Greek tyrants who killed them. Thus, the Church’s policy concerning the ‘Jewish question’ is quite simple- there have been Jews in Heaven from the beginning. This may seem surprising to some Christians, but long before Hitler and his genocide of the Jews, the Church has clearly pointed out that the Jews cannot be blamed for what a very few of their distant ancestors did to condemn Jesus Christ to death. It must be remembered that, according to thousands of years of tradition, Christianity declares Jesus, a devout Jew, to be the Prince of Heaven and his own Jewish mother Mary to be Queen of Heaven.
Pope John Paul II stated on several occasions that Roman Catholics should think of the Jews as elder brothers in the faith. I disagree with this idea because throughout history, the strength of the Church has been used to bully the Jews in a way that only an older, bigger brother would treat a younger brother. Truly, the Jews have exemplified Abel and all too often the Christians have acted like Cain. Hopefully in the future, this will change and further ties can be established between these two long-lost brothers. Except for the quiet Jewish refusal to accept Jesus as the Messiah, the laws, morals and ethics of each religion are so similar that all that is really left to do is to cordially discuss theology and what I consider the most important goal of finally circumcising the Gentiles, from Europe to Asia to Africa, once and for all.
Jews, Gentiles, and the Future of Judaism
Some Jews of today seem to be worried that their religion, their traditions and their culture is on the road to extinction. Some Gentiles look upon the situation with a smile. I’m not one of them. In fact, I truly believe that if Jesus Christ doesn’t show up to rule over all of us, as he is predicted to do so by Christian believers, then Judaism will continue indefinitely. The religion of Judaism is neither based nor founded upon the denial of Jesus Christ as the Messiah as some modern Jews may mistakenly believe. In fact, it is a religion that has been practiced long, long before there ever was a Rabbi Jesus to deny. It is the same religion that was practiced by all of His first Apostles and all of the first disciples. It is the religion of Jesus Himself, not the denial of Him. One could go so far as to say that Christianity is basically a very large sect of Judaism that has almost conquered the entire world. To be a Jew is not to deny Jesus, but to affirm God the Father and His transcendence. It must be remembered that Christianity, like Islam, worships the Jewish God of the Old Testament as God the Father. They simply do not adhere to all the laws that Jews do.
Strictly speaking, Judaism could claim that it is the Christians who are the heretics for not obeying the laws of circumcision, kosher food, along with many other requirements. Jesus and his Apostles did practice these laws and it was only later on that things changed. It is sad that they have. Being a Judaizer within the Church, I would like to see a Christianity that did practice literally all the laws of the Judaism as well. Unfortunately, in today’s world, this seems unlikely. What is likely is that over the course of the next couple centuries, the religion of Orthodox Judaism will remain, while Reform and Conservative Judaism will become more and more Orthodox or, instead, fade away into the Gentile majority. Secular Judaism, if there ever was such a thing, will not stand the test of time. Orthodoxy, like a diamond, will not be scratched out of history. It will remain in place in order to authenticate any future Messiah. They will be like a canary in a coal mine, practicing the same 613 commandments that Jesus Himself practiced two thousand years ago. For as Christ himself said:
Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets:
I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until
heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter,
will pass from the law, until all is accomplished…
– Matthew 5:17-18
It is unfortunate that Peter and James went against this teaching of the Gospels and allowed Gentile converts to Christianity to remain uncircumcised and to eat unkosher foods. There’s nothing to stop Christianity from being both kosher and circumcised. Messianic Judaism is a perfect example of this. Although their followers are Christian, they practice most, if not all, the laws of Judaism as well. This is a unique synthesis for what promises to be a worthwhile influx of Jewish tradition into a new type of Christianity. Let’s hope it lasts the test of time instead of fading away and melding with mainline Christian denominations.
Another interesting and fairly recent phenomenon concerns the large amount of Jewish-Catholic families that have been created recently. This has not been seen since the days of Weimar Germany, just before Hitler rose to power. At the time, it looked like many Jews were happily assimilating into the Catholic Church. Today, the same thing is occurring, but these new Jewish-Catholic families are also retaining their Jewish identity and traditions as well. This is a good thing and will not detriment Roman Catholicism in the least. These additional Jewish members to Christianity will find themselves welcomed for many years to come. Orthodox Judaism never likes to lose Jews to Christianity, but their ranks are likely to remain relatively untouched by the massive intermarriage taking place. Are Jews going extinct? Not at all. Again like a diamond, and especially among the Orthodox communities, their obedience to God’s commandments, coupled with their keen sense of ethics and morality, will continue to provide everyone with ‘a light unto the Gentiles.’