Q. The New Covenant Assemblies of Yahweh (NCAY) is now entering the 18th year of its mission. Since it was first organized in England in 1986 I think everyone would agree that it has undergone enormous changes. We saw huge upheavals in 1992 and 1995, a long wilderness journey until 2001 which included another major shift in 1999 when it consciously started becoming completely Torah-observant. A hundred-and-one questions spring to mind so perhaps I can begin with a general one: where do we go from here?
A. I have been asked questions like this before and been asked to make prognostications. This is always a difficult thing to do because you can never be sure what Yahweh will do or ask of you next. Though 1992 and 1995 were major upheavals, and were regarded by us as disastrous at the time, they did turn out to be not only inevitable but redemptive. If we had remained still and not taken our 'medicine' I am sure we would have slipped away into obscurity long ago as a community and mission. As it is, I believe we have largely remained responsive to Yahweh's directives and seen major positive change.
Q. You have often spoken of NCAY as being under constant reformation and restoration. Since the 1999 changes, is there really that much more to restore? And if so, of what nature is that likely to be?
A. Becoming Torah-observant in 1999 was a major leap forward but we have not completed that process yet. In the beginning we simply copied the Messianic Jews in order to get into the rhythm of the sacred calendar but over the last four years we have vigorously started pruning away all the Talmudic accretions of the centuries and made great efforts to return to the simplicity of the original Torah instructions.
Q. Has this now posed problems of interpretation for a Messianic Evangelical context?
A. Yes, definitely. We have faced many challenges there and the process is by no means complete. We have had to sift through the several Messianic Jewish interpretations of things and on occasion even discard them altogether and 'started from scratch', allowing Yahweh to teach us as we have gone along, as we have always done. And this is not something that can be accomplished in one year. I fully anticipate this taking a few more years still.
Q. But we have the basic 'grid', as it were, in place.
A. Very definitely. There remains one more major shake-up in respect to the festivals and that concerns the use of the correct calendar. Until last year we followed the Talmudic calendar but for the first time we shall be largely discarding this and following the luni-solar calendar given in scripture. This will, when it is finally implemented, mean a huge upheaval especially when it comes to Sabbath observance because it means that the Sabbath day will vary from month to month depending on the beginning of Rosh Chodesh. (At this time NCAY was still following the Babylonian-influenced Jewish tradition of siting the first crescent moon).
Q. Many have been alarmed by this prospect - they wonder how they will be able to hold down regular jobs anymore because it means that in one month the Sabbath will be on Saturdays, the next on Mondays, the next on Tuesdays, and so on. Employers won't tolerate it and people will lose their jobs.
A. Yes, indeed, and this is the major reason we have hesitated making this change for some years.
Q. So the Patriarchate was aware of this problem some while ago?
A. We first became aware of this problem in about 2000 or 2001 and realised early on that implementing the variable sabbath system would cause chaos and unspeakable financial hardship for the vast majority of the membership.
Q. Isn't the best course of action to simply obey and yet Yahweh take care of everything?
A. Yes, of course, this is true. However, Torah was given in the context of a theocratic state where Torah was state law and so there was no conflict between work and Sabbath observance. And therefore such an arrangement only becomes practical in a theocratic environment that currently nowhere exists today.
Q. Does this mean we have to wait for the millennium?
A. No, not at all. This arrangement will exist in our twelve end-time firstborn colonies as soon as they are formed, as there will be no dependence on the outside world for our daily bread or the means to produce it. And it will progressively exist in the proto-firstborn or preparatory colonies where home industries will be established where we will determine our own working schedules and and so harmonise with the divine calendar. (In 2004 we took a compromise position, allowing local assemblies or branches to continue observing the Talmudic Saturday Sabbath. This was later abandoned).
Q. Are you planning to implement this system in NCAY headquarters at any time in the near future?
A. Yes, we are standing by ready to do so. Quite when, we do not know yet. Our temporal survival has, as you know, been quite precarious of late and we are not yet in a position where we can remotely declare ourselves independent of the world system that in so many ways is a prerequisite to successfully following this important aspect of Torah. The very clear impression I am getting from the Ruach (Spirit) is that it will be 'soon' but not to presumptuously rush into anything until we can really do it properly. If it can happen this year I would be more than happy, but we shall see. (The change-over was finally made in 2011).
Q. I understand that continuing the solar one-in-seven day Sabbath elsewhere in the assemblies has been quite a problem
A. Yes, there has been much resistance to change in some quarters, particularly in respect of the International Date Line (IDL) which means that technically, while the rest of us observe a Saturday Sabbath, those east of the eastern Turkish region of Lake Van are required to observe it on Sunday.
Q. Why should that be a problem?
A. I think it has to do with the fact that for so many years our people have been preaching the error of the Roman Catholic 'Sunday sabbath' and getting persecuted by other Christians for our trouble that changing to Sunday feels like a climb-down for them.
Q. But surely if they explained the IDL reason, that shouldn't be a problem?
A. You would think so but there is an element of pride involved here, reminding me a little of the problem the New Testament Assembies (Churches) had in respect of meat offered to idols. Many new converts from paganism wanted to emphasise their departure from paganism by making the 'separation' as wide and complete as possible, not so much to spite the pagans, but because they wanted to be sure they weren't sinning. Their motivation was right even if they erred too much on the side of conservatism.
Q. So are you saying this is the reason you have met resistance in the countries in the 'Sunday zone'?
A. Actually we don't know, and this one of the major problem areas we have in NCAY today because we have not to date had the resources to properly monitor all the new congregations that have since 2001 started allying themselves to us. (There was explosive growth in the Indian Mission at this time).
Q. Communications have been bad, you mean?
A. Yes, very poor. It is currently our greatest weakness. There are now so many congregations that have joined us, numbering maybe up to a hundred, including others queuing to join, that we now have an administrative quagmire. Congregations are in diverse stages of development and we will never be able to untangle the mess and get discipleship programs underway until we know exactly where we stand.
Q. Perhaps you could clarify for the members just how you think this problem is going to be resolved?
A. I do not have all the answers yet. Part of the problem is that as a Community (Church) we are literally penniless, and always have been. We are barely able to get our publications out every three months and sometimes we have had to postpone shipments for up to half a year. In the last couple of years we have been overwhelmed by escalating postage costs, the need for more printing equipment, depleted stocks of paper, and so on. For instance we have managed on the enormous paper stocks we acquired from Denmark about 12 to 13 years ago and only now they have started running out.
Q. We have not bought paper since then??
A. Indeed not. We have been very blessed to have had this enormous stock which was, I believe, acquired very cheaply from a factory going bankrupt in about 1991. But that blessing has now ended. (The impossibly high costs of publishing and shipping on so tiny a budget eventually forced NCAY to revert to an entirely Internet ministry. The policy was adopted thereafter to try and provide each congregation with an inexpensive laptop and the entire NCCG.ORG website on DVD to ensure the local leadership had all our materials at theit fingertips).
To this we must add enormous health problems. My own has been especially bad and I have been hospitalised twice over the last two years because we have not even had enough money to heat our own home up adequately in the sub-arctic winters here. The Second Patriarch is now an old man (since deceased) and has had some serious falls and is no longer as active as he would like to be. The Presiding Matriarch (also now deceased) has retired because of ill health and old age, leaving that office currently vacant. The Third Patriarch is currently experiencing health problems and has been living on a shoe-string budget like the rest of us, and basically just surviving in Oslo - he is very tied up in helping with the rehabilitation of drug addicts and alcoholics and is only able to visit us two or three times a year. The Second and Third Matriarchs are very busy mothers, housewives, translators, administrators and income generators. The Patriarchate has been hard pressed for years - and it has only got worse - preventing them from having the time to handle the pressing matters that confront them in the mission field. Maintaining the gigantic NCCG.ORG website and on-line services is a full-time job and has fallen entirely on myself - I have little time to do anything else. There really has been almost no international travel by the apostles for years, only one visit being made to the USA in 2002, and no money to bring church leaders to Sweden for training. The rest of my time is employed in deliverance ministry. (The Patriarchate has been completely reorganised since 2004 but the problems remain essentially the same).
Q. What of relief in terms of gathering new apostles?
A. We have found some of them, praise Yahweh, but all are currently working the skin off their bones to get themselves out of economic hardship, opposition from spouses, and the like. Coming to NCAY invariably provokes persecution, especially for the leaders. Wives have divorced them or kept them highly restricted, some have lost all their wealth, others have been frightened away by the opposition of the world. And new apostles take time to train up! There are two new ones well on their way but they have practical concerns to attend to first. ("Many are called but few are chosen" is a scripture we have experienced first-hand on an almost continual basis. Few of my generation have had the fiber to pass through the spiritual fire and so it has remained for us to focus on long and painstaking work of preparing the next generation instead).
Q. What steps are being taken to bring order to the many congregations abroad that have joined NCAY?
A. We are about to introduce a screening process for both current member congregations as well as for new applicants. This would have got underway had our main PC not recently died from a virus attack. Hopefully, after this has been fixed, the process will begin in February (2004). The procedures have all been worked out and are ready for publication.
Q. What do you predict the response will be?
A. Almost certainly, many will leave. There have been rogues who have come to us for the sole purpose of financial capitalisation, whose interest in us has only been if we could financially support them. We had, as you know, a huge scandal in Benin when our West African director was exposed as a scam artist playing off different churches for money whilst claiming to be exclusively joined to each. This is very common in the Third World. The other day one Indian congregation broke away because we had no money to regularly support them with even though they knew they would not get aid from the beginning.
Q. It is surely best that they leave.
A. Yes, no doubt. In spite of very clear instruction explaining that we are not just a 'ministry' helping other churches as a bank so that they can pursue their own programs, they still come with false expectations. I do sympathise with them to some extent because they are desperately poor, and in many cases starving and dying. There are millions of such believers all over the world who are desperately looking for generous Westerners to pull them out of their financial hell-holes. In their position I know I would be desperate too. The scam artists aside, this is the real problem. When you have a hungry belly you are more than willing to put doctrinal differences aside and compromise, but once that basic need has been met, their interest in association with us diminishes.
Q. So we have financially supported them?
A. It has been pitfully small but then we have pretty well given them all our surplus. It's not been much - $50 here, $10 there, sometimes a bit more - at least we hope it can alleviate a little suffering, but then there are long times when we get no donations at all and cannot help them. Some quietly slip away during these times and we never hear from them again, most remain hoping for better days and are genuinely attracted by our apostolic witness and are committed to the work.
Q. So our hands have been tied in many ways?
A. Yes, they have. It has been frustrating. The needs are enormous. We have the knowledge, the Ruach (Spirit) and the willingness to serve, but without cash and an international fellowship you can't do a thing. Communication is maintained by email (many congregations can't even afford to use that as they must pay to use an Internet Café) and by our quarterly publication packages which have been the lifeline between us and them. But these we have had to cut down in numbers because of costs and there is no guarantee we can get the next publications out at all. At the very least we need to get our publishing capacity up. We need to urgently publish mass produced books and distribute them from different locations.
Q. What is needed are wealthy Westerners!
A. Ours is not a 'health-and-wealth' pseudo-gospel and so the vast majority of rich believers are not attracted to us - they want to maintain their expensive élitist lifestyles for whom the sacrificial nature of the Besorah (Gospel) does not appeal. Another problem is that our membership in the West is minimal - there are lots of investigators all over the place, widely separated, for the most part unwilling, or simply unable, to be pioneers, and as usual - poor. And as Isaiah prophesied, women are outnumbering the men in large numbers.
Q. So these are married women still attached to unconverted husbands?
A. Yes. They are severely limited.
Q. What will happen, then, to resolve this?
A. As of today we have no idea. We are trusting Yahweh to provide for our needs, and at the right time, for surely the time is running out for this world. Our web page continues to be our singular most important tool for now and so we will focus on that. It's had over a quarter of a million visitors in the short time it has been online.
Q. What of training at headquarters?
A. We are getting visitors now, but it is only the beginning. We still lack the facilities to have more than a few at a time. We built three new rooms and repaired a damaged roof last year and nearly bankrupted ourselves doing so, but at least we can house a small number of visitors now. As the festivals become established, so our people and friends from Scandinavia are now starting to attend them here as the headquarters becomes a kind of 'temporary gathering place' for them for now.
Q. How is the work in America doing now?
A. It is under very able and committed leadership but they too have their struggles. There are now many investigators in several states, as I said. Unlike earlier abortive attempts to get a base in America, NCAY is now in America to stay. I have no doubt that in time it will grow and we will see small congregations starting everywhere. I am very optimistic about the future of the American Assemblies in spite of the opposition and persecution that we all know will come there. (I was over-optimistic. Tragically the Presiding Minister lost his life in a tragedy which shook us deeply. This ended any plans back then of organising anything substantial. As of 2017 there remain many investiagtors scattered all over North America but the Ruach/Spirit has not led us to effect an kind of organising for now).
Q. Of the 100 or so congregations worldwide, how many do you think will remain after the reforms planned for February?
A. It's impossible to say but if half left us I would not be unduly surprised. (The Indian Mission, numerically the largest, became independent when the government started placing restrictions on foreign-based organisations. There was also much opposition to the change from Saturday to Creation Sabbath. The various missions in Africa eventually were closed when it became clear that the main driving force behind them was money and not the work of NCAY per se, a phenomenon we would see repeated again in the years that followed in East Africa and elsewhere in Asia).
Q. Would you interpret this as a blow?
A. Not at all. NCAY has never been after numbers. We are not out to create a new international denomination. Our primary call, in terms of building the Messianic Community (Church), has been to gather the remnant of the 144,000 firstborn survivors who are on the earth today and to safely conduct them to the cities of refuge.
Q. I imagine the logistics of that is enough to cause brain-failure!
A. It does not bear thinking too much about as things are now, but Yahweh will open the way as He did when Israel was in captivity. We only have to maintain emunah (faith) and obey the directives Yahweh gives us and watch Him work. Many will come to this ministry, discover that it demands more of them than they are prepared to give, and leave again. We have always expected that. We are after quality, not quantity. Ultimately there will only be 12 congregations worldwide so if the NCAY grows to many hundreds of congregations, they will in any case be pruned down in time.
Q. It has been NCAY teaching, has it not, that NCAY will one day disappear?
A. Yes, leaving only the Holy Order or Chavurat Bekorot. NCAY, like its predecessors, is a temporary evangelising, discipling, and sifting organisation. Its structures are temporary also for it will be replaced one day by the millennial Israelite theocracy. It is absolutely not our intent - and never will be - to create a colossus that will absorb our time, energy, money and talent administering. We do not want a straight-jacket to confine our activities being administrators - the congregations must become self-governing and independent, but right now we have got to bring order and discipline to them somehow, or else they must go their own way.
Q. Do you anticipate resistance?
A. If they are not being led by the Ruach (Spirit), absolutely. If they are, then they are a natural part of us. The true sons and daughters of Elohim (God) know each other in the Ruach (Spirit) and submit to one another for righteousness' sake. Those who are not will resist and will at length have to go their own way.
Q. So NCAY's reputation for being strict has not changed?
A. Not one bit. The emet (truth) cannot ever be compromised. This is not just a question of human resistance but of the demonic which has always wanted to infiltrate and neutralise us. Our commission is first and foremost to raise up a qadosh (holy, set-apart) and pure priesthood corps to Yahweh. Without that we can go nowhere. If we do not insist on it, we will be sowing the seeds of our own destruction. That is why 1992 and 1995 were not disasters. The priesthood then was undisciplined and rebellious and had to be dismissed or leave. And if necessary we will do it again.
Q. Even if it means starting at the very beginning again??
A. Even if it means dissolving NCAY and rebuilding it from scratch again, yes, absolutely. (This is, in fact, precisely what we did in the period following the closure of the Indian and African Missions).
Q. I am quite sure our people do not want to go through those anarchistic times again
A. They won't. The apostles Yahweh is raising today are quite unlike the leaders we had before. These are men of spiritual depth, commitment and valour. They are unlike anything we ever had before aside from the Patriarchate who weathered the storms and long wilderness journey. These men have been through their own deserts and refinements. Yahweh is delivering them almost ready-made.
Q. You have spoken of the adjustments that have been made with respect to Torah-observance and also the complexities of the luni-solar Sabbath. What other doctrinal changes have there been which you consider worthy of note?
A. The area where we have been refining, rather than changing, the most is unquestionably in the area of deliverance ministry. This ministry is not only vital for the end-time work of NCCG but it must be done absolutely correctly and in every congregation. In parallel with the outer observances of Torah, this has without doubt been our #1 concern. We have been learning about the demonic system, the end-time deceptions and plans of the enemy, and the best and most effective way of dealing with them. Our thinking and practice in this respect has changed very rapidly indeed, forcing us to change our whole emphasis in ministry. All new members must now go through deliverance before confirmation (chrism, Bar/Bat Mitzvah), something we never had before. A special Deliverance website has been appearing in response to all of this and will continue to grow.
Q. In a word, the ministry of casting out demons
A. Far more than that - we are not only talking here of getting demons out of people but of mapping out the whole soul-nature and structure so that people can be properly healed. Without this, and the removal of every last demonic stronghold and lie, there can never be a full anointing. We knew that a purging and purification process had to be undertaken in earnest because the revelations repeatedly told us so but not until we were thrust into the thick of battle, as it were, did we really understand just what this entailed.
Q. More daunting?
A. Much more! We were naïve about many things, sometimes learning the hard way, sometimes experiencing great endowments of power in Yahweh's grace. This end-time dispensation is unlike any other. We are now entering the phase that I refer to as 'total spiritual war' and unless you know your enemy well you cannot outmanoeuver him. One of the biggest shifts that has taken place since NCAy's formation as been in the direction of spiritual intercession generally because without this evangelism is a waste of time.
Q. How is that?
A. It is useless building up a demonised Body of Messiah because then it becomes a Body of Messiah and of Satan, which is, of course, a contradiction in terms, and ultimately results in a counterfeit. Anybody can evangelise and throw a group of believers together and start a 'church'. But that's not what we're about. Yahweh wants a purified people and if people don't want to be cleansed they should not come here! We are in the 'spiritual laundry business' first and foremost. We don't build fancy churches or meeting-houses so we don't need members to finance them. We are a house fellowship for the most part and will always remain one. We don't want unnecessary temporal burdens on our shoulders. Souls are what matter - cleansed souls. Ours is a ministry of overcomers. As such, then, we will never be a 'populist' Assembly or Church.
Q. From what I have seen it has more enemies than members!
A. When you proclaim emet (truth) and expose lies, that is inevitable. Without emet (truth) there can be no cleansing. "The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth" might well be a motto of ours. We are hated by many and are accustomed to threats now. But as long as you are in the emet (truth), you have Yahweh behind you and in front of you all the way, so what is there to worry about? Of course, we all get the collywobbles when we get our first taste of persecution but you soon come to appreciate them as part of the refining process, and that cannot in and of itself be bad. The thing is not to fall into the trap of the martyr complex by welcoming persecution. We don't court persecution. We follow the injunctive to live at peace with our neighbours to the very best of our ability but we know that this cannot be at the expense of emet (truth). Usually they don't want to live at peace with us, not the other way round.
Q. How much of this is dependent on only speaking when one is told to by Yahweh?
A. It is critical! We are not here to lift up a warning voice to all and sundry unless specifically told to do so in a certain situation. There are others besides us who have a prophetic and evangelistic ministry. We are not the Body of Messiah's fix to all problems or its messengers to every part of the world. We have a limited and precise mission and five clearly defined commissions. We do not just stand up on any old street corner and start preaching. We go where we are told to go, and say what we are told to say. If one is indiscriminate and presumptuous (and that's a mistake I have made more than once and don't ever intend to repeat) we will be wiped out because Yahweh cannot tolerate presumptuousness. He is merciful and longsuffering while we learn from our mistakes, but once we've learned them we aren't supposed to repeat them!
Q. What would you say have been the greatest theological struggles you have had over the last 2 or 3 years?
A. One always has issues personally, limiting thorns in the side so that grace can abound, and so on, but if it's NCAY-wide matters you principally have in mind, then I would say there are two or three principal areas of concern still.
Perhaps the most important one concerns the fallibility of our Greek translations of the New Testament. As everyone knows there are some textual problems which atheists and liberals have been quick to point out. The flurry of work on the Aramaic and Hebrew originals and copies has helped iron many of these issues out. However, these are almost as diverse as the Greek manuscripts. The textual differences pose no serious doctrinal problems because all the essentials of the emunah (faith) are clearly mapped out, even in the Greek translations. Areas of controversy continue to be the synoptic Greek variations of the 'Sadducee Incident' over the resurrection and Law of Levirate as people struggle with issues of eternal marriage and related topics. We, as you know, were terribly anxious to 'settle down' to a translation we felt the most comfortable with and had set high hopes on the Hebraic-Roots Version (HRV). As the sectarian bias of the author has become more evident we have been forced to relegate it to a position alongside other versions.
Q. So we still don't have a single favoured version?
A. Sadly, no, and our ambitions for a New Covenant Version (NCV) are unlikely to be realised unless a Hebrew and Greek scholar joins our ranks. So that is a matter of concern, having no uniform primary version for the congregations, an obvious weakness and source of potential conflict. We still recommend that people get an HRV or an ISRV (both if they can afford it) together with a good Greek-based version like the NKJV. (See In Search of a Bible: Which Translation Should I Use?).
Q. So if the leadership had these three versions you think that would be adequate?
A. I would hope the Pastor would be conversant in a few more too like the Jewish New Testament, the New King James Version, and the Greek Interconcordant Version, but I think those three are adequate.
Q. That's one area of difficulty. You mentioned two others
A. I think we have the Elohim (Godhead) question expounded as fully as it will go, with the Proto-Trinitarian doctrine being augmented, and to a large extent replaced, by the Echad Doctrine for those who want to go deeper. We recently thrashed out some of the problems over the El derived titles for the Elohimhead (Godhead) and had to put them on the backburner. I don't think we need take that any further for now.
There's been a disagreement over the date of the Birth of Messiah, some maintaining a 6 April birth and others opting for an autumn (fall) birth during the Feast of Tabernacles. This might have been a problem before but since we dropped the Gregorian calendar and no longer celebrate His birth it's not really an issue and people can maintain their own views. (Some of our people have started unofficially marking His birth on Aviv 1 which has become popular).
Q. What of the Olive Branch sections that deal with this?
A. They will be replaced by instructions on the biblical festivals in the second edition, so people will not be bound to a 6 April birth date as an article of faith.
Q. What is your private view as to the correct birth?
A. Because it's no longer an article of NCAY faith, it's best I keep it private so as not to cause division or controversy. I don't want anyone to feel pressurised in any way because of my views on the subject.
Q. I understand there are still problems with some congregations and ordinary members over the tongues issue?
A. Yes, there are some. Our position on this is absolutely clear, however. For former pentecostal or charismatic congregations applying for membership in NCAY, this is something they must resolve in their three year probationary period before they will be admitted to full membership. For simple members who have been accepted and baptised because this is only something they do privately, they have time to resolve this prior to confirmation (chrism), usually a year.
Q. There have been some controversies with new congregations over the use of Sacred Names, I believe?
A. Two or three, yes. There are some who still believe the use of Greek- and other pagan-derived names like 'God', 'Lord', 'Jesus' is tantamount to blasphemy and apostacy. This we completely reject. Whilst as a matter of standard practice we use the Divine Names or Titles Elohim, Yahweh, Yah'shua (Yeshua), the Ruach haQodesh, and so on, we do not believe this is a salvational issue. If the truth be known, no-one can be 100 per cent sure how the Hebrew Names of the Father and the Son were pronounced anciently. (See The Divine Name YHWH: How is It Properly Pronounced?).
Q. So these congregations will need to moderate their stance before they are accepted?
A. Yes. We cannot afford to have a cultic spirit in our midst. There has to be a proper balance. One congregation has since left.
Q. I believe the status of 'affiliate' and 'associate' congregations has now been resolved?
A. Yes. We had enormous problems over terminology here as different congregations sheltering under our name meant different things by them. We have, of 1 January 2004, abolished affiliate and associate status. It made no sense that congregations should come under our umbrella who were teaching and practicing what we consider to be false doctrines, on the one hand; and on the other, many of them were demanding to be treated like full NCAY members, including demanding a cut in any funds which might come our way, in spite of it being clearly spelled out when they joined that they had no such rights.
Q. There are congregations like that still?
A. Until February when the new forms go out, yes. Some find themselves under NCHCF (New Covenant House Church Fellowship) and others under NCAY.
Q. NCHCF was, was it not, the place where associates and affiliates were placed?
A. Yes. We nearly dropped the designation but decided to retain it as the official title of congregations applying for NCAY membership during their three year probationary period.
Q. What of those congregations which are already using the NCAY label but who would technically come under the umbrella of NCHCF? Isn't this going to cause complications for those who have already been through the laborious and (for them) expensive business of registration with their national or local governments?
A. We are not insensitive to this problem and will work something out so as not to create undue difficulties for them. Only the Andhra Pradesh cluster of congregations in India will be affected by this and perhaps one or two in Africa.
Q. So basically all congregations except those in Arvika, Sweden, and Salt lake City, Utah, will revert to becoming NCHCF's?
A. And the little one in Oslo, Norway, yes.
Q. Presumably some of the older ones like the Indian Mission will not have to go through the whole three year process?
A. That remains to be determined by the extent to which they have implemented apostolic directives. This will only be known once we have sent out apostolic representative to check out the new congregations and they have had their pastors visit with us here for training.
Q. Changing the subject back to doctrinal questions, I believe quite a lot of thought has recently been going into the relationship between the Pauline writings and the rest of the New Testament?
A. That has been going happening on a more or less continual basis since ourbeginning.
Q. So has there ever been any danger of NCAY becoming Ebionite?
A. If by that you mean rejecting the Pauline writings, no, never. We had a very clear word from Yahweh on Paul in the earliest days. Where we have had a struggle is in dealing with the contention that the New Testament was composed of two entirely different types of congregation, Torah-observing Messianic Jews, and gentiles who were supposedly not required to observe Torah save for a few rules established by the Council of Jerusalem. Our view has always been that the Jerusalem Counsel decision was simply the first of a series of Torah-observant statutes that were binding on the gentiles until they could come to observe all of them. We have always believed that the goal was uniform practice throughout the New Testament Messianic Community but that this had not been achieved within the timeframe of the New Testament period.
Q. So you don't accept David Stern's thesis that the Jews were free to continue their Christianity within a Jewish cultural context and the gentiles within their own?
A. No. And in that respect we are not Messianic Jews, never were, and never will be. We are Messianic Israelites believing in the unity of Israel and the grafting of gentiles into Israel as Paul taught to the Romans.
Q. What of Messianic Jewish congregations coming to NCAY?
A. So far only one has come (from Nigeria) and is very much under the Stern teachings still. We are not sure whether they will want to remain after the February changes, but hopefully they will as they are quite well developed.
Q. What of the grace vs. works controversy?
A. We have always had a pretty clear view of that though have considerably refined the doctrine over the years, especially since 1999 when we became Torah-observant. In its most elementary form, we have always taught that salvation from the penalty of sin is by grace, and by grace alone, through emunah (faith) and that obedience to Torah (works) is evidence of that salvation. To this we have added various refinements that examine salvation in the wider sense of encompassing more than pardon from sin and the reception of a new life in the Ruach (Spirit).
Q. So you would reject the Mormon doctrine that "you are saved by grace after all you can do"?
A. Absolutely. No human being could ever do enough, could they? Who is to say what anyone is capable of doing? No-one could ever experience freedom or know security from damnation with such uncertainty hovering over their heads. The first and most important saving event is entirely free - by grace. The rest - fulfilling the mitzvah (commandment) to go on to perfection (which will determine the reward we get in the next life) - is part of the overcoming process which again is entirely dependent on the work of the Cross for a man to accomplish it. Yah'shua (Jesus) clearly teaches that the initial salvation is not enough to enter heaven if we stubbornly refuse to obey Torah, for there is no place for lawlessness. This is a large subject with many ramifications and is perhaps beyond the scope of this interview
Q. It is a critical area nonetheless and the cause of much inter-denominational strife
A. Yes, that is true, and we have addressed this subject in great detail in numerous publications. For our purposes today, though, I merely wanted to say that our doctrine on this has not changed. In a nutshell, we do not believe in justification by works - no man can save himself. If he could save himself through Torah-obedience, then there would be no need for Messiah! Rather, Torah-obedience is the right and loving response by one who has been delivered from the penalty of sin by the appropriation, by emunah (faith), of the blood atonement of Yah'shua. Our obedience demonstrates in action our right relationship towards both Elohim and our neighbour, and precludes giving demons legal rights to oppress.
Q. Of all the new congregations that have come to NCAY since 2001, which do you regard as being a model that others might emulate?
A. I don't think we know enough about them yet for me to do justice to that question. Of the ones that I know well from personal contact, I am bound to say that I am most impressed by the attitude, faith and prosecution in evangelism of the congregations in Mindanao, Philippines, led by Brother Abaloc. (This congregation left us when we dropped the Talmudic Saturday Sabbath).
Q. Is there anything in particular about them that you feel would be of benefit to the other congregations?
A. In all Third World countries one of our greatest handicaps is poverty. What has enormously impressed me about the Filipino congregations is that their leaders decided, right from the beginning, that they would rely on Yahweh for their financial needs and not on foreign ministries or other donors. They have struggled hard but to this day - because of their emunah (faith) - Yahweh has met those financial needs. They have never asked us for money and never recriminated us, or tried to make us feel guilty, when we haven't offered them any (because we don't have any). Instead of leaning on the arm-of-flesh they have relied entirely on Yahweh, and have had that emunah (faith) vindicated. This is not to say that it has been easy for them - it definitely hasn't - but it does mean that they are more reliant on Yahweh for their provision.
From the bottom of our hearts, we would desire nothing better than to be able to help them and all our other congregations financially. However - and this is a lesson that all our congregations need to learn sooner rather than later - a time is coming, and is not far distant, when 'foreign' missions, who have traditionally relied on rich Western churches and missions to support them, will discover their source of income completely dried up. When this happens it will cause a tumult, widespread panic, and cause many to depart from the emunah (faith).
The apostles and evangelists were taught by Yah'shua to go without purse or scrip (Mt.10:9ff). He did not say, 'apply for an annual stipend from the Jerusalem Council'. They went in emunah (faith) and were taken care of. So long as congregations coming to us, familiar with the world's way of doing economics, come with a worldly mindset, they will be leaning on a carnal crutch that will eventually be struck from under them.
Q. This requires great emunah (faith)
A. Yes, it does. We, too, at headquarters have had to learn this lesson the hard way ourselves, and arguably are still learning it. I personally had to learn, the tough way, the idolatry of relying on the world system, a system which before long will make society cashless and tie all trade into electronic cash controlled by subcutaneous microchips inserted under the skin of the hand or forehead of every citizen.
Q. The mark of the beast
A. Yes, more than likely. We have got to get accustomed to not rely on the world system. Weaning ourselves off it now must begin - we cannot delay. I am not saying we can become totally independent overnight because I think that's unrealistic. Lessening dependence on the world system has to be carefully planned if you want to avoid panic, chaos, hunger and sickness. For this reason our congregations must start organising themselves into rural cooperatives and making steps to become self-sufficient.
Q. To do this requires ownership of the land, though. Surely most of our poor people are tenants?
A. You're right, but if these congregations will unite in prayer and fasting and petition Yahweh to show them how they can do this, with a view to being self-sufficient, He will hear their prayers, because this is His will for us. He has already led us to an organisation called Green Planet International (GPI), which we are encouraging our members to join, because they are in the business of helping poor people in Third World countries become self-sufficient farmers.
Q. How many of our people are involved in this at present?
A. Brother Rustad and myself are the only ones currently involved but we need others with business savvy to get stuck in and promote it. GPI is involved in Africa, India and the Philippines, right where the majority of our people are. If anyone wants to know more about this project, they can find a link to it on the main page of the NCCG.ORG website.
Unless the windows of heaven should suddenly open and we find ourselves in possession of a pot of gold, I see no other way at present to help our people get started. This is the door that Yahweh has opened to us after long prayer petition. We have examined numerous projects over the years and this is the only one that Brother Rustad and myself feel good about. Those involved can also generate a small income for themselves as well as help the needy. Unlike other companies GPI has a solid Christian-compatible ethic and does not exist to make profits for profit's sake but only to replough it back into the farms.
Q. So you recommend that people look carefully into this? What about the poor people, like pastors of these congregations, who can't afford to join it?
A. Well, actually, they can. They have special rates for poor people. Also, GPI sets the farms up completely free and require no payback to cover their investment until the farm has become stable, breaking even and making a small profit. The whole system is generous to a fault.
Q. It sounds very Christian indeed.
A. It is a non-religious organisation and helps everyone irrespective of race and religion. However, I 'smell a Christian' somewhere in this but for reasons of the nature of the business Christianity is not being promoted. It is up to us to make use of this gift from heaven, however, but that requires that every branch leader takes the initiative to do something. (Sadly, the Norwegian founder of this company decided to do something else and closed the operation down, causing us to lose our investments and before we could get this project out into the farms on the NCAY mission field).
Q. So there will be no 'corporate NCAY action', as it were, then?
A. No, NCAY is not a business corporation or organisation. It is a federation of independent congregations under the headship of the Judges of Israel, the Apostles and their appointees, and united by a common Constitution. NCAY does not exist for itself. It is not like the Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Catholics, Lutherans or other institutional bodies. It is a living organism of people.
Every individual, every house group, and every congregation must take responsibility for itself and learn to live by revelation. As leaders, our rôle is to instruct, edify, encourage, chastise, and otherwise ensure that those under our direct stewardship - the bishops and pastors - are adhering to the whole emet (truth) of the Besorah (Gospel). But should a time ever come upon us - and we believe it will - when they are cut off from us, they should be sufficiently close to the Ruach (Spirit) as to be able to manage without us.
Q. The balance between stewardship on the part of the pastors to the apostles, and freedom, is one of the hardest parts of judging, is it not?
A. Absolutely. It's a very fine balance. On the one hand, the apostles must not tie the pastors to their apron strings, and on the other they must make sure that the harmony of the whole international body of Messianic Evangelicals remains tightly knit in ahavah (love), doctrine and practice.
Q. I imagine it must be a big challenge for a pastor of an independent church to place himself under apostolic authority. What problems have you encountered there so far?
A. I think those problems are yet to come. One of the great weaknesses of the male gender is yielding control to others. Men by carnal nature are very territorial and will reluctantly yield authority and power to a central authority. It's a different matter if you build up a congregation from scratch.
When apostles and evangelists plant new assemblies they are involved in the structuring of them from the outset, they appoint the pastors and elders, so that there is a gradual spiritual development. When you bring in a congregation ready made which has traditions and power structures of its own, disturbance is not usually welcome. People are set in their ways. Wrong ideas exist about congregational life against which there can be a lot of resistance to change.
Q. For instance?
A. Many independent congregations are run like military camps, with the leaders making all the decisions without ever consulting the people. In most of them we meet, women have not been allowed to advance into their callings but are corralled into rôles defined by the society around them. In Western countries women have been given authority they are not entitled to have and taking that away from them can be met with resistance if proper instruction is not given, and deliverance ministry administered when necessary. No matter what the culture there is usually much redressing of authority structures and war has to be declared on the territorial demons that control the host nation. Without that, spiritual warfare issues are never finally resolved and conflict is always simmering under the surface, with the congregation being divided into different parties or interest groups.
Q. So the actual integration of an independent congregation is no small task?
A. Absolutely not. It's more than the pastor accepting NCAY doctrine and saying, 'I like that, can we be a part of you?' It is far more than the congregation making outer adjustments to practice. The whole spirit has to change. And that takes time and spiritual warfare coupled with intense spiritual education of the leaders coupled with deliverance ministry for the leaders themselves.
Q. Without exception?
A. Without exception.
Q. Then in truth we have barely started integrating our new congregations?
A. They're not integrated at all yet. We have little or no idea what they have done locally other than vague assurances that things are underway. Many have no idea how to go about it, which is why we need on-the-spot help, and the money to do it. The nearest analogy I can give is of an immigrant to a new country who knows nothing about the customs, language and ways of the host nation. There are tremendous readjustments. Moreover, NCAY is not reflective of any particular culture or nation - we're not a 'European Church'. Our ways are very alien to our own culture.
The first step is undoubtedly getting the pastors to headquarters for long training sessions together with their wives. Once they have captured the spirit of this work they will return home energised to make the necessary changes. Without their cooperation little can be done.
Q. The Apostolate has now introduced a three year reorientation period for these congregations. How do you see that working?
A. Having a program of change, with targets, is very motivating and allows those going through the changes to monitor themselves and participate in the thrill of aligning themselves closer to the emet (truth). We will see what happens next month.
Q. In a hypothetical situation of one of our congregations breaking away from us because they don't want to realign, and still retaining our name - NCAY - what steps would you take to protect that name?
A. We would, of course, try to prevail upon them as fellow Christians/Messianics to respect our right to protect our name. If that failed, we would have to inform the local authorities that they were no longer working under our umbrella and that they should therefore re-register under a name of their own choosing. We would maintain a database of rogue congregations on our homepage so that people encountering counterfeit NCAY's would know what they were dealing with.
Q. Has that page been constructed yet?
A. No - because we haven't had time - but it is needed. We need to expose the scam artists like those from Benin.
Q. It seems to be, with respect to new pastors, that the challenge for us, at least, is gaining their trust.
A. Trust must flow in both directions. If pastors are to learn to be obedient to the apostles and not go the way of the New Testament Diotrophes (2 John), then they need to clearly see that we, as leaders, are scrupulously obedient to Yahweh and His Torah and are operating in the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit). Each have their spheres of responsibility.
Q. So blind obedience is not required?
A. Of course not. Should the qodeshim (saints, set-apart ones) have blindly obeyed Peter when he joined the Talmudic faction and refused to sit with the gentiles at table? Every pastor has the right to ask questions. There is, however, a right and a wrong way to ask - with respect or disrespect, in the Ruach (Spirit) or not in the Ruach (Ruach), in shalom (peace) or in belligerence. We all have the right to search for the emet (truth) and to ask about things we do not understand, and to politely challenge things which we thing are wrong, asking for reasons.
Q. Provided it harmonises with the Bible, of course?
A. The Bible is the foundation of all emet (truth).
Q. What is the rôle of the Olive Branch?
A. It is a supplement for the priesthood - the leaders of both the local congregation and the General Assembly. It contains instructions, amongst other things, on congregational government not found in the Bible. Pastors, Elders and Deacons are bound by it when they enter NCAY.
Q. As you survey all the prophecies in the Bible that have not been fulfilled yet, which, if any, do you have personal difficulty understanding?
A. There are many prophecies that remain unclear but which will become clearer as we approach the times they portray, especially in the Book of Revelation and in Daniel. These don't personally trouble me as I do not lose sleep over not understanding everything. The one prophecy that does trouble me, because I still don't fully understand it, is the future place of the temple seen by Ezekiel. I am aware of the various views held by theologians and scriptorians but as yet have not been fully satisfied by any of them.
Q. What is your major problem with it?
A. The necessity of Old Covenant animal sacrifices in a future temple in the New Covenant dispensation which no longer requires blood sacrifices. The explanation that 'Israel' and the 'Church' are two separate entities is not accepted by us because of the clear Pauline teachings on the unitary nature of Israel and the Messianic Community (Church). The belief of many is that the 'Jews' must offer sacrifices for some reason whereas this is not required of the Messianic Community (Church) implies that there are two separate Gospels, which NCAY utterly rejects, because "in Messiah" there is neither "Jew nor gentile" - the distinction, or wall of partition, is gone. That Jews are somehow saved by animal sacrifices and gentiles by the blood of Messiah is a grotesque travesty of the New Testament teaching, and opens the door to New Age ideas about there being 'many paths' to the 'one Elohim (God)'.
Q. So basically you're wondering what that prophecy is doing in the Bible at all?
A. Exactly. I see no literal use for an Old Covenant temple either before or during the millennium.
Q. What of the as yet unfulfilled prophecy in Malachi Chapter 3 which states that the sons of Levi must yet offer a righteous sacrifice to Yahweh for Judah and Jerusalem? Might the Temple of Ezekiel be for the fulfillment of this prophecy?
A. I understand the train of thought, and I have heard it argued that the sacrifices offered in the New Covenant dispensation when Yah'shua returns are those offered by the patriarchs but not those offered under the Mosaic system - this, at any rate, is the Mormon argument. But there are many problems with that argument - for one. The Levites are not a part of the pre-Mosaic system. For another, the pre-Mosaic animal sacrifices had the same function as those offered in the Mosaic, namely, to provide a temporary blood covering until the Messiah should some and make a final sacrifice for sins. The Temple of Ezekiel is a Mosaic Temple with a Holy of Holies chamber separated by a curtain or veil from the rest - this veil was permanently rent when Yah'shua died on the Cross, signifying our direct access to Yahweh through the blood of Messiah and not through a human High Priest or Cohen Gadol.
The Book of Malachi is the last Tanakh (Old Testament) book both chronologically and historically. Verses 2 to 6 are the only parts of it that have not yet been fulfilled. Verse 1, which speaks of Yahweh's Messenger, is accepted by all Christians to be John the Baptist. The same verse tells us that Yah'shua (Jesus) will suddenly return to His Temple to effect a general cleansing by fire of the sons of Levi. My understanding of this passage is that the literal descendants of Levi must effect, through the accepted blood of Messiah, redemption of their whole blood line. This means having deliverance done for them by cleansing the sins of their ancestors who stood in a priestly position ministering for Judah and Jerusalem under the Old Covenant. In a way, because of their dereliction of duty and apostacy they brought a curse upon the House of Israel - the literal descendants - which has led them into sin over the generations. We are speaking here of the cleansing of the generational sins of the Tribe of Levi. Their "offering in righteousness" can only, in the New Covenant, be that of a broken heart and a contrite spirit, properly submitted to Yahweh in Yah'shua (Jesus), thus removing the curse over their own tribe and the House of Israel. This they shall principally be doing for the Judahaites and Jerusalemites of old. Notice that the Levites are not numbered in the 144,000.
Q. This does not solve the problem of the Temple of Ezekiel, though, not does it tell us what the rôle of the Levites will be in the Millennium, something I notice you have never addressed in your writings.
A. No it does not. The whole of the New Jerusalem is a Temple, sacred space. It is coming down to earth (Rev.3:21; 21:2). I can only presume that the Levites will have a special caretaker rôle in that.
As for Ezekiel's Temple, unsatisfactory though my explanation is in many ways, I am forced for now to view it in spiritual terms as representing a future millennial temple or New Jerusalem, couched in the language of the Old Covenant so as both to be meaningful to the readers and hearers of the prophecy of Ezekiel's time as well as to ensure that Yahweh's Messianic secrets remain concealed from the carnal. This is only a provisional conclusion as I am without any direct revelation on the subject. The Letter to the Hebrews explains the symbolic meaning of the tabernacle in the New Covenant and thus I would tend to view Ezekiel's temple in the same terms.
Temples are only shadows of heavenly things, as Paul reminds us. Messiah has removed the shadows, fulfilling them in Himself. Yah'shua (Jesus) is today its eternal Cohen Gadol (High Priest).
Q. Ezekiel also describes how a stream of water flows eastward and southwards from under this Temple to the Dead Sea and Arabah, respectively. He says that the Dead Sea will be healed and once again have fish in it. Isn't this proof that Ezekiel's Temple is literal?
A. Oh yes, there is no doubt that it must be literal. The question in my mind, though, is whether this is actually a Mosaic Temple, or the New Jerusalem, or something else. As I said, I don't have the answers. I wish I did. And I could be completely wrong. However, the explanations I have heard do not harmonise with the whole thrust of the New Testament which says uniquivocally that animal sacrifices are no longer needed. The idea that animal sacrifices will again be offered is to be a complete denial of the atonement of Messiah. More than that I can't really say at present. (This matter was resolved by NCAY in 2016 upon the discovery that the prophecies in the Book of Ezekiel are not arranged in the order in which they were received. The Temple seen by Ezekiel was offered to the apostate Kingdoms - north and south, Ephraim and Judah - if they would repent and return to Yahweh and Torah. As they would not, the promise lapsed and that Temple was never constructed and never will be constructed).
Q. I think you have covered most questions about NCAY that are on people's minds at the beginning of 2004. What is your final message for our listeners and readers?
A. We are still in the leadership gathering stage. The apostles are under training but we need the remainder, along with the sub-apostles or evangelists if we are to really move ahead. There are still at least seven (if not more) apostles out there. A couple we have identified, but they have either not responded or have fallen away. Yahweh will call others to replace them if they do not heed their call. So we make our appeal to the ungathered apostles to come home.
The most critical area that needs attention after the apostles is the pastors - we need to get them here for training, and we need to visit them in the field. But to do that we need manpower and money. While we are waiting for those doors to open, we want to encourage the pastors to maintain regular contact with us by email and regular mail and make themselves accountable. We need regular reports from them so that we know what is happening in their congregations. Some are doing this, but not many. I need to remind them that a condition of their current membership is that we have proper quarterly reports from them. When we do not hear from them we naturally wonder if this is a signal that they wish to depart from us. If this is the case, we need to know.
Then there are those who are coming on an individual basis. We encourage them to join in the on-line clubs we have and to participate, fellowship, and grow in knowledge and grace. In the United States in particular I would like to see a regional conference sometime where our people can gather and meet face-to-face. We want to invite them to prayerfully consider relocating nearer one another, as Yahweh directs them.
Finally, we will continue to place increasing emphasis on deliverance ministry. Pastors who know nothing about this, or who have no deliverance program in place back in their home congregations, are placing themselves and their people at a severe spiritual disadvantage, and leaving themselves open for attack by the enemy. A very large part of our training for pastors is therefore in deliverance ministry.
Our prayers and blessings are with you all. May 2004 take us one step nearer the goal of full echad in the Kingdom. Amen.