Yet, by the time Jesus arrived, the Nation and the Kingdom were both gone. What remained had deteriorated into religion (and somewhat mixed at that) with sects, and a perverted law. Moses was raised as a Prophet to the Nation of Israel, and David was raised as to its King. Jesus came as a Prophet (Deut 18:15, Acts 3:2, John 4:19) and when he returns, he will come as the King of Kings (Acts 1:6). When Jesus came, there was nothing left that resembled the Tribe of Judah. They were Jews in name only, and their behavior was devoid of nationality. They were so blended into the world and perversion, that Jesus declared that Satan was their Father (John 8:44).
From the Scofield Bible on the period between Malachi to Matthew (pg 986):
(1)…The problem was to keep alive this exalted ideal in the midst of outward persecutions and sordid and disgraceful divisions within.
(2) The organic means to this end was the synagogue, an institution which formed no part of the biblical order of the national life. Its origin is obscure.
(3) But during this period, also, was created that mass of tradition, comment, and interpretation…so superposed upon the Law that obedience was transferred from the Law itself to the traditional interpretation.
(4) During this period also rose the two great sects know to the Gospel narratives as Pharisees and Sadducees. The Herodians were a party rather than a sect.
Amongst such a people, governed, under the suzerainty of Rome, by an Idumean usurper, rent by bitter and unspiritual religious controversies, and maintaining an elaborate religious ritual, appeared Jesus, the Son and Christ of God.
Here is some history from, The Story of Christianity by Justo Gonzalez:
Alexander the Great introduced Hellenism before Jesus’ time. Some were elements of Greek and some from other places. Some Jews adopted those, “Since part of the Hellenistic ideology consisted of equating and mixing the Gods of different nations.” pg 8
From one, there became many sects, among them was the Pharisees- party of the populace. They did not enjoy the benefits of Roman rule. They were faithful to the Law. They studied and debated how the Law should be applied in every conceivable situation. This led to the charge that they were legalistic. they held some doctrines such as the final resurrection and the existence of angels. pg 10
More conservative were the Sadducees- mostly aristocrats, conservative in policies and religion, they rejected the doctrine of the Pharisees.
The Jews were scattered among the Roman Empire. Those in the East spoke Aramaic, and those in the west spoke Greek.
Philo of Alexandria (a Hellenistic JEWISH philosopher) sought to show that the best of Pagan philosophy agreed with the Hebrew scriptures. He also tried to prove that the God of the scriptures was the same as the One of the philosophers. pg 13
The Roman Empire encouraged as much conformity as possible without unnecessary violence as possible. While it favored the spread of Christianity, “In order to achieve greater unity, the imperial policy sought religious uniformity by following two routes: religious synchronism- the indiscriminate mixing of elements from various religions, and Emporer worship.” Syncrronism (the amalgamation, or attempt of different religions, cultures, or schools of thought) was the fashion of the time. In that atmosphere, Jews and Christians were seen as unbending fanatics who insisted on the sole worship of their One God- an alien cyst that must be removed for the good of society. In this, Socrates and Plato introduced the belief of the Immortality of the Soul. pg 14
All this, many Christians found attractive and useful in their attempts to respond to charges that they were ignorant and unbelieving. Although at first these philosophical traditions were used for interpreting the faith of outsiders, eventually they began influencing the manner in which Christians understood their faith. [a falling away?] pg 16-17
In Acts 6:1 there were already divisions (Grecians (Hellenists) entering into the faith, and the Word had not yet been preached to the Gentiles). So here, there was a conflict between the Jews; those who kept the customs, and those who were open to Hellenistic teaching.
“By its ninth chapter, Acts becomes more increasingly interested in Paul, and we hear less and less of the church in Jerusalem. What was happening is that the “Hellenistic” Jewish Christians were serving as a bridge to the Gentiles, and they were joining in such numbers that they overshadowed the Jewish Christian Community.” pg 20
Their faith was not a denial of Judaism but was rather the conviction that the Messianic age had finally arrived. [NOTE: Early Christians did not see themselves as a new religion (as we do now), but were convinced that the Messiah had finally arrived.] pg 20
In the earliest Christian community, the breaking of the bread took place “with glad and generous hearts.” Acts 2:46.
James addresses his epistle to, “the twelve tribes scattered abroad.” James 1:1
In A.D. 62, James the brother of Jesus (and leader of the church in Jerusalem) was killed by orders of the high priest. Soon thereafter, the leaders of the Christian community in Jerusalem decided to move to Pella…whose population was mostly Gentile. pg 21-22 By the second century, now that the Apostles are gone, everything begins to change, and not for the better.
Every major city began to claim Apostolic origins. The focus continues along religious lines rather than national lines.
Acts 28:20- Paul was persecuted, “because of the hope of all Israel.” Not for religion, but for a nation.
Jesus did not come to start a new religion, but as THE Prophet Moses declared, to restore the nation of Israel (12 tribes) to a right relationship with God. (John 4:19-26)