In the Near East the “Arab Spring” of 2011 with its great hopes; is now viewed with immense despair. And in the E.U. the USA and G.B. there are many people who are negative and pessimistic about the future of humanity. Doctors saved the lives of millions. Dictators sacrificed the lives of millions. Populations exploded and then birthrates declined. Technology produced both worldwide prosperity and pollution at the same time.
And with human-made climate change continuing, there’s a 48% chance that our planet will reach a yearly average of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels of the late 1800s, at least once between now and 2026, a team of 11 different forecast centers predicted for the World Meteorological Organization on May 9, 2022..The odds are inching up along with the thermometer. Last year, the same forecasters put the odds at closer to 40% and a decade ago it was only 10%.
So is the world and our society heading towards a wonder-filled new age, or toward a doomsday; or are both occurring concurrently because breakdown is always a prelude to breakthrough? Many who believe in the Biblical vision of a Messianic Age use the insights of the Prophets of Israel to provide guidance in understanding the social, economic, scientific and cultural upheavals sweeping our world wide society.
Usually the dramatic dangers of the pre-Messianic tribulation of Gog and Magog are emphasized. I will focus on the positive signs developing throughout the world that accord with the Messianic vision of the Biblical Prophets.
In many religious traditions, redemption is mostly defined in terms of individual enlightenment or personal salvation. However, the Prophets of Israel conceived redemption as a transformation of human society that would occur through the catalyst of the transformation of the Jewish community. This transformation, which will take place in this world at some future time, is called the Messianic Age.
The transition to the Messianic Age is called the birth pangs of the Messiah. The birth of a redeemed Messianic world may be the result of an easy or difficult labor. If everyone would simply live according to the moral teachings of his or her religious tradition, we would ourselves bring about the Messianic Age. But, if we will not do it voluntarily, redemption will come through social and political upheavals, worldwide conflicts and generation gaps.
The Messiah refers to an agent of God who helps bring about this transformation. The Jewish tradition teaches that this agent of God (and there may be three or more such agents) will be a human being, a descendant of King David, with great leadership qualities similar to Moses or Mohammed.
The arrival of the Messianic Age is what’s really important, not the personality of the agents who bring it about, since they are simply the instruments of God, who ultimately is the real Redeemer.
For 25 centuries people have prayed for the day when Isaiah’s vision of disarmament will be realized and “They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning knives. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.” (2:4) But although the 1990’s saw a major reduction of nuclear weapons; the 21st century saw terrorism becoming a new challenge.
Improvements in human health are unprecedented in human history. Truly we will be coming close to Isaiah’s prophecy, “One who dies at 100 years shall be reckoned a youth, and one who fails to reach 100 shall be reckoned accursed.” (65:20) Yet alzheimers, autism, alcohol and drug addition get worse.
Yet who among us would want to return to the high mortality rates and early deaths of previous centuries? The challenges we now face are not those of survival, but of opportunity. The fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy has thus gone un-noticed and uncelebrated.
Isn’t it amazing how people adjust to living in a radically new world and forget the past. Indeed, the Prophet Isaiah himself said, “Behold, I create a new Heaven and a new Earth, and former things shall not be remembered.” (65:17)
In the Near East the City of Jerusalem, which 2,000 years ago, had a population of over one-quarter million, had declined so much that in 1876, the population of Jerusalem was only about 25,000 (half of them Jews).
By 2020, the population of Jerusalem had increased more than 30 fold to 800,000+ (now 60% Jewish). Other formerly devastated cities in Israel have been rebuilt and have grown even more rapidly, thus fulfilling the prophecy of Ezekiel, “Thus says the Lord, ‘When I have cleansed you of all your iniquities, I will repopulate your settlements and the ruined places shall be rebuilt. The desolate land after laying waste in the sight of every passer-by shall again be tilled.
“People shall say, that a land once desolate has become like a Garden of Eden. Cities once ruined, desolate and ravished, are now repopulated and fortified.’ (Ezekiel 36:33-35)…’ I will multiply the people like sheep. As Jerusalem is filled with sheep during her festivals, so shall the ruined cities be filled with flocks of people.’ (Ezekiel 36:38)”.
The rebuilding of the Land of Israel is closely connected in Biblical prophecy to the return of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel. Indeed, a 1994 poll by Newsweek magazine, found that only 6% of those who believe Biblical prophecy is currently being fulfilled, point to the resurrection of a Jewish State in the Land of Israel as evidence.
At the beginning of the 20th century there were 15-16 million Jews in the world. Less than 1% of them lived in the Land of Israel. Today, after the Holocaust and the resurrection of a Jewish State in the Land of Israel, there are only 14 million Jews in the world and almost 45% of them live in the Land of Israel.
Due to declining birthrates in Diaspora Jewish communities, there is little doubt that 80-90% of the world’s Jews, will live in the Land of Israel by the end of the 21st century. The “ingathering of the exiles,” one of the most important set of Biblical promises is being fulfilled right now, and we are almost half way through this Messianic process.
Where does a Messiah fit in with all of this? He will still have lots to do when he arrives. Most Orthodox Jews would not commit themselves to any individual as a Messiah unless he successfully rebuilds the ancient Temple in Jerusalem, fulfilling the prophecy of Zachariah, “He shall build the Temple of the Lord, and he shall bear the glory, he shall sit on the throne and rule, there shall be a priest before the throne, and peaceful counsel will exist between both of them.” (6:13)
Now that a large part of the Jewish people have returned to the Land of Israel, and resurrected a Jewish State, one might think that rebuilding a temple of the site where Solomon originally built one almost 3,000 years ago, would be relatively simple.
And it would be, except for the fact that a Muslim Shrine presently occupies the site called, The Dome of the Rock.
Often erroneously called the Mosque of Omar, it is not a mosque and it was not built by Omar. It was built in 691 by Abd-Al-Malik and it is regarded by Muslims as the third holiest site in the world. Any attempt to replace the Dome of the Rock would provoke a Muslim Holy War of cataclysmic proportions.
There is, however, a lot of vacant land on the Temple Mount, and a small Jewish house of worship could be built adjacent to the Dome of the Rock provided Muslims would cooperate. Most observers agree that anyone who could arrange such Jewish-Muslim cooperation would really be the Messianic Ruler of Peace (Isaiah 9:5)
Christian support for such a cooperative venture would also be important. Most observers agree that anyone who could arrange such Jewish-Muslim cooperation would really be the Messiah/Madhi Ruler of Peace (Isaiah 9:5) Indeed, such Jewish/Christian/Muslim cooperation would not be possible without great spiritual leadership in all three Abrahamic communities.
Thus, each community could consider its own leadership to be essential Messianic aids as was foretold: “Saviors [plural] will come up on mount Zion” (Obadiah 1:21) Anyone who can bring Jews, Christians and Muslims together in mutual respect and cooperation would surely fulfill the greatest of all Messianic predictions, “They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning knives; nation shall not take up sword against nation, they shall never again teach war.” (Isaiah 2:4) Indeed, such Jewish/Christian/Muslim cooperation would not be possible without great spiritual leadership in all three communities.
Thus, each community could consider its leadership to be the Messiah and this would fulfill the culminating verses of Isaiah’s Messianic prophecy as enlarged upon by Micah (4:3-5), “They shall beat their swords into plowshares. And their spears into pruning knives. Nation shall not take up sword against nation, they shall never again teach war, but every man shall sit under his grapevine or fig tree with no one to disturb him. For it is the Lord of Hosts who spoke. Though all peoples walk each in the name of its God, we will walk in the name of the Lord our God for ever and ever.”
If each people truly follows the best of its own religious teachings the Messiah will surely have arrived, and God’s Kingdom will be established. The Qur’an refers to Prophet Abraham himself as a community or a nation: “Abraham was a nation/community [Ummah]; dutiful to God, a monotheist [hanif], not one of the polytheists.” (16:120) If Prophet Abraham is an Ummah then fighting between the descendants of Prophets Ishmael and Isaac is a civil war and should always be avoided.
If Arabs and Jews can live up to the ideal that ‘the descendants of Abraham’s sons should never make war against each other’ is the will of God; we will help fulfill the 2700 year old vision of Prophet Isaiah: “In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria. The Assyrians will go to Egypt, and the Egyptians to Assyria. The Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together. In that day Israel will join a three-party alliance with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing upon the heart. The LORD of Hosts will bless them saying, “Blessed be Egypt My people, Assyria My handiwork, and Israel My inheritance.”…(Isaiah 19:23-5)