Global Heating Starts And Messianic Ends Come – OpEd


The world is way behind on its 2015 pledge to curb global warming. A new United Nations report details how quickly and deeply energy and financial systems must change to get back on a safer path. Planet Earth has to cut its emissions of heat-trapping gases by 43% by 2030, compared to 2019 levels, and 60% by 2035. The report recommended that countries need to stop $450 billion in annual subsidies for coal, oil and natural gas.

Planet Earth has sweltered through its hottest Northern Hemisphere summer ever measured, with a record warm August capping a season of brutal temperatures, according to the World Meteorological Organization. Last month was the hottest August scientists have ever recorded. The world’s oceans — more than 70% of Planet Earth’s surface — were the hottest ever recorded, nearly 21 degrees Celsius (69.8 degrees Fahrenheit), and have set high temperature marks for three consecutive months.

“The dog days of summer are not just barking, they are biting,” United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement. “Climate breakdown has begun.”

Millions of the world’s people believe that the challenge of climate change is the beginning of the end-time events that precede the coming of the Christian Messiah Jesus and/or the Muslim Messiah the Mahdi. But these people do not really know much about the messianic concepts in Judaism whose Prophets first revealed these end-time events and ideas.

The figure of a Messiah has been central to Christianity, important but not central to Rabbinic Judaism, and a part of but not central or even very important to Islam. 

Christians who believe in a divine Son of God Messiah, do not draw a distinction between the Hebrew Bible’s eschatological hopes for God’s glorious future age of world wide peace and justice, and an individual hero Messiah who is a descendant of Prophet David the king. 

That a human being could be a Jewish Messiah and simultaneously be a God is totally foreign and repulsive to the Hebrew Bible and the Qur’an. As Qur’an 5:72 states: “They blaspheme who say: “Allah is Christ [Greek for Messiah] the son of Mary.” But said [Messiah] Christ: “O Children of Israel! worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord.” Whoever joins other gods with Allah,- Allah will forbid him the garden [of Eden], and the Fire [of Hell] will be his abode.”

And as Allah says: “O Jesus the son of Mary! Did you say to people, worship me and my mother as gods in derogation of Allah’?” He will say: “Glory to You; never could I say what I had no right (to say). Had I said such a thing, you would indeed have known it. You know what is in my heart . . .” (Qur’an. 5:116) Jews are in full accord with this. 

In the Hebrew Bible the primary cause of the Messianic Age is God. That a specific human being would play an important role in ushering in the Messianic Age, is a concept that became more defined during the post Biblical second century BCE.

For Jews, one of the most important events of the Messianic Age is the ingathering of those Jews still living in exile. “The Lord, your God, will bring back your exiles, and He will have mercy upon you. He will once again gather you from all the nations, where the Lord, your God, had dispersed you”. (Deuteronomy 30:3) 

“He shall gather the lost ones of Israel, and the scattered ones of Judah He shall gather [them] from the four corners of the earth.” (Isaiah 11:12) and “I will return your captivity and gather you from all the nations, and from all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will return you to the place from where I exiled you”. (Jeremiah 29:14)

The Qur’an itself refers to this: “We conveyed to the Children of Israel in the Scripture that, “You will surely cause corruption on the earth twice [once before the first exile and again before the second exile], and you will surely reach [some degree of] great haughtiness. So when the [time of] promise came for the first [exile] of them {from Judea}, We sent against you servants of Ours [the Babylonians} those of great military might, and they probed [even] into the [the people’s] homes, and it was a promise fulfilled. Then We gave back to you a return victory over them [the defeat of Babylonia and the first ingathering aided by the Persian King Cyrus]. 

“And We reinforced you with wealth and sons and made you more numerous in manpower. [so], “If you do good, you do good for yourselves; and if you do evil, [you do it] to yourselves.” Then when the final promise came, [We sent  Rome] to sadden your faces and to enter the Temple in Jerusalem, as they [the Babylonians] entered it the first time, and to destroy what they had taken over with (much) destruction. [So], “It is expected, [if you repent], that your Lord will have mercy upon you [and gather you in again]. But if you return [to sin], We will return [to punishment]. And We have made Hell, for disbelievers, a prison-bed.” (Qur’an 17:4-8)

The Book 1 Enoch marks a new religious perspective. So familiar do 1 Ezra’s themes look in retrospect – angels, personal and national Judgment, one or two Messiahs, plus a Son of Man [the term Jesus almost always called himself]– that we can easily fail to appreciate just how startling they were in the third and second centuries BCE, and what a great departure they mark from the familiar words of Israel’s Prophets which only rarely mention an individual messiah.

The first book of Enoch includes a classic vision of the last days with a final Judgment, rewards for the blessed and punishments for sinners; all the result of God’s own actions. In a later section known as the Parables, a messianic Son of Man is central to these events (chapters 37-71).

The richest sources for new ideas about Messiahs come from the Dead Sea Scrolls, which have revolutionized our view of last days debates in the generations before and after Jesus’s lifetime.

Taking the Dead Sea Scrolls documents together, the vision of an individual messiah king got a  boost from events during the Maccabean (Hasmoneans) age, even though that dynasty clearly represented a break from the Davidic line to a novel priestly line of rulers. As messianic visions became more important to Jewish thought during the second and first century BCE the Dead Sea Scrolls give evidence of the diversity of those approaches. 

The Qumran Scrolls are usually associated with a Jewish sect tied to the Essenes and to First and Fourth Book of Enoch traditions. Most of the texts were written or at least preserved at the Jewish settlement of Qumran, founded around 160 BC, which survived over two hundred years, until the Jewish revolt of the late 60s CE. The Dead Sea Scrolls discoveries show the role of multiple messiahs, and eschatological figures. At least three figures in the Scrolls, all of them totally human, fit the messianic definition; a Prophet, a Priest and a King.

When Prophet John the Baptist came, the Jews asked him if he was a Messiah and he said “No”; they asked him if he was a pre-Messiah warner like Elijah and he said “No”. Then in apparent reference to Deuteronomy 18:18, they asked him “Are you that Prophet [like Moses}” and he answered, “No”. (John 1:19-21).

The Damascus Covenant, for instance, refers to the messiahs from Aaron and Israel. Broadly, the Scrolls offer a “dual messianism,” with two key figures, so that the messiah of Aaron is a priestly religious counterpart to the more political or militant Davidic messiah.

Davidic titles are, though, much more common. The Genesis Pesher (4Q252 5:1-4) includes the words, “until the Messiah of Righteousness comes, the Branch of David.” In the Prayer of Enosh (4Q369), someone is compared to God’s “First Born Son,” but a great deal of Biblical evidence suggests that this designation is meant to apply to Israel as a whole.

Also 4Q521, a “Messianic Apocalypse,” which specifically mentions a Messiah, describes God alone “releasing captives, giving sight to the blind and raising up those who are downtrodden.’  And the “War of the Messiah,” which includes the text 4Q285 refers to a Messiah piercing, as in slaying his enemies. 

According to the Qur’an (6:85) the last of the Jewish Prophets were: “Zakariya, John, Jesus and Elias: all in the ranks of the righteous.” Prophet Jesus was also a Messianic figure who will return during the Last Days of turmoil preceding the victory of good over evil in God’s Judgement Day and the Messianic Age for all the righteous of mankind. The term for Prophet Jesus “al-Masih” [the Messiah in Hebrew] is used eleven times in the Qur’an in verses: 3:45, 4:157, 4:171, 4:172, 5:17 (twice), 5:72 (twice), 5:75, 9:30, and 9:31

If Prophet Jesus was a Messianic figure, a Messiah of Righteousness, the Branch [descendent] of David; then Prophet Muhammad would be the Khatam an-Nabiyyin, the Seal of the Prophets; who was able to inspire a very long lasting religious community; plus being a Prophet validating previous messengers and their sacred scriptures. This dual role is unique to Prophet Muhammad as the Khatam an-Nabiyyin, the Seal [validator] of the Prophets.

“Indeed, the believers, Jews, Christians, and Sabians—whoever truly believes in God and the Last Day and does good will have their reward with their Lord. And there will be no fear for them, nor will they grieve.” (Quran 2:62)

O mankind, We created you from male and female, and made you peoples and tribes, that you may know (respect) one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted. (Quran 49:13)

“Let there be no compulsion in Religion: truth stands out clear from error: whoever rejects evil and believes in Allah (one God) has grasped the most trustworthy unbreakable hand hold: Allah hears, and knows all things.” (Qur’an:2:256)

“Say: we believe in God and in what has been revealed to us, and what was revealed to Abraham, Isma’il: Isaac, Jacob and The [12] Tribes, and in (the Books) given to Moses, Jesus and the Prophets, from their Lord: We make no distinction between one and another, among them, and to God do we bow our will (in Islam).” (Qur’an 3:84)

Just as all God’s Prophets are muslims in the generic meaning to the word, because they have all submitted to God’s will [although only Prophet Muhammad was a member of the Islamic Ummah]; so too is everyone a muslims in the generic meaning to the word, who truly believes in One God, and the Last Days, and does righteousness, kindness and goodness.

Rabbi Allen S. Maller

Allen Maller retired in 2006 after 39 years as Rabbi of Temple Akiba in Culver City, Calif. He is the author of an introduction to Jewish mysticism. God. Sex and Kabbalah and editor of the Tikun series of High Holy Day prayerbooks.

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