For 27 centuries the message of Prophet Isaiah that in the future Messianic Age of worldwide peace would result in an idealistic visionary transformation of nature itself with even animal predators becoming vegetarians.
Isaiah 11:6-9 states: “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. 7 The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. 8 The infant will play near the cobra’s den, and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest. 9 They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”
But now Isaiah’s vision is needed to protect our planet from the terrible threats of natural disasters as an International Energy Agency report recommends that developed countries become vegetarian as meat consumption needs to fall by 80% because sheep and cow farts are one of the biggest contributors to methane emissions, which are 80 times more deadly a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.
The International Energy Agency reported that after falling dramatically during the coronavirus pandemic, carbon emissions have bounced back to reach new all-time highs. Sweeping changes will have to be made to the global financial-industrial system, which requires a complete overhaul, and huge changes of lifestyle are needed.
Isaiah (2:2-4) also envisioned that humans will live in peace during the Messianic Age. “In the end-times the mountain of God’s house will be established as the most important mountain. It will be regarded more highly than the other hills, and all the non-Jewish nations will stream there. 3 Many peoples will go and say, “Come, let’s go up to the mountain of God, to the house of the God of Jacob. He (God) will teach us about his ways, and we will walk in his paths.”
For out of Zion will go forth Torah, the word of God from Yerushalayim. 4 He will judge between the nations and arbitrate for many peoples. Then they will hammer their swords into plow-blades and their spears into pruning-knives; nations will not raise swords at each other, and they will no longer learn warfare.”
Prophet Hosea 2:18 puts both of Isaiah’s visions together as one. “And I will make for them a covenant on that day with the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the creeping things of the ground. And I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land, and I will make you lie down in safety.”
Human society changed more rapidly, violently and fundamentally in the last century of the second millennium than ever before in history. Doctors saved the lives of millions. Dictators sacrificed the lives of millions. Populations exploded and birthrates declined. Technology produced both worldwide prosperity and pollution at the same time.
Knowing all this, should we look upon the first century of the third millennium with optimistic hope or with fatalistic trepidation? Are 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 society. Usually it is the dramatic dangers of the pre-Messianic tribulation that are emphasized.
I will focus on the positive signs developing throughout the world that accord with the Messianic vision of the Biblical Prophets especially Prophet Isaiah.
In most religious traditions, redemption is defined only in terms of individual enlightenment or personal salvation. However, the Biblical 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, it 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 two or three 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.
The Messianic Age is usually seen as the solution to all of humanity’s basic problems. This may be true in the long run but the vast changes the transition to the Messianic Age entails will provide challenges to society for many generations to come.
For example, the Prophet Isaiah, 2700 years ago, predicted that someday there would be a radically new world in which Jerusalem would be fulfilled with joy for “no more shall there be in it an infant that lives only a few days.” (65:20) Before the mid 19th century the annual death rate for humans fluctuated from year to year but always remained high, between 30 and over 50 deaths per 1,000 individuals. Those elevated, unstable rates were primarily caused by infectious and parasitic diseases. The toll from disease among the young was especially high. Almost 1/3 of the children born in any year died before their first birthday; in some subgroups, half died.
Because childbirth was hazardous, mortality among pregnant women was also high. Even in our generation, high death rates for children were the norm in Africa, In Malawi, the mortality rate for children under 5 fell to 10% per 1,000 births in 2008, down from 22.5% in 1990 and 33.6% in 1970. A century ago, the infant mortality rate in Jerusalem (as in most of the world) was 25-30%. Now it is less than 1%. For thousands of years almost every family in the world suffered the loss of at least one or two infants; now it happens to less than one out of a hundred babies.
If this radical improvement had occurred over a few years, it would have greatly impressed people. But since it occurred gradually over several generations, people take it for granted. Also, it seems to be part of human nature that most people focus on complaining about the less than 1% that still die (an individual family tragedy heightened by the fact that it is unexpected because it is so rare) rather than be grateful that the infant mortality rate has been reduced by over 95%.
In another generation or two, populations will be declining throughout the world, but since that will occur in the future and since we are suffering the negative consequences of over population now, very few people see the whole transformation as a Messianic one in spite of the fact that it is a fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy.
The amazing rescue of 15,000 Ethiopian Jews in an airlift lasting less than 48 hours stirred and inspired people for a few weeks. Subsequently, the difficult problems the newcomers faced (similar to those of the 900,000 recent Soviet immigrants) occupied the Jewish media. Now both are taken for granted. The miracle has become routine. But if you had told the Jews of Ethiopia two generations ago that they would someday all fly to Israel in a giant silver bird, they could only conceive of this as a Messianic miracle. If you had told Soviet Jews a generation ago that the Communist regime would collapse, the Soviet Empire disintegrate, and hundreds of thousands of Soviet Jews would emigrate to Israel, they would have conceived it only as a Messianic dream.
In our own generation therefore we have seen the dramatic fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy: “I will bring your offspring from the (Middle) East and gather you from the (European) West. To the North (Russia) I will say ‘give them up’ and to the South (Ethiopia) ‘do not hold them’. Bring my sons from far away, my daughters from the end of the earth.” (43:5-6)
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)
Where does the 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 46% 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, except for the fact that a Muslim shrine, called The Dome of the Rock stands on the site presently. The Dome of the Rock is regarded by Muslims as the third holiest site in the world. Any attempt to replace it would provoke Muslims to a war of cataclysmic proportions.
There is, however, a lot of open land between the Dome of the Rock, which stands on top of the site of the Jerusalem Temple’s Mount, and the Masjid Al-Aksa which is several hundred feet south of the Dome of the Rock.
A Jewish broadcasting building could be built between the Dome of the Rock and the Masjid al-Aqsa provided that Muslims leaders 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, and 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 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.”
The Islamic 1400s we are now living in, is the age of the coming of Hazrat Mahdi. Prophet Jesus will also return to Earth in this century: As Prophet Micah proclaims: “In the last days the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and peoples will stream to it. Many nations will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.
“The Torah will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He will judge between many peoples and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor train for war anymore. Everyone will sit under their own vine and under their own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid, for the LORD GOD has spoken. All the nations may walk in the name of their gods, but we (Jews, Christians and Muslims) will walk in the name of the LORD our God for ever and ever.” (Prophet Micah 4:1-5)
One of the signs of the End of Days is the arrival and defeat of Gog and Magog (Ya’juj and Ma’juj or Ajuj and Majuj). Gog and Magog appear in the Hebrew Bible, the Christian Bible, and the Islamic Quran as individuals, tribes, or lands.
The Quran mentions Gog and Magog twice: “He said: “This (barrier) is a mercy from my Lord: but when the warning of my Lord comes to pass, He will reduce it to dust (and Gog and Magog—the Colonialist Empires, the Nazis, and the Communists would be released into the world); and the promise of my Lord is true.” (18:98) So Gog and Magog are destructive groups like the Colonialist Empires, the Nazis, and the Communists who near the end of days will penetrate into every part of the world.
The other mention of Gog and Magog in the Quran is: “But there is a ban on a town which We have destroyed: that they (the people of the town) shall not return (to reclaim that town as their own); until Gog and Magog are let through (the barrier), and swiftly spread out in every direction.” (21:95-96)
This verse refers to Jerusalem, destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE, and only reclaimed 18 1/2 centuries later as the State of Israel’s capital, during the era of the defeat of of the Nazis, the Communists, and the Colonialist Empires, who had been Gog and Magog for generations.
Thus, humanity has already passed through the most devastating era of human history. However, we have not yet reached the goal of the Messianic Age when “They (all nations) will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore. Everyone will sit under their own vine and under their own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid, for the LORD GOD has spoken.” (Prophet Micah 4:2-4)
This era will come about when Israelis and Palestinians make a long lasting two state partnership peace; thus fulfilling 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. On 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)