Is A Self-Starvation Suicide Church In Kenya Starting Armageddon? – OpEd


Has Armageddon begun in Kenya where Preacher Paul Mackenzie who founded a church with an End Times message in 2003? Mackenzie was arrested for asking his followers, over a few months, to starve themselves to death in order to meet Jesus, who was coming soon. This ‘starvation massacre’ suicide, killed 427 men, women and children. 

In Uganda 23 years ago, over 700 members of the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God – a Christian doomsday cult that believed the world would come to a fiery end at the turn of the millennium: died. “The end of present times”, as one of its books phrased it, came on 17 March 2000.

Armageddon is a term used to describe the final battle between good and evil before God’s Day of Judgment. It is also the name of a Biblical hill and village of Megiddo, an archaeological site southeast of present-day Haifa in Israel. The term Armageddon does not appear in the Hebrew Bible and  appears only once in the Greek New Testament, in Revelation 16:16. Armageddon is a Greek transliteration of the Hebrew har məgiddô (הר מגידו). Har in Hebrew means “a mountain or hill”.

Armageddon is usually seen as the final battle or battles between good and evil which usually lasts for only a few months; while the Messianic Peace that follows lasts until all the large carnivores eat only plant based meat. 

For example the Prophets of Israel envisioned a world full of Prosperity and Peace including even wild animals: Isaiah 2:4 and Michah 4:3: “…they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning-hooks. Nation shall not lift a sword against nation, nor shall they learn war any more.” [Michah 4:4 continues: “Each person shall sit under his vine and under fig-tree, and none shall make them afraid…”]

Hosea 2:20: “…I shall break from the earth the bow, the sword and warfare, and I shall make them lie down securely.” and Zechariah 9:10: “…the bow of war shall be cut off, and (all) shall speak peace to the nations…”

And Isaiah 11:6-9 states: “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb and the leopard shall lie with the kid, and a calf with a lion’s cub all together, and a small child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze, their young ones shall lie down together, and the lion shall eat straw like cattle. An infant shall play over the hole of an asp, and the weaned child shall put out his hand over the eyeball of an adder. They will not harm or destroy on My holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of God as (long as) the waters cover the sea.”

Christian and Muslim religious “End Times” preachers tend to focus only on future negative upheavals. Rabbis usually focus on the positive descriptions of the Messianic Age in the Hebrew Bible listed above. 

The majority of Christians, Jews, and Muslims do not believe that all of humanity is moving closer and closer to a catastrophic Judgement Day. The minority who do think that Judgement Day is coming soon share the usual negative, fear-filled views of most end-times thinkers: Christians, Jews and especially Muslims, who do believe that: “The hour (of Judgement) is near” (Qur’an 54:1); and ˹The time of˺ people’s judgment has drawn near, yet they heedlessly turn away.” (Qur’an 21:1) 

According to a 2012 poll by the Pew Research Center, at least half  of Muslims in nine Muslim-majority countries believe that the coming of the Mahdi is “imminent,” and could happen in their lifetime. Sadly these end-times thinkers always see pre-ordained threats of cataclysmic world wide doom; and not just warning of the consequences if we humans do not repent and change our behavior. 

Most scary of all is a Islamic oral tradition (Hadith) that states: The Hour will not commence until no one goes (travels) to perform Hajj. (Hakim 4:453 and Abi Ya’li 2:277); because the annual hajj pilgrimage to Mecca in July 2021 was limited to only 60,000 people living in Saudi Arabia due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Yet there is always good news that you probably have not heard about. For example, Dengue fever cases have been cut by 77% in a “groundbreaking” trial that genetically manipulates the mosquitoes that spread it. The World Mosquito Program team now says it’s a solution to a virus spreading worldwide. In 1970, only nine countries faced severe dengue outbreaks, now there are 300-400 million infections a year, but the threat will soon be over.

It is also true that human society has 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.

In most non-Abrahamic religious traditions, redemption is defined only in terms of individual enlightenment or personal salvation.  However, the Abrahamic Prophets conceived of redemption as a transformation of human society that would occur through the catalyst of the transformation of the Abrahamic religious 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 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 will be three or four such agents) will be a human being, with great spiritual leadership qualities similar to Prophets Moses or Mohammed. For Jews, the Messianic hope helped them to survive many years of oppression and evil. For Christian and Muslims the Messianic hope will be the second coming of Jesus/the Mahdi, leading up to God’s Judgement Day vindication for righteous believers; and the establishment of God’s kingdom on Earth… 

The arrival of the Messianic Age is what’s really important, not the specific personality of the agents who bring it about since they are simply the instruments of God, who ultimately is the real Redeemer.  

These 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) such radical change will necessitate major changes in the way we think and act when faced with decisions about life and death. 

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.  But even when the events are rapid and dramatic, people rarely connect them to their Messianic significance for very long.  

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)  

In 1948 only six percent of a global Jewish population of 11.5 million lived in Israel. Today 45% of the world’s 14.7 million Jews reside in the Jewish state. 

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 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, 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 3D digital broadcast Jewish house of worship could be built near the Dome of the Rock; provided the 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 very 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)  

Perhaps the Abraham Accords in the Mid-East will start a swing towards optimism and the fulfillment of another prophecy of 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)

If each ethnic people truly follows the best of  its own religious teachings the Messiah will surely have arrived, and God’s Kingdom will be established.

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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