Eleven years ago a poll for Reuters News Service reported (May 2, 2012) that “nearly 15 percent of people worldwide believe the world will end during their lifetime”. And things have not gotten better in the last decade.
More than 90% of the world’s population is projected to face increased risks from the compound impacts of extreme heat and drought, widening social and economic inequalities as well as undermining the natural world’s ability to reduce CO2 emissions in the atmosphere—according to a study from Oxford’s School of Geography. Warming is projected to intensify these hazards ten-fold globally under the highest emission pathway, says the report, published in Nature Sustainability. In the wake of record temperatures in 2022, from London to Shanghai, continuing rising temperatures are projected around the world.
And European Union officials warned that there is a growing risk of mosquito-borne viral diseases such as dengue and chikungunya invading Europe due to climate change.
An international team of researchers has found that approximately 90% of all marine life on Earth will be at risk of extinction by 2100 if greenhouse gas emissions are not curbed. And this year for the first time ever, over 100 million people worldwide were displaced persons fleeing war, floods and drought. World leaders have been meeting and failing for 29 years to try to curb global warming, and in that time Earth has become a much hotter and deadlier planet. Trillions of tons of ice have disappeared, the burning of fossil fuels has spewed billions of tons of heat-trapping gases into the air, and hundreds of thousands of people have died from heat and other weather disasters stoked by climate change.
Since 1992, global temperatures have increased on average almost 1.1°F (0.6°C), shattering the annual high-temperature record eight times, resulting in extreme weather disasters. Worldwide there have been nearly 8,000 climate, water and weather disasters, killing 563,735 people according to the EMDAT disaster database.
While in the U.S. corporate profits surged to a record high of $2.08 trillion in the third quarter of 2022, even as inflation continued to squeeze workers and consumers. Over two years, quarterly profits ballooned more than 80%, from $1.2 trillion to more than $2 trillion.
Climate change is not the only challenge facing humanity. Religions also have been exposed to corruption. In France an estimated 216,000 children were victims of sex abuse by some 3,000 people — two-thirds of them priests — within France’s Catholic Church over the past 70 years, according to a major reckoning with clerical sex abuse covered up by Catholic authorities. Pope Francis expressed “shame” for himself and the Roman Catholic Church for failures in putting the needs of victims first.
And science may not have the answers either. The rate of ground-breaking scientific discoveries and technological innovation is slowing down despite an ever-growing amount of scientific knowledge, according to an analysis of 45 million scientific research papers and patents seeking disruptive discoveries that “break away from existing ideas” and “push the whole scientific field into new territory.” The researchers gave a “disruptiveness score” to scientific papers dating from 1945 to 2010, and to 3.9 million US-based patents from 1976 to 2010. From the start of those time ranges, research papers and patents have been increasingly more likely to just consolidate or build upon previous knowledge, according to results published in the journal Nature.
In 2022 South Korea’s fertility rate dropped to a record low of 0.78 – not even half of the 2.1 needed for a stable population, and far below even that of Japan (1.3), currently the world’s most aged nation. And even further below the United States, which is itself at 1.6. Shrinkage in the working-age population is now well-established in Japan, South Korea and China, and others will follow. On average, Asia still falls short of the 7% threshold of over 65s as a share of the population, but the US Census Bureau estimates that by 2060 42 of the 52 countries in Asia will have broken through the 14% level.
And across Europe, the continent that nurtured Christianity for most of two millennia, churches, convents and chapels stand empty and increasingly derelict as faith and church attendance shriveled over the past half century. A 2018 study from the PEW research group showed, in Belgium, that of the 83% that say they were raised Christian, only 55% still consider themselves to still be Christians. Only 10% of Belgians still attended church regularly. On average, every one of the 300 towns in Flanders has about six churches; and often only enough faithful to fill one church.
For Christians, Jews and Muslims who despair about the terrible state of the modern world Adnan Oktar (Harun Yahya) writes in his book ‘Hazrat Mahdi (pbuh) Is a Descendant of the Prophet Abraham (pbuh’): “As mentioned in Qur’an, Torah, Gospel, Psalms and the pages of Prophet Abraham, which are scriptures sent down to Messengers who lived in past centuries.
Allah has revealed that these scriptures were guides for the societies to which they were sent: “He has sent down the Book to you with truth, confirming what was there before it. He sent down the Torah and the Gospel, previously, as guidance for mankind, and He has sent down the Furqan.” (2:3-4)
And “Allah reveals this in another verse about the Torah: “We sent down the Torah containing guidance and light, and the Prophets who had submitted themselves gave judgment by it for the Jews–as did their scholars and their rabbis–by what they had been allowed to preserve of Allah’s Book to which they were witnesses. (Qur’an 5:44)
“In examining the portents of the End Times, we will also evaluate the related statements in the Torah and the Gospels in the light of the Qur’an and the Sunnah, and present the sections that are compatible with the divine verses of the Qur’an and the hadiths of our Prophet. For that reason, Muslims can find in this book, the passages relating the End Times from the Torah and the Gospels as well as the Qur’an. The subject of the Mahdi” is one that has always occupied an important place in the Islamic world.”
As a Reform Rabbi who also believes that the world wide upheavals we see are part of the birth pains of the Messianic Age, I offer Christians and Muslims some positive insights into the Pre-Messianic Age from the Jewish Prophets and Rabbinic Sages because today there are for the first time many Jews, Christians and Muslims who all believe the war of Gog and Magog (Gog u-Magog in Hebrew and “Yajuj and Majuj” in Arabic) is coming in the 21st century.
It is true that human society changed more rapidly, violently and fundamentally in the last 150 years than ever before in history. Doctors saved the lives of millions. Dictators sacrificed the lives of millions. Populations are exploding in Africa and populations are declining in Europe. Technology produces both worldwide prosperity and worldwide pollution at the same time.
Should we look upon the future with optimistic hope or with fatalistic trepidation? Is the world and our society heading towards a wonder-filled new age, or toward a doomsday? Or are both occurring almost concurrently because breakdown is always a prelude to breakthrough?
Jews, whose Biblical prophets were the ones who first wrote about a future Messianic Age of world wide peace and justice recognize that the birth of a Messianic Age must be preceded by its birth-pangs.
But the prophets of Israel also emphasize the glories of a future world living in peace and prosperity with justice for all. Ancient Jewish prophecies did proclaim that there would be an end to the world as we know it. But they did not prophesy that the world will come to an end, nor did the Prophets of Israel offer an exact date for the Pre-Messianic Age transition. The exact advent of the Messianic Age is not knowable because humans have free will and thus the exact time and manner of redemption cannot be determined in advance. Much depends on what we humans do.
The beginning of the Messianic Age is a time of transition from one World Age into another. How we move through this transition, either with resistance or acceptance, will determine whether the transformation will happen through cataclysmic changes or by a gradual reform of human society; which will lead to a world filled with peace, prosperity and spiritual tranquility.
The Prophets of Israel conceived redemption as a transformation of human society that would occur through the catalyst 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 have helped bring about the Messianic Age.
But, if we will not do it voluntarily, it will come about through social and political upheavals, worldwide conflicts and generation gaps. The Messiah (Mahdi) refers to one or more human agents of God who help bring about this positive transformation. The Jewish tradition teaches that this agent of God (together with several forerunners and many disciples) will be a human being, a descendant of Prophets Abraham and David, with great qualities of national leadership similar to Prophet Moses and Prophet 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.
God’s promise is that evil powers will never succeed in destroying Israel or in overcoming justice in the long run. Thus even without full repentance, God will act if the Divine promise of a Messianic Age is threatened. As Isaiah states, “The Lord says: you were sold but no price was paid, and without payment you shall be redeemed.” (Isaiah 52:3) i.e. all your suffering in exile was not really fully deserved, and your redemption from exile will not really be fully earned. Both are part of God’s outline for human destiny and will occur sooner (through repentance) or later (in God’s own time). As the Qur’an states: “Do not corrupt the earth after it has been set right. Call on Him in fear and aspiration. Indeed, the mercy of Allah is near for good-doers” (7:56)
If one believes that God inspired prophets are able to describe scenarios of various developments in the distant future then one has to accept that the understanding of these passages should change and improve as we come closer and closer to the times they describe. As an example, Jeremiah describes a radical future in which women surround men, “The Lord will create a new thing on earth-a woman will surround a man” (Jeremiah 31:22).
The great Medieval Jewish Torah commentator Rashi understands ‘surround’ to mean encircled. The most radical thing Rashi can think of (and in 11th century France it was radical) is that women will propose marriage with (a wedding ring, or encircling the groom at a Jewish wedding ceremony) to men. In today’s feminist generation we can see women surrounding men in fields once almost exclusively male such as law, medical and religious seminaries.
But the real lesson from all this is that we should not look forward to a Judgement Day when all our enemies, and all evil, will suddenly disappear in a cataclysmic purge. Instead, we should have faith and trust in the ability of religiously inspired humans to transform our world into a Messianic Age of justice and peace. Indeed, there is a view, espoused by the well known Jewish writer Franz Kafka, that the Messiah will come not at the beginning, but at the end of the Messianic Age; to congratulate us for achieving the vision of the Biblical prophets.
The Islamic 1400s we now live in, is the age of the coming of Hazrat Mahdi, Messiah Jesus, Prophet Elijah and the descendant of Prophet David Messiah to Planet 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)
Actually, 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) It is 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 a prophecy of Zachariah, “He shall build the Temple of the Lord, shall bear the glory, and 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) Another 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 time of 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 the Nazis, the Communists, and the Colonialist Empires, who had been Gog and Magog for many generations.
Thus, humanity has so far 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)
The Bible and the Qur’an’s final judgement is the self-destruction of violent, hate filled, religion twisted terrorism and narrow ‘my way or death’ philosophy; and the victory of kindness, love, democracy and religious pluralism. This era will come about when Israelis and Palestinians make a long lasting two state partnership for 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)
The Qur’an states: “He followed a third path, between two mountains to the east and the west. This led him north, to where there are high mountains.” (Qur’an 18:92) Mawdudi says “The “two mountains” must have been parts of that mountain range which runs between the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea (as stated in v. 96). This must be so because beyond them was the territory of Gog and Magog. At the end-time, Yajooj and Majooj will emerge from behind the northern barrier and spread throughout the world. Gog and Magog will attack Jesus the Messiah and the (Christian) believers with him on the Bayt ul Maqdis in Jerusalem and they (Gog and Magog) will be defeated. Yajooj and Majooj are two evil led nations (Iran and Russia) who will try to burn and destroy everything but they will be defeated.
Prophet Ezekiel declares that Gog will come from “the heights (mountains) of the north” (38:15; 39:2) and indicates Gog and Magog (Iran and Russia) will drag other nations into a devastating anti-Israel battle: “Cush and Put will be with them, all with shields and helmets, also Gomer with all its troops, and Beth Togarmah (Russia and Iran) from the far north with all its troops” (Ezekiel 38:15–16)
And Jeremiah 23:1–8 states: “Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the flock of my pasture,” declares the God of Israel concerning the shepherds who shepherd my people, “You yourselves scattered my flock, you have driven them away, and you do not attend to them. Look, I will punish you for the evil of your deeds,” “Then I myself will gather together the remnant of my flock from all the lands where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their grazing place, and they will be fruitful, and they will become numerous. And I will raise up over them shepherds, and they will shepherd them, and they will no longer fear, and they will not be dismayed, and they will not be missing,” declares God. “Look, days are coming when I will raise up for David a righteous branch, and he will reign as king, and he will achieve success, and he will do justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell in safety, and this is his name by which he will be called:’Yahweh is our righteousness.’
“Therefore look, days are coming, when they will no longer say, ‘As the LORD lives, who led the Israelites from the land of Egypt,’ but ‘As the LORD lives, who led and who brought the offspring of the house of Israel from the land of the north (Russia) and from all the lands where he (God) had driven them.’ Then they will live (in peace) in their land.”