The End Of The World For One Of Seven People Worldwide – OpEd


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”. Now a study by Morgan Stanley Investments claims that 45% of young women between the age of 25-44 will be single in 2030.

And we have learned that about one billion people face crippling heat from a 2C rise in global temperatures, according to the UK’s Met Office predictions. And the latest data from the Lancet Countdown report says heat-related deaths among people over 65 years old reached a record high in 2019 – with about 345,000 deaths.

Also climate change will fundamentally reshape life on Earth in coming decades, even if humans do  tame planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions, according to a report from the UN’s climate science advisors. Species extinction, more widespread disease, un-live-able heat, ecosystem collapse, cities menaced by rising seas; and other devastating climate impacts are accelerating and are bound to become painfully obvious before a child born today turns 30.

So you can see why some people keep fearing the end of the world. “Whether they think it will come to an end through the hands of God, or a natural disaster or a political event, whatever the reason, one in seven thinks the end of the world is coming,” said Keren Gottfried, research manager at Ipsos Global Public Affairs which conducted the poll for Reuters. 

It is true that human society world wide has changed more rapidly, violently and fundamentally in the last 120 years than in any other period. 

Doctors saved the lives of millions. Dictators sacrificed the lives of millions. Populations are exploding in Africa and birthrates are declining in Europe. Technology produces both worldwide prosperity and pollution at the same time.  

Should we look upon the first century of the third millennium with optimistic hope or with fatalistic trepidation? Is the world and our society heading towards a wonder-filled new age, or toward a doomsday? Are Gog and Magog, (Gog u-Magog in Hebrew, and Yajuj and Majuj in Arabic) coming? Or are they already here? Or are both occurring almost concurrently because breakdown is often a prelude to breakthrough? 

The long tradition of trying to foresee the eventual goal of human history started with the Prophets of Israel over 2,700 years ago. The Biblical vision of a Messianic Age may provide us with guidance in understanding the social, economic, scientific and cultural upheavals that will sweep society as it engages the next stage.

Usually it is the dramatic dangers of the pre-Messianic tribulation that are emphasized by Jewish, Christian and Muslim scholars and teachers.  I will focus on the positive signs developing throughout the world that accord with the hopeful Messianic visions of the Biblical Prophets.

In many religious traditions, redemption is defined in terms of individual enlightenment or personal salvation.  However, the Prophets of ancient Israel conceived redemption as a transformation of human society that would occur through the influence of the teachings of future prophets, like Jesus and Muhammad, and the catalyst of a transformation of the Jewish people. 

This transformation, which will take place in this world at some future time, is called the Messianic Age. The difficult 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 ourselves, energized by God, bring about the Messianic Age. 

But, if we will not do it voluntarily, God will bring it about through social and political upheavals, worldwide conflicts, inflation and generation gaps. 

Prophets are sent to a nation to issue a warning that their behavior has consequences, and these consequences must be faced on Judgement Day. This Messianic agent of God (with several forerunners and many disciples) will be a descendant of King David, with great leadership qualities; greater even than Prophets Moses, Jesus or Muhammed. 

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 was  between 30 and 50 deaths per 1,000 individuals. 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.Yet 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%. 

Also, people are quick to point out that as a result of the great reduction in the infant mortality rate, the world’s population has expanded tremendously, which is, and will continue causing major social and economic problems in non-Western societies. 

Truly we are 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 fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy has thus gone unnoticed and uncelebrated. 

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.  

But a Muslim Shrine- The Dome of the Rock, presently occupies the site. 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 be a terrible anti-Messianic act.  

There is, however, a lot of vacant land on the Temple Mount, and a small Jewish house of worship, equipped to broadcast services worldwide, could be built adjacent to the Dome of the Rock, (provided the Muslims would cooperate) and fulfill the words of Prophet Joel (3:16) who states: “The Lord roars from Zion and utters His voice from Jerusalem” 

Most observers agree that anyone who could arrange such Jewish-Muslim cooperation would really be the Messianic Ruler of Peace (Prophet 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 helpers  of the Messiah. Indeed, such Jewish/Christian/Muslim cooperation would not be possible without great spiritual leadership in all three communities as was foretold: (“Saviors [plural] will come up on mount Zion” Prophet Obadiah 1:21) 

This would fulfill the culminating verses of Isaiah’s Messianic prophecy, as enlarged upon by Prophet Micah (4:3-5), “They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning knives. Nation shall not take up swords 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 every person was truly inspired to follow the best of his or her 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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