World leaders have been meeting, talking and failing for 30 years to curb global warming, and in that time Earth has become a much hotter and deadlier planet. Tens of thousands of people have died from excessive 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, according to the EMDAT disaster database.
But we should not despair because Prophet Jesus told his disciples: “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.” (Matthew 24:6-8)
And a Pew Research survey last year found 39% of Americans – including 63% of evangelicals – believe humanity is “living in the end times”.
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 some insights from the Jewish Prophets and Rabbinic Sages.
According to both the Hebrew Bible and the Qur’an, since the days of Adam and Eve, many chosen humans in the distant past have heard the One God speaking to them. These people are titled as Prophets or Messengers in the Abrahamic religions. And the Hebrew Scriptures, the Greek New Testament, and the Arabic Qur’an all agree that in the distant future, in the Era of the End of Days-Judgement Day; there will be a few chosen humans who will express, by words and deeds, God’s glory to all humanity. These future Messengers usually have a special name or title like: Messiah son of Joseph, Messiah son of David, and Elijah in Judaism, Jesus’ second coming in Christianity, and the Mahdi in Islam.
Now many Jews, Christians and Muslims believe the Armageddon war of Gog and Magog (Gog u-Magog in Hebrew and “Yajuj and Majuj” in Arabic) is coming in the 21st century; and may have already started with the attack of Hamas on Israel. The war between Israel and Hamas started on October 7, 2023 when some 3,000 Hamas terrorists attacked Israel by breaching Israeli border fences in 30 different places, and ravaging Israeli military bases and farming communities. Some 1,200 people were killed on that one day.
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, 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 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 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.
Their is a belief that there would be two different messiahs, one a moral political leader from the house of David (Davidson) and the other, a religious reformer from the house of Aaron (Aronson), as well as a special “end of days” prophet such as Elijah or Jeremiah (Matthew 16:14) is found in inter-testament literature. A Dead Sea scroll states that the Qumran community must continue to live according to the original discipline “until a prophet (Elijah) shall come and the Messiahs of Aaron and Israel” (Manuel of Discipline 9:11).
There is also a rabbinic belief in a messianic figure from the northern tribes called a Josephson messiah who is killed by Israel’s enemies. This idea may be modeled on the example of Saul who reigned before David and was killed in battle by the enemies of Israel. Thus there could be as many as four individual messianic figures as well as the people of Israel who act as God’s agents in bringing about the Messianic Age.
Gentile rulers also play a role, first as destructive oppressors of the Jewish people, and second when their successors later acknowledge their error and are ultimately included in helping bring about the Messianic Age’s worldwide blessings. The Persian King Cyrus was such a messiah (Isaiah 45:1)
All of this makes for a complicated future scenario that might take generations, or even centuries to develop. When people are persecuted, afflicted and oppressed as a community, and despised and rejected as individuals, they need hope for a much quicker and simpler process of redemption.
This is why there is an overwhelming focus on the final stage Davidson messiah by most teachers, preachers, commentators and expositors. This is also the reason that those who believe in the imminent coming of the Davidson messiah always think it will occur soon within their lifetime (John 14:19, 21:22).
Islam adds to all these Messiahs the figure of a Mahdi (Arabic: ٱلْمَهْدِيّ al-Mahdī). A messianic figure in Islamic eschatology who will appear at the end of times to rid the world of evil and injustice. Said to be a descendant of Prophet Muhammad, and thus a descendant of Prophet Abraham, he will appear shortly before Prophet ʿĪsā (Jesus) and defeat the evil forces of Gog and Magog (Ya’juj and Ma’juj or Ajuj and Majuj). Gog and Magog appear metaphorically in the Hebrew Bible, the Christian Bible, and the Islamic Quran as individuals, tribes, nations, catastrophes of nature; and in our own days as racist nationalist states and political movements.
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 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, Hazrat Mahdi will appear. 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.
“Torah will be broadcast 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, and 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 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)
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)
On October 27, 1978, only five years after Egypt started the Yom Kippur War with a surprise attack on Israel, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin were named winners of the Nobel Peace Prize for their progress toward achieving a Middle East accord. The Yom Kippur War was followed six years later by a Peace Treaty between Egypt and Israel. Could the same process follow the defeat of Hamas, and its total opposition to a two state solution?
The only possible chance for avoiding more wars is the two state solution. To establish a Palestinian state alongside Israel will not be possible with the current leaders on either side. Extremists, both Israeli and Palestinian, will oppose the idea, as they have done since the 1990s. If this war does not deliver enough of a shock to break deeply-held prejudices and to make the idea of two states viable, nothing will. And without a mutually acceptable way of ending the conflict, more generations of Palestinians and Israelis will be sentenced to more years of wars.
Although it might seem impossible now, I do believe that within a decade or two Muslims will visit Jerusalem and pray together with Jews in peace. I think we need to focus on people first and land second. “From the river to the sea Palestinians and Israelis should be freed of hatred and suffering’; with ‘two state for two peoples sharing the land peacefully.’