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The ‘End-Time’ Is Really A Good Time – OpEd

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In an article published in Eurasia Review entitled ‘Rapture’ Likely To Occur By 2021, Claims World Bible Society President‘, the World Bible Society’s President Dr. F. Kenton Beshore claims that “The End Times are nearing, and the ‘Rapture’ could happen within 10 years, and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ from 2018 and 2028.”

The ‘Rapture” is the belief of most evangelical Protestant Christians that prior to the Second Coming of Christ, faithful Christians will be “caught up,” and removed from the Earth; and thus be spared the terrible era of Armageddon. Beshore says he’s releasing his estimate at this time of global economic, political and spiritual crisis in hopes of inspiring believers to get prepared for the greatest opportunity for worldwide evangelism in the last 2,000 years.

For his prediction, Beshore updates some of the material used in the 1970’s Hal Lindsey book, “The Late Great Planet Earth.” In that book, Lindsey claimed he had unlocked the secrets in Matthew 24-25 where Jesus described the signs of his Second Coming.

Lindsey suggested the generation that witnessed the 1948 rebirth of the nation of Israel — would see the return of Jesus. But when 1988 came and went without Jesus’ return, Lindsey came under heavy criticism, ministers shied away from teaching Bible prophecy and many became skeptical about predictions regarding the Second Coming. They noted Jesus’ admonition in Matthew 24:36 that no one would know the “day or hour” of his return.

While no one knows the exact date, Beshore argues people can know the approximate time-frame, by watching for the signs Jesus described of his return. Beshore believes the Second Coming will occur sometime between 2018 and 2028, or 70 to 80 years after 1948.

You do not have to be a believing evangelical Protestant Christian to think humanity is coming to our end-time. A 2012 poll for Reuters reported that “nearly 15 percent of people worldwide believe the world will end during their lifetime. “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.

Responses to the international poll of 16,262 people in 20+ countries varied widely. Only six percent of French and eight percent of Great Britain residents believe in an impending Armageddon in their lifetime, compared to a high of 22 percent in Muslim Turkey, and Christian United States; and slightly less in South Africa and Argentina. People under 35 years old, were more likely to believe in a judgement day during their lifetime, or have anxiety over the prospect.

Between the Delta variant of Covid-19 wreaking havoc on unvaccinated populations all around the world, and the steadily increase of obvious signs of global warming, these figures surely have increased in the last nine years.

Of course, the world will not end, just as it has not ended on the previous dates that various Christian sects have predicted throughout the tumultuous decades of the 20th century. It is true that human society changed more rapidly, violently and fundamentally in the last 100 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 emphasize mostly the glories of a 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 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 marks 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.

In most religious traditions, redemption is defined in terms of individual enlightenment or personal salvation. However, the 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 (together with several forerunners and many disciples) will be a human being, a descendant of King David, with great qualities of national leadership 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, 2700 years ago the Prophet Isaiah 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.” (Isaiah 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 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 very high. 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 infant; now it happens to less than one out of two hundred.

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 14,235 Ethiopian Jews in a 1991 airlift to Israel, lasting less than 40 hours, stirred and inspired people for a few weeks. Subsequently, the difficult problems the newcomers faced (similar to those of the 900,000 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.” (Isaiah 43:5-6) Isn’t it amazing how people adjust to living in a radically new world and forget how bad things were in the past.

Our daily news media often focuses almost all its attention on possible dangers and threats. If people learned more about the great progress we have made improving human welfare for the masses, they might be less anxious about future doomsdays.

And people need to know that the end-time leads to a positive outcome according to the Hebrew Bible for the 2700 year old prediction of Prophet Isaiah states: “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. In 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)

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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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