The End of Times - Judaism - The Messiah I
I think at this point it would be a good idea to discuss the Messiah from the perspective of Judaism so we understand what He will look like and what His role will be in the end times. As with many things within Judaism, there is little consensus on what exactly the Messiah will be like and when His age will begin. As I mentioned in a previous log there are many who teach that the age of the Messiah began 2000 years ago, coinciding with Jesus. But there are still many who see a completely different time for when the Messiah is to come, or at the very least when the second coming of the Messiah will occur.
It is also important to understand the Hebrew word for Messiah, Moshiach, is used to describe more than the one who will come directly from God to save Israel. Moshiach simply means “anointed one,” and we see this even used in the Bible to describe kings of foreign nations, such as Darius, or the prophets. We see for example in 1 Chronicles 16:22 God says:
22 "Do not touch my anointed ones; do my prophets no harm."
“Anointed one” here used by God to describe the prophets is the same word - Moshiach. This should not throw us off however, because quite frequently God refers to the prophets in the same way that He refers to Jesus or that Jesus referred to Himself on many occasions. As an example, we see that Ezekiel frequently tells us that God called him son of man. This is the most common title Jesus used for Himself. So when we hear that some one is referred to as the anointed one of God it means that they were called by God to a specific purpose and that maybe even they are to be a type and shadow of Christ.
The different theological discussions of what the Messiah will be like run the gamut of possibilities. For example, Orthodox Jews believe that the Messiah will come as a real person to bring all the Jews back to Promised Land and to set up a kingdom where He will reign and rule as the supreme leader of the world, however reform Jews see the Messiah as more of a mythical figure. Their belief focuses more on a Messianic Age than a person. So what does the Talmud tell us?
Well interestingly enough the Talmud does not describe a supernatural Messiah at all. Instead the Talmud more aptly describes a time when the there will be freedom and peace, and where there will be ultimate goodness and redemption for Jews in particular and for all mankind in general. However it does give the image of a more supernatural age. So how do we rectify these two descriptions?
What we see are many natural man focused events are assisted in their development by God Himself. For example one of the five events of the end times will be the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem. This seems like an ordinary event, but what makes it supernatural is that God will be responsible for the rebuilding. It is the Messiah who leads the people to the desire to worship at the temple, but it will be God who actually creates the temple itself.
The Messiah is to bring an unbelievable era of peace upon the earth. This is the most supernatural aspect of the whole prophecy in my opinion solely based upon the history of the region. There has not been peace among Jews (or former Israelites) in the entire history of this region. So for this to be achieved it is clear that God must be doing something beyond the ability of man to accomplish.
We see that it is through the Messiah that all the nations of the world will know God in a real and personal way. The Babylonian Talmud covers the discussion of these events quite extensively, maybe more than any other Talmud. We read in Sanhedrin 98a for example:
R. Johanan said: When you see a generation ever dwindling, hope for him [the Messiah], as it is written, And the afflicted people thou wilt save. R. Johanan said: When thou seest a generation overwhelmed by many troubles as by a river, await him, as it is written, when the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him; which is followed by, And the Redeemer shall come to Zion.
R. Johanan also said: The son of David will come only in a generation that is either altogether righteous or altogether wicked. 'in a generation that is altogether righteous,' — as it is written, Thy people also shall be all righteous: they shall inherit the land for ever. 'Or altogether wicked,' — as it is written, And he saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor; 31 and it is [elsewhere] written, For mine own sake, even for mine own sake, will I do it.
Just as a reference, this is the same text where we read the discussion of two rabbis who were wondering how the Messiah could appear in the clouds and claim dominion over the earth and yet still come riding on a donkey as a humble servant.
While Rabbi Johanen sees that the time that the Messiah will come will either be a time of great righteousness or of great wickedness, most believe that it will be wickedness that becomes dominant. In the Lubavitcher Rebbe we read:
"All the signs indicate that we are nearing the end of days... It is certain beyond a shadow of doubt that the era of redemption has arrived... All that is required is to greet our righteous Messiah (Moshiach), so that he can fulfill his mission and redeem all Israel from exile."
This is a common understanding of what the end times will look like, because the Talmud gives a host of support to this teaching. Let's look at a few of these as examples.
"Tragedy will come upon you at the end of all the days."
Sotah 49b gives us a few references to the end times. They include:
"During the era preceding the Moshiach, prices will soar. The vine will produce its fruit but wine will be very expensive…During the lkveta d'Meshicha insolence will abound.. The young will make the faces of the elderly grow ashen with shame; the elderly will have to rise before the young; sons will disgrace fathers; daughters will rise up against their mothers; the members of one's family will become his enemies. During the lkveta d'Meshicha government will turn atheist and there will be no protest. Truth will vanish." Sotah 49b.
This last reference is also contained within Sanhedrin 97a.
As you can see it is clear that most perceived a wicked time in the end. We will cover more of this next time.
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