The sticks on which you write will be in your hand before their eyes. Say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God, “Behold, I will take the sons of Israel from among the nations where they have gone, and I will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land; and I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king will be king for all of them; and they will no longer be two nations and no longer be divided into two kingdoms. They will no longer defile themselves with their idols, or with their detestable things, or with any of their transgressions; but I will deliver them from all their dwelling places in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them. And they will be My people, and I will be their God.
–Ezekiel 37:20-23 (NASB)
Tales of the Messianic Era series
This is a time yet to come. This is a time when God will restore all of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel as a single, united people. The kingdoms will not be divided as they were in days of old. One Israel under One God.
“My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd; and they will walk in My ordinances and keep My statutes and observe them. They will live on the land that I gave to Jacob My servant, in which your fathers lived; and they will live on it, they, and their sons and their sons’ sons, forever; and David My servant will be their prince forever. I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will place them and multiply them, and will set My sanctuary in their midst forever. My dwelling place also will be with them; and I will be their God, and they will be My people. And the nations will know that I am the Lord who sanctifies Israel, when My sanctuary is in their midst forever.”’”
–Ezekiel 37:24-28 (NASB)
More over, united Israel will be ruled by One King, King Messiah, Son of David. But look at this. Messiah, the King of Israel and Ruler of the World will be their prince forever.
That would be pretty hard to do if Messiah were merely mortal. Of course, in the Messianic age, many will be resurrected, never to die again, so we could say the same of Messiah. But as a Christian, I must believe that Messiah is more.
God also says that the people of Israel, the Jewish people, will “walk in My ordinances and keep My statutes and observe them.” I know I recently wrote about all this, but I’m going through my notes on my recent reading of the latter portion of Ezekiel, so I thought this would be a good time to try to pull them together. I hope I can avoid repeating myself too much.
One puzzling thing I found was this:
Then I heard one speaking to me from the house, while a man was standing beside me. He said to me, “Son of man, this is the place of My throne and the place of the soles of My feet, where I will dwell among the sons of Israel forever.
–Ezekiel 43:6-7 (NASB)
I checked a large number of translations of Ezekiel 43:7 and all except one said that the Divine Presence would inhabit Ezekiel’s Temple, the Temple of the Messianic Era, forever (Young’s Literal Translation says “to the age”). You can read the larger context of that chapter to confirm that God is speaking of inhabiting the Temple of Jerusalem in the Messianic age forever. Why is this such a big deal?
I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.
–Revelation 21:22 (NASB)
This describes events after the arrival of the New Jerusalem, after the thousand-year reign of Messiah, after all that had to come to pass has come to past. Humanity is restored in the Garden as such, and God dwells with His people as He did in the beginning.
So how can God dwell in Ezekiel’s temple forever if in the New Jerusalem there is no temple. More to the point, God and the Lamb are the temple. I’m not even sure what that means. I posed the question to a friend of mine and he suggested that as human history ends and we all move into eternity, maybe “forever” ends, too. After all, Messiah said that the Torah wouldn’t pass away until heaven and earth passed away (Matthew 5:18). At some point, heaven and earth, as we understand them, must pass away and something eternal must come in their stead.
Still, one of the things I’m trying to accomplish on this “mission” is to discover any dissonance between how the Tanakh (Old Testament) and the New Testament depict the Messiah and the age to come. The above definitely seems to qualify.
Alas, you who are longing for the day of the Lord,
For what purpose will the day of the Lord be to you?
It will be darkness and not light…
–Amos 5:18 (NASB)
We all want the Messiah to come to rescue and repair our broken world, but we also forget that it won’t be *poof* Messiah comes and instantly everything is fixed. There is going to be terrible war against Israel’s enemies which probably will include everyone. It won’t be pretty. Good thing the Church will be raptured up to Heaven for those seven years (I say this somewhat tongue-in-cheek).
Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, “These who are clothed in the white robes, who are they, and where have they come from?” I said to him, “My lord, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
–Revelation 7:13-14 (NASB)
Wait a minute. Who is coming out of the tribulation?
Verse 14 doesn’t identify these people beyond saying that they are the ones who came out of the great tribulation, but they can’t be the Church, at least from a Christian point of view, since the last we see of the Church on earth is in Chapters 4 and 5. Everything in Chapters 6 through 19 is about the tribulation which the Church misses…
…or do they (we)?
It was also given to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them, and authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him. All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain. If anyone has an ear, let him hear. If anyone is destined for captivity, to captivity he goes; if anyone kills with the sword, with the sword he must be killed. Here is the perseverance and the faith of the saints. (emph. mine)
–Revelation 13:7-10 (NASB)
What are “saints” doing on earth during the tribulation and undergoing such harsh conditions for the perseverance of their faith? Of course, they could be people who came to faith after the Church was raptured, but would they be called “saints?” Usually people in the Church are called “saints.”
The doctrine of the Rapture didn’t come along until the 17th century, so it wasn’t as if the concept most Christians are pinning their hopes and dreams on has been around since the beginning. In fact, Googling “rapture doctrine” returns a series of links, many of which lead to web pages (of unverified validity) that criticize this very recent Church doctrine.
2 Thessalonians 2:3 speaks of apostasy or “falling away” of the faithful that will occur when many are deceived by the “man of lawlessness.” I can’t directly tie any “falling away” to Christians expecting a rapture to Heaven that never arrives, but I could very well believe that a lot of Christians will indeed fall away once the tribulation starts and they’re still here during the war between Messiah and Israel’s enemies. Why weren’t we given the break and free passage to Heaven we were promised from the pulpit?
I’m not saying all this to be mean-spirited but as a cautionary tale. What if Amos 5:18 is talking to believers, explaining to us that we shouldn’t be so quick to desire the coming of Messiah because it will be “the great and terrible day of the Lord.”
“I kept looking in the night visions,
And behold, with the clouds of heaven
One like a Son of Man was coming,
And He came up to the Ancient of Days
And was presented before Him.
“And to Him was given dominion,
Glory and a kingdom,
That all the peoples, nations and men of every language
Might serve Him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion
Which will not pass away;
And His kingdom is one
Which will not be destroyed.”
–Daniel 7:13-14 (NASB)
This is obviously a vision of Messiah’s coming, but I’ve always wondered why Daniel phrased it “one like the Son of Man?” Here we have a description of the Son of Man’s Kingdom never being destroyed, we have a vision of him coming on clouds of heaven (as opposed to just being born and being a great but totally human Jewish leader as most of Judaism believes of the Moshiach), and we get the sense that he is more than human.
Renowned Talmud scholar Daniel Boyarin wrote a book called The Jewish Gospels: The Story of the Jewish Christ, which I reviewed on more than one occasion. Boyarin, who is Jewish and not a believer, makes a credible case for why a large number of first century Jews in Israel and the diaspora came to faith in Yeshua (Jesus) as Messiah. Part of his evidence for why Yeshua would be seen as a legitimate candidate for Messiah comes from Daniel 7.
This classic and mysterious Jewish text by a well-known but possibly not a well understood prophet may be one of the keys to unlocking the identity of Moshiach. I sometimes receive criticism from Jewish people for my continuing faith, but somewhere between traditional Christian evangelism and Jewish anti-missionaries, may be an unbiased truth in the reading of the Bible. We must seek it out in order to escape our “religious blinders” about Messiah, so that we can see him as he truly is, not as how one doctrine or another imagines him to be.
And the children of Zion, rejoice and jubilate with the Lord your God, for He gave you the teacher for justification, and He brought down for you rain, the early rain and the late rain in the first month.
I had to go to Chabad.org to find a translation that describes Messiah as a teacher. Most Christian Bible translations render “He gave you the teacher” as something like “He has given you the early rain…” (NASB translation).
The Douay-Rheims Bible says “he hath given you a teacher of justice,” and Young’s Literal Translation says “He hath given you the Teacher for righteousness.”
The Jewish understanding of Messiah is that, among other things, he will come to teach us what we need to know of his ways and how we should serve him. Christianity expects a warrior, a priest, and a King, but we miss how he will teach us the Torah of justice and righteousness, tzedakah if you will (see my review of the FFOZ TV episode Seek First the Kingdom for a more detailed description of the relationship between tzedakah [charity] and justice and righteousness).
So what can we conclude from my brief (and hardly comprehensive) review of Messianic prophesy?
- Messiah will come as the One and eternal King of Israel, return the exiled Jews to their Land, the Land of Israel, and unite them as a one people in one Kingdom ruled by one King Messiah forever.
- The “law of the land” (Israel) will be Torah, and the Jewish people will walk in God’s statues and ordinances as in days of old, but with the Torah written on their hearts rather than on scrolls.
- The Divine Presence will once again inhabit the third and final Temple in Jerusalem forever (though we have difficulty reconciling this with Rev. 21).
- There will be “saints” going through the tribulation who suffer and who are killed for the sake of their faith, drawing into sharp dispute the accuracy of the modern doctrine of “the Rapture,” which states “the Church” will be literally removed from earth and into Heaven for the entire length of those troubled days.
- The Messiah is the Son of Man and the Prince, who seems to be more than a man, who will reign eternally, who will come on the clouds of heaven, possibly in direct contradiction of modern Jewish religious thought (for the most part) which states Messiah will be completely human with no supernatural (and certainly no Divine) nature.
- Of his many roles in the age to come, Messiah will be a teacher of justice and righteousness.
Who is the King in the age to come? Who is Messiah, Son of David, Son of God?
Christians know him as Jesus Christ. Most religious Jews see him as King Messiah. Any similarity between the two is faint at best and at worst, nonexistent.
But if you believe in a Messiah at all as either Christian or Jew, you have a duty to set aside your preconceptions and what you have been taught (and what has been assumed by your religious stream for hundreds of years) and investigate for yourself what the scriptures say. In my case, this is paying close attention to any dissonance that may occur between the Old and New Testaments. Messiah is an objective being, apart from our need to paint his portrait one way or the other. Instead of seeking his portrait, I need to see his face.