Jerusalem

Tipping Point to the End of Days

Question:

With the world appearing more and more a dangerous place, I’m wondering what Judaism has to say about the possibility of an apocalyptic final event. Does such a concept exist, and how will that play out?

The Aish Rabbi Answers in Part:

The other path is described as Messiah coming “humble and riding upon a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9). In this scenario, nature will take its course, and society will undergo a slow painful deterioration, with much suffering. God’s presence will be hidden, and his guidance will not be perceivable.

According to this second path, there will be a valueless society in which religion will not only be chided, it will be used to promote immorality. Young people will not respect the old, and governments will become godless. This is why the Midrash says, “One third of the world’s woes will come in the generation preceding the Messiah.” (Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, “Handbook of Jewish Thought”)

“End of Days”
from the Ask the Rabbi column
Aish.com

I know a lot of religious pundits, both online and in various congregations and study groups, have tackled the question of the “end times,” so I’m probably being ridiculously redundant. On the other hand (and I’m sure I’ll get in trouble for this), as I was reading this column, I was thinking about how I, from my own (somewhat) unique point of view, see the matter.

According to the Jewish sages, the coming of Messiah can occur in one of two ways (the Aish Rabbi outlines both). The first is that the world becomes filled with love and kindness and all people everywhere bow down to and swears obedience to King Messiah. All the world has to do is engage in teshuvah (repentance) en masse and perform Tikkun Olam (repairing the world).

I don’t see that scenario taking place any time soon.

The other path is as you see quoted above. Instead of Messiah entering this world and establishing his Kingdom in honor and glory, he humbly emerges on the scene riding upon a donkey. This event happens if the people of the world never get their act together, and we allow society to “undergo a slow painful deterioration, with much suffering.”

moshiach ben yosefSo there has to be a “tipping point,” so to speak, where the decision is made, when the fate of the planet is determined by worldwide human behavior and intent.

According to the sages, this tipping point occurs in the future.

But what if it has already happened?

In addition to Zechariah 9:9, consider the following:

When they had approached Jerusalem and had come to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied there and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to Me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will send them.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:

“Say to the daughter of Zion,
‘Behold your King is coming to you,
Gentle, and mounted on a donkey,
Even on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’”

The disciples went and did just as Jesus had instructed them, and brought the donkey and the colt, and laid their coats on them; and He sat on the coats. Most of the crowd spread their coats in the road, and others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them in the road. The crowds going ahead of Him, and those who followed, were shouting,

“Hosanna to the Son of David;
Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord;
Hosanna in the highest!”

When He had entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee.”

Matthew 21:1-11 (NASB)

The crowds seeing “the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee” couldn’t possibly have missed the symbolism. No wonder they were filled with joy. The Messiah had arrived.

But here’s what was also necessary, at least as I interpret the sages:

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’”

Matthew 23:37-39

If the Talmudic sages are right (and I’m taking a big leap here), then when Rav Yeshua (Jesus) entered Jerusalem on a donkey, the tipping point had already arrived and the decision had been made that the world would slowly degenerate and degrade into moral chaos.

I think Yeshua’s lament over Jerusalem was his expression of sorrow of what the Jewish people would have to suffer in a world that has always hated them. No matter what they had suffered up to this point, the world was going to become so evil, that it would become progressively worse for all Jews everywhere.

hiddenMaybe this is why we don’t have prophets and miracles anymore, at least not like we saw them in the Bible including as illustrated in the Apostolic Scriptures. Because “God’s presence” is “hidden, and His guidance” is “not…perceivable.” This differs from why the “age of miracles” is believed by many Christians to have ended.

The Aish Rabbi continues (I’m repeating some of what I quoted above for emphasis):

According to this second path, there will be a valueless society in which religion will not only be chided, it will be used to promote immorality. Young people will not respect the old, and governments will become godless. This is why the Midrash says, “One third of the world’s woes will come in the generation preceding the Messiah.” (Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, “Handbook of Jewish Thought”)

According to the Talmud, as the Messianic era approaches, the world will experience greater and greater turmoil: Vast economic fluctuations, social rebellion, and widespread despair.

Isn’t that much of what we see happening around us today? Isn’t our society “valueless” (though it doesn’t refer to itself as such) in which the faithful are not only chided, but we also see religious groups, including churches and synagogues as well as our own government, promoting godlessness?

Of course the world of the past nearly two-thousand years has been filled to abundance with chaos, lack of ethics, cruelty, moral abandon, and our religions, including Christianity, have stood many times against the will of God rather than for it, especially in the historic treatment of the Jewish people.

But then again, if the tipping point regarding how Messiah would come was made in the early years of the First Century C.E., then from that moment on, we should have known that collective humanity wasn’t going to spontaneously repent and join together under the one Jewish King.

Of course, this only makes sense if my creative blending of scripture and Talmud actually works. I know many Jews chafe whenever a non-Jew such as myself appropriates Jewish literature and adapts it to “point” to the revelation of Rav Yeshua as the coming Moshiach.

They state that the Messiah is understood to come only once and not twice, but even though we consider him our High Priest in the Heavenly Court, in some metaphysical way, perhaps he is also still with us, humbly riding that donkey in the degenerate alleys and byways of our many cities in the world, suffering along with his people, waiting for the proper moment when the world finally collapses under the weight of its own iniquity, and then a world war of “immense proportion led by King Gog from the land of Magog” will trigger the final battle between good and evil (Ezekiel ch. 38, 39; Zechariah 21:2, 14:23; Talmud – Sukkah 52, Sanhedrin 97, Sotah 49).

The Aish Rabbi states:

What is the nature of this cataclysmic war? Traditional Jewish sources state that the nations of the world will descend against the Jews and Jerusalem. The Crusades, Pogroms and Arab Terrorism will pale in comparison. Eventually, when all the dust settles, the Jews will be defeated and led out in chains. The Torah will be proclaimed a falsehood.

Then, just when we think the story is over, the Messiah will come and lead the Jewish redemption. He will inspire all peoples to follow God, rebuild the Temple, gather in any remaining Jewish exiles to Israel, and re-establish the Sanhedrin. (Maimonides – Melachim ch. 11-12)

fall of jerusalemIt’s telling that one of the predictions, according to the sages, is that the nation of Israel will ultimately be defeated, the Jewish people will once again be in chains, and the “Torah will be proclaimed a falsehood.”

I can imagine that a good many Christians and Jews will have their faith crushed when Israel is vanquished in the final war and yet the Messiah does not come (or Jesus doesn’t come back). However, the Church has already declared the Torah as a falsehood, at least the way Jews understand it, as has Islam, so it’s not hard to imagine that Israel’s enemies won’t just be the secular governments, but Muslim nations and Christians as well.

That’s a rather sobering thought. That means any of us who continue to support Israel through these times will be enemies of many nations, probably including our own.

It means that even those Jews who make aliyah and those Gentile believers who are family members accompanying them or who otherwise manage to reside in the Land, are voluntarily painting a huge target on their backs, one that will bring the wrath of the entire planet down upon them and their loved ones.

“But when you see the abomination of desolation standing where it should not be (let the reader understand), then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains. The one who is on the housetop must not go down, or go in to get anything out of his house; and the one who is in the field must not turn back to get his coat. But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! But pray that it may not happen in the winter. For those days will be a time of tribulation such as has not occurred since the beginning of the creation which God created until now, and never will. Unless the Lord had shortened those days, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect, whom He chose, He shortened the days. And then if anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ’; or, ‘Behold, He is there’; do not believe him; for false Christs and false prophets will arise, and will show signs and wonders, in order to lead astray, if possible, the elect. But take heed; behold, I have told you everything in advance.”

Mark 13:14-23

I know there are some who believe Rav Yeshua was predicting the downfall of Jerusalem in 70 C.E., and perhaps he was, but then again, it’s possible to use a good prophesy twice. This could as well be applied to the coming destruction of Jerusalem in the final war. To my few readers in Israel, depending on when this war comes, this prophesy could well apply to you.

rusty toolsI encourage you to click the link I provided above and read what else the Aish Rabbi has to say about Messianic redemption. As I read him, it seems clear that he still believes things could go either way. Either the world still has time to come together and summon the Messiah in peace, or we could still plunge into darkness, war, and chaos.

Assuming the Jewish sages are correct, I believe the decision was made long ago, and that for the past twenty centuries, the world has been slowly eroding, like the banks of a river being gradually washed away, or a collection of tools abandoned in some workshop and crumbling into rust as the years pass.

For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be.

Matthew 24:37-39

Just as it was in the days of Noah as the flood approached, so it is today, and so has it been for almost two-thousand years. Life has seemed “ordinary,” but there are days ahead when we will dispair.

Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski wrote a commentary on Psalm 51:5 about King David and making teshuvah, even for sins which may be the result of some in-born character trait. If David was born with the biological nature to have great passion, and that passion led him to sin with Batsheva, it was still his responsibility.

In making teshuvah before Hashem, David takes personal responsibility for his sins rather than blaming other people or circumstances. Granted, he goes through many things, including the death of his first child by Batsheva, before arriving at this point, but he did arrive.

The same can be said for you and me. Moshiach is not here yet. We still have time. However, time may be very short. We don’t know, of course, but why wait? Make teshuvah now and serve God as if the war will begin tomorrow and you will lose time and your life.

The Aish Rabbi finishes his essay this way:

Despite the gloom, the world does seem headed toward redemption. One apparent sign is that the Jewish people have returned to the Land of Israel and made it bloom again. Additionally, a major movement is afoot of young Jews returning to Torah tradition.

By the way, Maimonides states that the popularity of Christianity and Islam is part of God’s plan to spread the ideals of Torah throughout the world. This moves society closer to a perfected state of morality and toward a greater understanding of God. All this is in preparation for the Messianic age.

MessiahThe Messiah can come at any moment, and it all depends on our actions. God is ready when we are. For as King David says: “Redemption will come today – if you hearken to His voice.”

While we may not be able to avert the disaster of a morally decaying world and an impending and catastrophic world war which will destroy Jerusalem, we can prepare ourselves for those times by learning the Torah as it applies to each of us, whether as a Jew or a non-Jewish disciple of the Rav. When the horrors have finally passed, as the Rabbi states quoting King David, then there will be redemption for us, if we have hearkened to His voice.

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7 thoughts on “Tipping Point to the End of Days”

  1. Food for thought here, James; I appreciate that. A lot of details and areas. Kind of an easy one to pick up on to start involves a question (one I don’t claim to have the answer to): if miracles decreased (or are nineteen) because of a declining world (which I’m not saying I agree with on either count), why would miracles or signs be present in the very end before the Messiah is here (shown by/with evil people)?

  2. Probably *because* the end of days are very near. Also, because Hashem said He would provide these as signs of the coming of Messiah.

  3. We could hardly view the past 19 centuries since Rav Yeshua’s era as representing one steady decline following a tipping point that justified sending a suffering messiah on a donkey. Not only have there been ups and downs relative to the quality of human behavior, but Rav Shaul suggested to the Romans that callousness toward Rav Yeshua among Jews was part of HaShem’s way to give gentiles a chance at salvation. Further, we see hints in prophecy vis-à-vis current events that history is completing a cycle of sorts as the period of the second exile comes to its close. Hence we see an unprecedented opportunity to re-evaluate the suffering messiah ben-Yosef, and to anticipate the arrival of the ben-David messiah who will not be so “soft” on human misbehavior.

  4. I wonder if Hashem’s redemptive plan might be more flexible than we imagine. We assume that future history is fixed from God’s point of view, and as far as the final endgame, it is. But there may be more than one road on how to get there. The Rabbinic Sages suggest two. I once heard it said that if Jerusalem had repented and accepted Yeshua in his first earthly incarnation, the Messianic Kingdom would have begun at that time. That would have rendered the last 19 centuries or so very differently. The world of prophesy could also be quite flexible. I reviewed a lecture a few years back that illustrated how the Gospels sometimes “repurposed” prophesy that was originally applied to one circumstance and applied it to more recent (to the Gospel writers) events.

    Because human beings have free will, even though Hashem ultimately knows what we’ll do with that free will, it also means we can take history in a variety of different directions. The mystery is how all of those diverse trajectories ultimately lead to the same conclusion.

  5. I do think that is interesting to consider, possible different courses of history but with a known outcome. I would be careful, though, not to then fall for something like Kingdom Now theology or political maneuvering.

    As for my earlier question, while it seems clear “HaShem said He would provide these as signs” (your answer) near the end via evil people, it is not at all clear signs (via people of faith) decreased or disappeared due to a deteriorating world. However, I do agree with you there are people who think they’ve got it all together who will be turned away by the returning Messiah. But I don’t think there is any sense* in signs going away because of evil and then coming back because of evil. I could be wrong, but I’d need it explained somewhat logically (if it were true). I mean, I think there is some other reason or set of reasons that we seem not to have miracles (although I know that we do).

    I also don’t think the world was pretty okay (or more okay than now) before Yeshua and then steadily declined. There are ways in which it is better now. There are two more pronounced directions since his time. That’s the way I see it. People have the real option to see a lot better but also options to get a lot worse.

    * {okay, maybe like this: in institutional Christianity, in that creation of something not real — and then it will come back within that falsehood (of arrogance as a phenomenon).}

    Nevertheless, there are signs from our Creator.
    They can come to an individual truly seeking.

  6. As for “some other reason or [a] set of reasons” —
    just occurred to me to state another component of such a set:
    barring of Jews from Jerusalem and Israel.

    Maybe the miracles decreased some, and then decreased even more.

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