Tag Archives: acharit ha-yamim

The Messianic Kingdom is not a Democracy

snow-in-jerusalem-bookFor centuries, Jerusalem has been a holy place for Jews, Christians, and Muslims. It has been referred to as both the Center of the Universe and the Eternal City. Jerusalem has also been called the City of Peace despite the fact that it has often been the object of bloody battles over religion and territory.

Today, Jerusalem is a city within a city. Surrounded by Arab East Jerusalem and Jewish West Jerusalem is the ancient Old City, an area of some 220 acres. The Old City is encircled by walls built in the sixteenth century by the Ottoman emperor Suleiman the Magnificent. Visitors may enter the Old City through one of seven large gates.

Inside, the Old City is divided physically and culturally into four sections: the Jewish Quarter, the Muslim (Arab) Quarter, the Armenian Quarter, and the Christian Quarter. These divisions are not totally segregated, however, and include some overlap of cultures. Nevertheless, Jewish and Arab children go to separate schools…

-Deborah da Costa
from the Author’s Note of her book
Snow in Jerusalem

In her affecting but message-driven debut children’s book, da Costa relays the story of two boys who live in Jerusalem’s Old City Avi in the Jewish Quarter and Hamudi in the Muslim Quarter. A fluffy white cat wanders between the homes of the two boys, relishing the scraps each feeds her. Then weeks pass without any sign of the cat, alarming each boy. Looking skinny and dirty, the cat at last visits Avi, who then follows her to Hamudi’s neighborhood, where the youngsters begin to argue, each claiming the cat is his. As a rare snowfall begins, the boys stop bickering and, fearing that the beloved animal will freeze, follow her through Jerusalem to a dark alley where they discover four kittens in a box. As the mother purrs loudly and rubs against the boys, they conclude, “She does not want us to fight…. She wants peace.”

-from the Publisher’s Weekly review of the same book
found at Amazon.com

Tales of the Messianic Era series

My wife checked this book out of our local library (along with a dozen other children’s books) for our four-and-a-half year old grandson, Landon. I took last Friday off of work and spent the day with the little guy. After arts and crafts at the library, lunch of (homemade) macaroni and cheese, two or three episodes of Jonny Quest (1964), Legos and other toys, we got down to the business of reading. Da Costa’s “Snow in Jerusalem” was one of the books he wanted me to read to him while he was enjoying a mid-afternoon snack.

I enjoyed reading the book and especially the feeling of actually walking the streets of the Old City between the Jewish and Arab quarters, but reading the Author’s Note at the very end stopped me cold. I realized that this was a book promoting peace, not just between the characters Avi and Hamudi in the book, but between peoples and cultures. That’s not a bad thing certainly, but there was a further undercurrent suggesting a perpetual sharing of all of Israel, sub-divided between Jewish Israel and Arab Palestine.

That’s a popular solution for the conflict between these two people groups, especially among political and social liberals, but it flies in the face of the Bible and I believe is an affront to God. To be clear, I don’t think peace between all the different people of the world is the affront, but I do believe carving up Israel into different chunks for different people like separating the white and dark meat of a turkey on Thanksgiving is.

The word which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.

Now it will come about that
In the last days
The mountain of the house of the Lord
Will be established as the chief of the mountains,
And will be raised above the hills;
And all the nations will stream to it.
And many peoples will come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
To the house of the God of Jacob;
That He may teach us concerning His ways
And that we may walk in His paths.”
For the law will go forth from Zion
And the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
And He will judge between the nations,
And will render decisions for many peoples;
And they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not lift up sword against nation,
And never again will they learn war.

Come, house of Jacob, and let us walk in the light of the Lord.

Isaiah 2:1-5 (NASB)

gateway_jerusalemIn reviewing various scriptures in the Tanakh (Old Testament) about the Messianic Era and the future King of Israel, I don’t see any references to taking the Land of Promise, which God gave to Abraham, and to Isaac, and to Jacob, and all of the physical descendants of that specific line (and notice Ishmael is not included, nor any of Abraham’s other sons) and splitting it up into Jewish and non-Jewish portions. The only “splits” of the Land involved the different areas given to the twelve tribes of Israel.

Messiah will come to return all of the exiled Jewish people to their Land and to rebuild Jerusalem as the Jewish city.

The Lord God, who gathers the dispersed of Israel, declares,
“Yet others I will gather to them, to those already gathered.”

Isaiah 56:8 (NASB)

I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will restore your fortunes and will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile.’

Jeremiah 29:14 (NASB)

These are just a few of the examples in scripture declaring that Messiah will gather the exiles of Israel and restore them to their nation.

Peace is a wonderful thing. So is fairness, equity, sharing, friendship, and the like. But how we imagine these general concepts and their application in Messianic Days may not be how they will really play out. Remember, whether you are Jewish or Christian, the Messiah is King, not President or Prime Minister. A Kingdom is not the same as a Democracy. Citizens of a Kingdom ruled by a single Monarch do not get to vote on laws, rules, and ordinances. The King’s Word is Law.

We all assume that everyone will get what they want in the Messianic Kingdom. Perhaps that is true, but I suspect for some people it will not be so. What if you’re a Muslim and the Jewish Messiah comes to rule not only Israel (all of Israel) as a Jewish nation, but the entire planet? For that matter, what if you are a Christian and you suddenly realize just how Jewish your “Jesus” really is? What if the King establishes without any equivocation that the Jewish nation is the head of all the nations (rather than the United States of America), and that the Torah is the Law of the Land for Israel and incumbent upon all of the Jewish people? What if some portions of that Torah go forth from Zion, and apply to all the people of the nations who are called by His Name (Amos 9:11-12)?

Don’t we get a vote on this? Don’t we have a say? How could this possibly be fair? Where is God’s justice?

There will be nothing else but God’s justice on Earth during the Messianic Age. People will get what they need but not always what they want according to the will of God. We will have peace. Our swords will be beaten into plowshares and our spears into pruning hooks, but only after Messiah has led a vast army to defeat all of Israel’s enemies (including, most likely, the United States of America). God Himself will fight for Israel, crush her adversaries, and establish her security.

The Lord will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one Lord, and his name the only name.

Zechariah 14:9 (NIV)

Are you getting the picture. The Lord will be one and His Name, One.

In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious.

He will raise a banner for the nations and gather the exiles of Israel; he will assemble the scattered people of Judah from the four quarters of the earth.

Isaiah 11:10, 12 (NIV)

ffoz-tvNot only will Messiah gather the Jewish exiles and restore them to Israel, but he will act as a banner for the rest of us, drawing us to him.

But remember, we won’t get a vote. This is Law.

The only and last functioning Theocracy (nation directly ruled by God) on Earth was ancient Israel before the people demanded that Samuel anoint Saul as King.

In the Messianic Age, that Kingdom, that Theocracy will be restored. A Davidic King, the last Davidic King will ascend the Throne in Jerusalem again, David’s Throne, which God promised to David and to his descendants forever.

For the sons of Israel will remain for many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred pillar and without ephod or household idols. Afterward the sons of Israel will return and seek the Lord their God and David their king; and they will come trembling to the Lord and to His goodness in the last days.

Hosea 3:4-5 (NASB)

For many, many centuries, Israel has been without a King, but it will not always be so. The King is coming. He will return. He will restore his people, the Jewish people, and all of humanity will go up to Jerusalem, and every knee will bow, to the Ruler, the Prince, the King, Messiah, Son of David, the Righteous Branch.

With respects to Deborah da Costa, while there will be peace within Jerusalem and her walls will forever be secure, it will not be the sort of peace established by a Jewish boy and an Arab boy arguing over possession of a cat and her kittens. It will be a brutally fought and hard-won peace where real adversaries will spill gallons of blood and mountains of dead flesh will decay in the sun and be eaten by carrion birds.

Enemies will be defeated in a war lead by a King whose rule is absolute. Peace will come when all of those enemies are dead, and the survivors of the nations defeated by Israel’s armies and by God must come to Jerusalem once a year to honor the King on Sukkot.

Then it will come about that any who are left of all the nations that went against Jerusalem will go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to celebrate the Feast of Booths. And it will be that whichever of the families of the earth does not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, there will be no rain on them. If the family of Egypt does not go up or enter, then no rain will fall on them; it will be the plague with which the Lord smites the nations who do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Booths. This will be the punishment of Egypt, and the punishment of all the nations who do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Booths.

Zechariah 14:16-19 (NASB)

And then there will be peace.

Everyone will sit under their own vine
and under their own fig tree,
and no one will make them afraid,
for the Lord Almighty has spoken.

Micah 4:4 (NIV)

white-pigeon-kotelPeace comes when the Lord Almighty has spoken it, not when we have imagined some man-made utopia and think we can make it real just by publishing enough books, television shows, and movies based on that fantasy.

All that said, we can escape the fantasy and be part of building the way to Messianic peace now, at least a little of it. But we have to grasp onto the “fringes” of the garment of God, so to speak, humble ourselves, and speak the words of the coming Kingdom and the King who is to be. We can choose that path, or deny it and inherit a more terrible end.

“…and you will come up against My people Israel like a cloud to cover the land. It shall come about in the last days that I will bring you against My land, so that the nations may know Me when I am sanctified through you before their eyes, O Gog.”

Ezekiel 38:16 (NASB)

That choice is ours to make. The King has been patient with us, but his patience will end, and we had better be ready when it does. We are either soldiers in his army or on the side that will see defeat. We will see peace in the Kingdom or find the peace of the grave. The Holy One of Jacob neither slumbers or sleeps.

And he is the King. We must bow or be broken.

Jerusalem has been called the Center of the Universe and the Eternal City. But it is also known as the City of David. One day it will truly be the City of Peace.

A Quick View of the Coming of Messiah Through a Jewish Lens

cloaked-in-light-tallitBelief in the eventual coming of the mashiach is a basic and fundamental part of traditional Judaism. It is part of Rambam’s 13 Principles of Faith, the minimum requirements of Jewish belief. In the Shemoneh Esrei prayer, recited three times daily, we pray for all of the elements of the coming of the mashiach: ingathering of the exiles; restoration of the religious courts of justice; an end of wickedness, sin and heresy; reward to the righteous; rebuilding of Jerusalem; restoration of the line of King David; and restoration of Temple service.

Modern scholars suggest that the messianic concept was introduced later in the history of Judaism, during the age of the prophets. They note that the messianic concept is not explicitly mentioned anywhere in the Torah (the first five books of the Bible).

However, traditional Judaism maintains that the messianic idea has always been a part of Judaism. The mashiach is not mentioned explicitly in the Torah, because the Torah was written in terms that all people could understand, and the abstract concept of a distant, spiritual, future reward was beyond the comprehension of some people. However, the Torah contains several references to “the End of Days” (acharit ha-yamim), which is the time of the mashiach; thus, the concept of mashiach was known in the most ancient times.

from “Mashiach: The Messiah”
Judaism 101

The Jewish people are compared to the stars twinkling in the high heavens. By their light, even he who walks in the darkness of night shall not blunder. Every Jew, man or woman, possesses enough moral and spiritual strength to influence friends and acquaintances, and bring them into the light.

-from “Today’s Day”
Wednesday – Cheshvan 5 – 5704
Compiled by the Lubavitcher Rebbe; Translated by Yitschak Meir Kagan

Tales of the Messianic Era series

A few days ago, I wrote a blog post called A Quick View of Revelation Through a Christian Lens, which presented what I thought was a traditional fundamentalist Christian viewpoint of the Book of Revelation and the “end times.” It turned out to be one of my more popular blog posts and I hope laid the groundwork for further investigations into this area of study.

I want to be fair, and since I’m searching for a more Jewish understanding of this topic, I thought the next step should be for me to offer the opposite side of the coin: to show a portrait of a wholly and non-Messianic Jewish perspective on the coming of Moshiach. What would a distillation of the Jewish prophesies about Messiah taken just from the Tanakh (Old Testament) look like? Fortunately a few days ago, one fell quite conveniently in my lap.

The real Jewish messiah appears on the scene. He’s not Jesus, but a virtuous and devout Jewish man who is able to unite all Jews, a scholar and wise military leader. The nations of the world hate and oppose him and work against him, as they’ve done to every Jewish leader in Israel’s history. He’s nothing like what they expected to see – not the glorious all-powerful heavenly Jesus. He regathers the rest of the Jews from all around the world. Many wars against Israel break out, but the Messiah leads Israel in defeating their many enemies and in rebuilding the Third and final Temple.

True prophets once again appear in Israel and they are able to recognize the lineage of all Jews, including of priests, Levites and especially that of the Messiah himself, with many Jews recognizing their leader as the awaited Messiah. Christians, however, almost unanimously speak against him, brand him the “antichrist” of their bible, preaching fiery sermons in their churches against the “antichrist” and against the Jews who fell “under his spell just as Jesus, Paul and John predicted”. No Christian may believe in him, or they risk losing their salvation. Jews are ridiculed and the New Testament is held up as having predicted everything the Jews will do. Muslims, who along with Christians likewise believe that Jesus is the Messiah and that no one else fits the bill, also reject the kingship of the Jewish Messiah and join with the Western world in their opposition to him and the nation of Israel.

Finally, all nations gather against Israel for the ultimate conflagration, attacking Jerusalem and causing much damage. The war against Israel appears to be won and situation is hopeless. However, G-d himself intervenes, and sends his fire on earth and destroys the armies of “G-g and Magog and all the cohorts.” The weakest in Israel chases away thousands. The nations of the world are humbled, they are in awe of what G-d has done for Israel, of His salvation. The idols of the nations which do not save (including Jesus) are destroyed, are put away for good and are remembered no more. All false prophets and idol worshipers will be ashamed, they will realize that they inherited nothing but lies from their forefathers. The earth will be finally at peace. G-d raises all the righteous dead and all peoples of the earth are required to come to Jerusalem to worship Hashem in his Temple. The true Messiah of Israel (which could be the resurrected king David himself) will fear G-d, rule justly and will forever reign as prince/king over the Jewish people.

Jewish in Jerusalem(I just want to mention that although Islam considers Jesus a prophet, they do not see him as their “Messiah.” Rather, the Mahdi is the redeemer of Islam).

Just about all Christians and not a few Hebrew Roots and Messianic Jewish adherents are bound to find the above rendition of the coming of Messiah disturbing. The Jewish Messiah is treated by Christians as the “antichrist” because he’s “too Jewish” and fits the description of Moshiach in Jewish understanding too closely. The Church is waiting for someone who never comes, waiting for a rapture up to Heaven that never occurs. In the end, Christianity becomes just another enemy of Judaism and Israel that God defeats. Humiliated, Christians all over the world discover that they’ve been following a false god all along, and either they surrender their “faith” and pay homage the true King of Israel and worship Israel’s God, or they remain defiant, and continue to pray for a Jesus who never existed and who will never answer.

That’s a horrible thought. Here’s a worse one.

The above summary, at least on the surface, seems to fit quite well with what we understand of the Messianic prophesies in the Tanakh. That is, if we don’t factor in the New Testament, this summary seems to connect almost seamlessly with the words of the ancient Jewish prophets about the coming Moshiach.

You don’t have to worry about the distinctions between the raptured Church and resurrected Israelites because no such dissonance exists. It’s all about Israel. Period.

Interestingly enough, this isn’t tremendously far from what I’ve been trying to find in Messianic Judaism, a completely Jewish Messiah King whose focus is first and foremost on national Israel and the Jewish people. From this focus, the people of the rest of the world receive blessings, but ultimately it’s all about Israel. Period.

If there isn’t a “happy meeting place” between the ancient portrait of the Jewish Messiah King who has yet to come and the promise of a resurrected Yeshua who will come again, then either New Testament Christians must be ready to admit that there is a very fuzzy connection between the Old Testament prophesies of Messiah and how the New Testament describes Jesus, or we have to take a whole new look at the Messianic prophesies in the Tanakh and see who we are really supposed to be waiting for.

This isn’t going to be easy, especially when I’m tossing aside the Church’s assumptions and traditions that make it possible to reconcile what doesn’t seem to fit very well, and re-examine the identity of Messiah and his redemptive mission at its core.

I know in my previous blog post, I received a large number of responses explaining the problems with some of the Christian assumptions about the return of Jesus. I’m hoping a similar reaction will be forthcoming, discussing the Jewish viewpoint of Moshiach and how (or if) a Jewish perspective can factor in and make it understandable that Jesus is the same Messiah we find in the Old and New Testaments.

Now it will come about that
In the last days
The mountain of the house of the Lord
Will be established as the chief of the mountains,
And will be raised above the hills;
And all the nations will stream to it.
And many peoples will come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
To the house of the God of Jacob;
That He may teach us concerning His ways
And that we may walk in His paths.”
For the law will go forth from Zion
And the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
And He will judge between the nations,
And will render decisions for many peoples;
And they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not lift up sword against nation,
never again will they learn war.

Isaiah 2:2-4 (NASB)

tallit-prayerWho is the Messiah who will redeem Israel, gather in her exiles, restore tranquility within her borders, vanquish her enemies, rebuild the Temple, and establish a rule of peace and justice over the entire world? Is it the man we see described by such prophets as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, and Micah? Or is it the Son of God who we encounter in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, the one spoken of by the apostle Paul as he established the churches of the Gentiles, and the one who we find in all majesty and glory within the pages of Revelation?

Or somehow, is it both?