The issue about the identity of the Messiah is not just an academic one, but it is a vital one for everyone living on the earth, especially the Jewish people. The rebirth of Israel and the crisis in the Middle East is raising an interest in what the Bible has to say about the Messiah and the end of days amongst many people today. In an article on the Aish website, Rabbi Wilson has written:
‘We are living in very turbulent times, to say the least. Whereas only two years ago the world and the people of Israel were optimistic about a peaceful solution to the Middle East conflict, today that optimism has been replaced by fear and depression. Fear of unbridled and senseless terrorism, and, depression from what appears to be a no-win situation for the State of Israel.
‘Now, more than ever before over the last 50 years, the Jewish people, and even the world in general, need a saviour. We need someone who can, somehow, perhaps even mystically, bring about more than just a tenuous cease-fire between two warring peoples. We need someone who can, once and for all, bring an end to all human conflict, especially in the Middle East. And, if he can do that, a tall order, then perhaps he would also be able to destroy whatever other evil exists in the world. As he engineers this long-dreamed-of world peace, let him make unethical and immoral behaviour a thing of the past, too. In other words, this saviour, if he is truly a saviour, should usher in a permanent utopian society where virtuous living is the main theme and second- (if not first) nature. And, what shall we call this modern-day hero of Biblical proportions? In Judaism, he has always been called ‘Moshiach’ (Messiah), ‘the anointed one’, because, as a Jewish king he is to be anointed upon taking office, so-to-speak.’ (1)
The Messianic idea in Judaism today centres on a human figure who is coming to sort out the mess of the world and create world peace. According to this view this figure is definitely not Jesus. In his book attacking the view that Jesus is the Messiah called ‘The Real Messiah?’ Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan concludes by describing the figure who he believes the Bible points to as the coming Messiah.
Written originally in 1976, Rabbi Kaplan’s view of the Messiah has an optimistic view of the development of technology for the good of humanity which current events are already showing to be a forlorn hope. He writes: ‘A man of 2000 years ago would not find the world of two hundred years ago very different. But the man of two hundred years ago, if transported to today’s society, would find himself in a world beyond his wildest imagination. He would find himself in a world where reaching for the moon is not a metaphor for the impossible, but a well-financed government project; where atoms are smashed and the secrets of life are being exposed; where the dread of plagues that decimated entire civilisations no longer exist. … And in the midst of all this, why do we suddenly find a generation that will no longer tolerate war, injustice, inequality, the poisoning of our environment, or any of the other evils that we once felt were inevitable?’ (2)
The reason he gives for this change in the world situation is the restoration of Israel as a sign of the coming Messiah: ‘After 2000 years of suffering and prayer, we are once again in control of our ancient homeland.’ He claims that this shows that ‘we are living in an age where almost all the Jewish prophecies regarding the prelude to the Messianic Age are coming to pass.’ (3)
Rabbi Kaplan’s book was written in 1976. Today Israel, the nation to which Jewish people from around the world have returned after so many centuries of exile, is besieged by violent aggressive terrorism, fed by a level of anti-Jewish propaganda in the Arab and Muslim world that has not been seen or heard since the Nazi time. The world community in the form of the United Nations is more and more dictating to Israel what it can and cannot do in its own land. Jerusalem is threatened with division which would place the holiest places for Judaism under the control of hostile Muslims.
The optimistic scenario of the world becoming better and better as it awaits the Messiah is crumbling as the real Bible scenario of a time of unprecedented trouble shapes up in the Middle East and throughout the world.
To be fair Rabbi Kaplan also acknowledges that the Messianic Age may bring trouble: ‘The rapid changes on both a technological and sociological level will result in a great social upheaval. The cataclysmic changes will result in considerable suffering, often referred to as the ‘Chevley Moshiach’ or Birth-pangs of the Messiah. If the Messiah comes with miracles these changes may be avoided, but the great changes involved in his coming in a natural manner may make these changes inevitable.’ (4)
In fact the Bible is very specific that the days before the ‘Day of the Lord’ will be days of unique trouble:
‘Alas! For that day is great, so that none is like it; and it is the time of Jacob’s trouble, but he shall be saved out of it.’ Jeremiah 30:7
‘For the day of the Lord is coming, for it is at hand: A day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, like the morning clouds spread over the mountains. A people come, great and strong, the like of whom has never been; nor will there ever be any such after them.’ Joel 2:1-2
‘At that time Michael shall stand up, the great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, every one who is found written in the book.’ Daniel 12:1
This ties in exactly with the words of Jesus concerning His second coming in which He also said that these days would be preceded by a time of unique trouble:
‘For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be.’ Matthew 24:21-22.
According to Rabbi Kaplan the coming Messiah will be a ‘mortal human being born normally of human parents’ who will change the course of history. ‘We have seen for example how an evil genius like Hitler literally hypnotised an entire nation bringing it to do things that normally would be unthinkable in a civilised society. If such a power exists for evil, it must certainly exist for good.’ (5)
He says this Messiah will sort out the problems of the present world by his incredible personality which will change the course of history. ‘Now imagine a charismatic leader greater than any other in man’s history. Imagine a political genius surpassing all others. With the vast communication networks now at our disposal, he could spread his message to the entire world and change the very fabric of society.’ (6)
He describes a possible scenario, which brings him to power. ‘One possible scenario could involve the Middle East situation. This is a problem that involves all the world powers. Now imagine a Jew, a Tzadik (literally a ‘righteous one’) solving this thorny problem. It would not be inconceivable that such a demonstration of statesmanship and political genius would place him in a position of world leadership. The major powers would listen to such an individual.’ (7)
He goes on to describe how he would re-gather the exiles to Israel, cause the Temple to be rebuilt and teach all mankind to live in peace and follow God’s teachings. He concludes, ‘As society reaches toward perfection and the world becomes increasingly godly, men will begin to explore the transcendental more and more. As the prophet said (Isaiah 11.9), ‘For all the earth shall be full of the knowledge of God, as the waters cover the sea.’ More and more people will achieve the mystical union of prophecy, as foretold by Joel, ‘And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out my spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy.’ (8)
Is such a hoped for Messiah about to appear on the world stage and by his charismatic personality inspire the world to peace and following God? Or are current events preparing the way for a more sinister figure to appear? In my view the Messiah Rabbi Kaplan is heralding will turn out to be the anti-Messiah or Antichrist who the Bible says will come in the last days of this age. For this reason the issue of interpreting prophecy is not just an academic one for scholars to debate about, but a vital one for everyone to understand in order to avoid being deceived by the world’s final false Messiah. I have written about this subject at greater length in my book ‘The Omega Files’.
Jewish messianic hopes centre on a great man coming to make world peace and rescue Israel, but the biblical prophecies show that this is a vain hope and will lead to deep disillusion and betrayal. Bible prophecies show the true identity of the Messiah. The prophet Zechariah has some amazing information on this subject. He describes a world conflict over the status of Jerusalem, a question, which will not just affect the countries of the region, but the whole world:
‘And it shall happen in that day that I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all peoples; and all who would heave it away will surely be cut in pieces, though all nations of the earth are gathered against it’ (Zechariah 12.3).
In the last days of this age there will be a worldwide crisis which will focus on the Arab-Israeli conflict and the question of who rules Jerusalem. Psalm 83 describes the desire of the nations surrounding Israel to eliminate the Jewish state: ‘Come and let us cut them off from being a nation, that the name of Israel may be remembered no more.’ This situation has become the main area of world concern with more UN resolutions being passed about it than any other trouble spot on earth. For religious, economic and political reasons this crisis will focus the minds of the whole world in the last days and the search for a peace settlement will be of prime importance. Today the major nations of the world (the USA, EU and Russia) backed by the organisation which represents all nations (the UN) are attempting to negotiate a peace plan for the Middle East.
One reason for the world’s pre-occupation with solving the Middle East crisis is the fear that it could lead to a Middle East war, using weapons of mass destruction. There has already been an attempt to arrange a ‘seven year’ peace plan for the region in the Oslo Accords, which broke down seven years after the treaty was signed. Another attempt to eliminate Israel, probably in fulfilment of Psalm 83, resulting again in failure for the Arab cause, would be enough to send the nations racing to the conference table to work out a settlement, especially if there has been the threat of nuclear weapons being used.
Prophecies in the book of Daniel indicate that the coming Antichrist will be the one who makes this peace settlement. In Daniel 9 we read of the ‘prince who is to come’ who is the Antichrist, a figure associated with the Romans, the ones who destroyed the Second Temple:
‘And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for himself; and the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood, and till the end of the war desolations are determined. Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; but in the middle of the week he shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, even until the consummation, which is determined, is poured out on the desolate’ (Daniel 9.26-7).
‘One week’ here is a seven year period and this passage indicates a peace covenant made with many in Israel which will be the subject of a double cross resulting in it being broken half way through (i.e. after 3 ½ years). Daniel 11 indicates that the covenant being worked out will be based on deceit:
‘And in his place shall arise a vile person, to whom they will not give the honour of royalty; but he shall come in peaceably, and seize the kingdom by intrigue.’ (Daniel 11.21)
‘Both these kings’ hearts shall be bent on evil, and they shall speak lies at the same table; but it shall not prosper, for the end will still be at the appointed time’ (Daniel 11.27).
While these prophecies were partially fulfilled through Antiochus Epiphanes at the time of the Maccabees, there will be a further fulfilment of this prophecy in the last days. Through a mixture of promises of peace and deceit the Antichrist will succeed in persuading Israel and the Arab nations to make a peace settlement which will actually leave him with the controlling power over Jerusalem. Those making this settlement from Israel’s side are described in Isaiah 28 as ‘scornful men’. It is interesting that most modern Israeli politicians are ‘scornful’ of the promises given by God for Israel in the Bible:
‘Therefore hear the word of the Lord, you scornful men, who rule this people who are in Jerusalem, because you have said, “We have made a covenant with death, and with Sheol we are in agreement. When the overflowing scourge passes through, it will not come to us, for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood we have hidden ourselves.” Therefore thus says the Lord God: “Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, A tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; Whoever believes will not act hastily. Also I will make justice the measuring line, and righteousness the plummet; the hail will sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters will overflow the hiding place. Your covenant with death will be annulled, and your agreement with Sheol will not stand; when the overflowing scourge passes through, then you will be trampled down by it. As often as it goes out it will take you; For morning by morning it will pass over, and by day and by night; It will be a terror just to understand the report”’ (Isaiah 28.14-19).
This ‘covenant with death’ will be made by Israel to gain protection from ‘the overflowing scourge’, the threat of invasion and annihilation. However it will not stand because it is based on lies and falsehood. The phrase ‘the waters will overflow the hiding place’ points to the very thing Israel feared happening, an enemy invasion and occupation. This will lead to the final event of this age, Armageddon, which will cause the ‘report’ (the news) to be terrible.
In both of the prophecy of Daniel 9.27 and Isaiah 28.14-19 there are those who do not enter into this false peace covenant. In Daniel 9 the Antichrist makes the covenant with ‘some’ but not all. In Isaiah 28.16 there are those who do not act rashly but put their trust in God who says: ‘Behold I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation.’ This is a reference to Psalm 118.22, a Messianic Psalm which says, ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief corner stone. This was the Lord’s doing; it is marvellous in our eyes.’ This verse is used to point to Jesus as Messiah in the New Testament more than any other Old Testament scripture. It occurs in three of the Gospels, in the Acts and in 1 Peter.
There is a Jewish story relating to this verse that as the builders were putting the great hewn stones of Solomon’s Temple in place, they came across a stone, which was an odd shape and did not fit anywhere. So they rejected it and put it on the rubbish heap. As they came to the end of their building they found that there was an odd shaped space at the head of the corner. One of the builders who had been there at the beginning of the work remembered the odd shaped stone and they looked on the rubbish heap and found it. It was a perfect fit for the odd shaped space they had left at the head of the corner.
This story has an amazing message in relation to the Messianic claim of Jesus. When He came the first time, He did not fit the idea of Messiah which many Jewish people had and so He was put on the rubbish heap spiritually and rejected. At the end of days as the final conflict rages around Jerusalem the remnant of Jewish they will understand that He is the only one who can fit the empty space in their lives and fulfil their hopes of the Messiah. Then He will return and take up His place of honour and deliver Israel from destruction and create world peace.
When the armies of the world gather together against Jerusalem to battle, God says, ‘I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on me whom they have pierced and mourn for Him as one mourns for His only son’ Zechariah 12.10.
Following this Zechariah says, ‘The Lord will go forth and fight against those nations, as He fights in the day of battle. And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east. … And the Lord shall be king over all the earth’ Zechariah 14.3-4, 9.
These scriptures fit in exactly with the message of Jesus. He is revealed in the Gospel as the only Son who has been ‘pierced’, dying by crucifixion, in order to redeem the world, and who will come the second time to judge the world according to how we have responded to His message.
Jesus gave His teaching on His second coming on the Mount of Olives, just outside Jerusalem (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21), the same place Zechariah says the Lord is coming to in order to save Israel. Jesus ascended into heaven from there and the angel spoke to the disciples saying: ‘This same Jesus who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven’ Acts 1.11.
The event described in Zechariah, when Israel looks on one who has been pierced, will be the same event as the one I have already quoted in Matthew 23.39 when Jesus said concerning Jerusalem, ‘You shall see me no more until you say, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”’ When Jesus is welcomed and accepted as Messiah by the Jewish people, He will come back to the earth and finally bring peace to Israel, thus fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah:
‘Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it. Many people shall come and say, “Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people. They shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore’ Isaiah 2.2-4.
In that day He will fulfil the prophecies of the Reigning King Messiah (Messiah ben David), just as He has already fulfilled the prophecies of the Suffering Servant Messiah (Messiah ben Joseph). Today He is waiting for the Jewish people to whom He came the first time and who He continues to love to turn to Him in repentance and faith and recognise that He is the real Messiah who has come once in humility to be the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world and who is coming again soon in power to judge the world in righteousness according to how we have responded to Him.
What will happen next is the Messianic Age or Millennium which is described in the Hebrew Prophets and in the prophetic portions of the New Testament. A brief reconstruction of this is as follows.
During the Messianic Age which will follow Jesus’ return, God will demonstrate how the earth should be run. After the devastation caused by the period of trouble which precedes it, living waters will flow out from Jerusalem to clean up the earth (Zechariah 14.8). Weapons of war will be destroyed and all military training will cease (Isaiah 2.4, 9.5, Ezekiel 38.9).
The nations will go up to the redeemed Jerusalem where the Messiah will teach them the ways of the Lord (Isaiah 2.2-3). There will be universal peace and even the animal kingdom will be affected with meat eating creatures becoming vegetarian. The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea (Isaiah 11.6-9).
This glorious time will be a Sabbath of rest for the earth. If we take a literal view of creation and reckon the second coming of Messiah to be not too far away, this gives about 6000 years from creation to the end of this age. The Messianic Age or Millennium will last 1000 years according to Revelation. In 2 Peter 3.8 we read that a day with the Lord is as 1000 years. So we have a parallel with the creation account: six days of labour followed by the Sabbath day of rest; 6000 years of travail and sin on the earth, followed by 1000 years of rest and peace.
Zechariah speaks of the Feast of Tabernacles (Succoth) being celebrated during this time. The Feast of Tabernacles looks back to the time when the Israelites dwelt in booths after they came out of Egypt and before they came into the Promised Land. The booths represent a temporary dwelling place before the final destination, which God has prepared for His people. So the Messianic Age / Millennium is a temporary dwelling place for those who have ‘come out of Egypt’ (symbolising the world system in rebellion against God) before entering into the final rest in heaven.
In this time Messiah will ‘rule with a rod of iron’, but also with absolute justice (Isaiah 11.4-5). The benefits will be obvious to all, especially those who have experienced the horrors of the great tribulation. Children will be born during this time in the natural way to survivors of the great tribulation who enter the Messianic kingdom. They will not have the opportunity to sin in the way we have today, as Satan will be bound and unable to influence the nations (Revelation 20.1-4).
However the possibility of sin will be present during this time. In Isaiah 65.20 we read: ‘No more shall an infant from there live but a few days, nor an old man who has not fulfilled his days; for the child shall die one hundred years old, but the sinner being one hundred years old shall be accursed.’ We also read of nations, which refuse to worship the Lord during this time and suffer judgment as a result (Zechariah 14.17-19). At the end of the 1000 period Satan will be loosed for a while and gather together those who are inwardly rebelling against the rule of Messiah:
‘Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle whose number is as the sand of the sea. They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them. And the devil who deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night for ever and ever’ (Revelation 20.7-10).
This will actually be the last battle on earth, and like Armageddon, it will end in a moment with Satan’s forces being routed. It will also be the end of the world, as this earth and everything in it will be destroyed and the final Day of Judgment before the great white throne of God takes place.
Revelation 19-21 gives a prophetic overview of the events of the end of the world which follows a logical sequence: the battle of Armageddon, the Second Coming of Messiah to the earth, His rule for 1000 years, Satan’s loosing and rebellion at the end of the 1000 years, the end of the world, heaven and hell.
After all this the physical universe in its present form will ‘melt with fervent heat’ and the earth will be burnt up (2 Peter 2.10). The wicked dead will come before God in judgment:
‘Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by their works, by the things, which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire’ (Revelation 20.11-15).
Following this God will create a new heavens and new earth for those who trust in Jesus as Saviour and Lord now. Here at last we will experience eternal deliverance from the troubles and pains of this life. Heaven will not end in failure as all the ages of this world have ended in failure, because of human sinfulness and satanic activity. Only the Lord will be present there and all those who have been redeemed. Satan and those who have rejected this redemption will be unable to enter.
In the presence of the Lord the redeemed will have full unbroken fellowship with God, which we can never achieve on earth because of the weakness of human nature. We will have new bodies, which will never get old, sick or die (1 Corinthians 15). We will also be recognisable to those who have known us and will preserve our identity. Human relationships will not be on the same basis as on earth. There is no marriage in heaven for example (Luke 20.37-38). Because there is no death there is no need for a new generation to replace the old. But fellowship between the redeemed will be more wonderful than anything we have ever experienced on earth. The bond of love in heaven is stronger than the strongest bonds on earth.
In God’s presence is fullness of joy. No one is ever sad in heaven. None of the things that cause unhappiness on earth can enter heaven. There is no unkindness, no cruelty, no selfishness, no loneliness, no misunderstanding.
‘And God shall wipe away every tear from our eyes; and there shall be no more death, or mourning, or crying or pain’ (Revelation 21.4).
Make sure you are going there by accepting the salvation offered us all by the Messiah Jesus who is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Amen.
‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the good news.’ Mark 1.15.
- Aish.com posted in Summer 2002.
- The Real Messiah? By Aryeh Kaplan page 82.
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- The Real Messiah? Page 95.