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We are a Christian Fellowship meeting in North London with a strong interest in teaching the Bible and understanding our time in

the light of Bible prophecy

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Judaism and the “End of Days”

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Judaism and Christianity stand in a unique relationship in that both believe

the writings of the Tenach or Old Testament to be the inspired word of God

and yet come to radically different conclusions in their interpretations of

this book. What is more for both faiths the Tenach needs another book to

interpret it. For Christianity the New Testament points to Jesus as the

Messiah who came to fulfil the Law and the Prophets. For Judaism the Oral

Law is believed to be necessary to interpret the Bible. According to

Rabbinic teaching this was first given by God to Moses at Sinai and passed

on by word of mouth to Joshua and succeeding generations. The Oral Law was

finally codified in the Talmud which is believed to give the correct

interpretation of the Tenach and looks for a Messiah to come.

 

When it comes to the issue of the end of days there is a great deal written

in the Prophetic writings of the Tenach. So it is not surprising that this

theme is also found in the New Testament and the Talmud. One of the

difficulties of understanding the Prophetic writings, especially about the

Messiah and the end of days, is that they seem to be saying contradictory

things. For example the Prophet Isaiah alone presents the following

difficulties:

 

Chapter 2 speaks of Messiah reigning with power from Jerusalem, all nations

going to hear the word of the Lord and as a result living in peace together.

 

Chapter 53 speaks of Messiah being despised and rejected of men, having our

iniquities laid on him, when he is cut off from the land of the living,

executed with transgressors, buried and yet living to see the 'travail of

his soul.' (N.B. Much of modern Judaism follows Rashi in denying that Isaiah

53 is about the Messiah, claiming that the 'servant' refers to Israel. The

text itself makes this interpretation difficult if not impossible to uphold.

Contradicting Rashi, Rabbi Alshech of Sfat wrote of Isaiah 53, "Our Rabbis

with one voice accept and affirm that the prophet is speaking of King

Messiah.").

 

Chapter II speaks of the earth being full of the knowledge of the Lord as

the waters cover the sea, returning to conditions of paradise with even the

animals being vegetarian and not destroying each other.

 

Chapter 24 speaks of the earth being devastated, cities destroyed and people

scorched with few survivors.

 

These paradoxes are reflected in the ways in which Orthodox Judaism

interprets prophecies of the end of days. The Lubavitch movement has been

very active in spreading the idea that we are living in the days leading up

to the coming of the Messiah:

 

"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 fulfil his mission and redeem all Israel from exile." The Lubavitcher

Rebbe.

 

In the early 1990s Lubavitch presented an optimistic view of the end of

days, seeing in such events as the fall of Communism and Israel's protection

during the Gulf War signs that redemption is near. In an advertisement in

the Jerusalem Post (31/8/91) Lubavitch supporters announced:

 

"We are living in the most extraordinary times as our world evolves towards

a state of peace, and mankind thrives towards a state of perfection. The

times are changing not just for the better but for the best. A cornerstone

of Jewish faith is the belief that ultimately good and peace must triumph.

This is the essence of Moshiach who will usher in the final redemption

ordained in the Torah."

 

A leaflet encouraging Jewish people to 'demand Moshiach as a labourer demands

his wages at the end of the workday announces that current events are

miracles which should 'inspire a recognition of the Divine hand in the

affairs of humankind, and will give us a glimpse of the miracles that will

transform the world with the coming of Moshiach.' It states that the

disarmament agreements between the USA and the CIS 'point to the beginning

of the prophetic beating of swords into plough shares.' (see Isaiah 2.4)

 

On the other hand the book Prophecy and Providence' by Rabbi Sokolovsky

argues that the era of lkveta d'Meshicha' (the heels of Messiah, the last

days of this age) will be days of spiritual decline and trouble. This is

illustrated by the following quotations from the Talmud:

 

"Tragedy will come upon you at the end of all the days." Targum Yonathan.

 

"During the era preceding the Moshiach, prices will soar. The vine will

produce its fruit but wine will be very expensive." Sotah 49b.

 

"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."

Sotah 49b

 

"During the lkveta d'Meshicha government will turn atheist and there will be

no protest. Truth will vanish." Sanhedrin 97a, Sotah 49b.

 

The Talmud also recognises that there are different ways in which the

Messiah will come according to the writings of the Prophets:

 

"Rabbi Yochanan said: The son of David (Moshiach) comes only to a generation

which is altogether worthy or altogether unworthy. We learn that he may come

in a generation which is altogether worthy from the verse: If your people is

altogether righteous, they shall inherit the land forever/ (Yeshayahu /

Isaiah 60.21). Or he may come in a generation which is altogether unworthy,

as it is written: "And if He see that there is no 'ish' (worthy man), and He

is astonished that there is no intercessor, therefore His own arm brings

salvation unto Him" (Isaiah 59.16).

 

"Rabbi Alexander said: Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi noted the apparent

contradiction in the following two verses. It is written:

 

... and behold, one like a son of man (Moshiach) comes with the clouds of

heaven. Daniel 7.13

 

But it also says:

 

Rejoice greatly 0 daughter of Zion, shout, 0 daughter of Jerusalem. Behold

your king shall come to you, righteous and a saviour is he, a pauper and

riding on an ass. Zechariah 9.9

 

These verses may be reconciled: If they are worthy Moshiach will appear with

the clouds. If not, he will be a pauper and ride on a an ass." Sanhedrin98a.

 

An alternative way to resolve this apparent contradiction is the one we hold

to: that there are two comings of the same Messiah. Firstly he comes as a

Suffering Servant (Isaiah 53), coming in humility on the back of an ass, as

Jesus did when he rode into Jerusalem in fulfilment of Zechariah's prophecy

at the beginning of the final week leading to his sacrificial death and

resurrection. The second time he will come on the clouds of heaven as Jesus

told the Sanhedrin he would at his trial:

 

The high priest asked him, "Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed?"

 

And Jesus said, "I am and you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right

hand of the Power and coming with the clouds of heaven." Mark 15.61-62

 

That day will be the close of this age, the second coming of the Messiah.

 

This also gives the answer to the other paradox, whether the end of days

will be days of disaster or days of deliverance. Jesus' return will be

preceded by a time of spiritual decline and tribulation of which the Hebrew

Prophets write (Isaiah 24, Jeremiah 30, Ezekiel 38-39, Daniel 11-12,

Zechariah 12). In his own prophecy of the end of days Jesus also described

world conditions in these terms (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21).

 

This will be followed by his glorious reign when Isaiah 2, II, Zechariah 14

and Revelation 20 will be fulfilled and the earth will be filled with the

knowledge of the Lord, Satan will be unable to deceive the nations any more

and there will be universal peace.

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