Jewish Belief in Messiah and the Messianic Age
"I Believe With Complete Faith In The Coming Of The Messiah...."
(from the Thirteen Principles of Faith)
WHAT JUDAISM TEACHES ABOUT THE MESSIANIC AGE
What does Judaism have to say about the messianic age?
* What sort of person will the Messiah be?
* What is the purpose of a "messianic age"?
* Why did God allow the belief in false messiahs to spread?
Many people, both Jews and non-Jews, ask these and other questions about the Jewish belief in the coming of the messiah. While a pamphlet of this size cannot possibly address such an important topic with the thoroughness that it deserves, it can present the basic points in the hope that it will lead to further study of the subject.
In his monumental work Mishneh Torah, Maimonides (1135-1204) spelled out the fundamental Jewish concept of the messiah as it was handed down to us, generation after generation, from the time of the prophets. In his concise and lucid manner, the great Jewish philosopher and jurist herewith presents us with a clear picture of the promise which God made to the Jewish people.
Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Melachim XI - XII.
The King Messiah will in some future time come, restore the kingdom of David to its former power, build the Temple, bring together the scattered of Israel, and all the ancient laws will again be in force. Sacrifices will be offered, and years of release and Jubilees will be kept as prescribed in the Torah. Whoever does not believe in him, or does not hope for his coming, shows a lack of faith not only in the prophets, but also in the Torah. For the Torah testifies concerning him in the words: 'And the L-rd your God will again bring back your captivity, and show mercy unto you, and again gather you from all the nations...If your outcasts be at the ends of the heavens, from there will the L-rd gather you...and the L-rd will bring you into the land which your fathers possessed...'(Deut. 30:3-5)
You must not imagine that the messiah must prove his messianity by signs and miracles, doing something unexpected, bringing the dead to life, or similar things. The principle thing is this: the statutes and precepts of our Torah remain forever, and nothing can be added to them or taken from them.
If, therefore, a descendant of David earnestly studies the Torah, observes what the written and oral Torah enjoins, causes all Israelites to act similarly, exhorts those who are lax in the performance of the commandments, and fights the wars of the L-rd, he may possibly be the messiah. If he does not succeed, or is killed in war, it is certain that he is not the messiah promised in the Torah. He is like all the other noble and good kings of the House of David who have died, and God only caused him to rise in order to try us thereby, as it is said, `And of the wise some will stumble, and through them the people will be tested, purified, and made white, till the time of the end comes; for there is yet a vision for an appointed time.' (Dan. 11:35).
Also, Jesus the Nazarene, who imagined that he would be messiah and was killed, is alluded to in the book of Daniel, as it is said, `And the sons of the transgressors among thy people will rise, in order to establish a vision, and will stumble' (Dan. 11:14). Can there be a greater stumbling then this? All the prophets said that messiah will be a redeemer and a savior to the Israelites, will bring together their outcasts, and will strengthen their obedience to the Divine precepts, but he (Jesus) caused destruction by the sword to Israel, the dispersion of those left, and their humiliation. He changed the law, and misled many people to worship a being beside God.
But the thoughts of the Creator of the universe cannot be understood by any human being, for the ways of men are not His ways, nor their thoughts His thoughts. For all the events connected with Jesus, and with Mohammed that rose after him, served only to pave the way for the King Messiah, who will reform all mankind and lead them to the unanimous service of God, as it is said, 'For then will I turn to the peoples a pure language, that all may call by the name of God, and serve him unanimously' (Zeph. 3:9).
How can this be done? Almost all people have through them (Jesus and Mohammed) become acquainted with the idea of messiah, with the words of the Torah and the Divine precepts. Through them the knowledge of the Bible spread even unto the remotest islands and unto many nations 'uncircumcised' in heart and uncircumcised in flesh. These nations seek to justify their disobedience to the precepts of the Torah. Some of them say that these precepts are Divine, but are not in force at present, and were never intended to be permanent laws. Others maintain that they must not be taken literally, as they are mere symbols, the meaning of which has already been explained by their 'messiah'. But when the true King Messiah will rise, he will prosper, be high and exalted. All will then at once know that it was falsehood what their fathers have inherited, and that their prophets and their teachers have misled them.
It is not because they desired to have dominion over all lands and nations and be honored by all people, or because they desired to have plenty to eat and drink and other pleasures, that the wise men and the prophets longed for the days of the messiah, but because they would then be at leisure to study the Torah and its teachings without being interrupted by any oppressor, and would thus make themselves worthy of life in the World to Come.
There will not be in those days any famine, war, jealousy, or quarrel, because the good things will be in plenty and even luxuries will be found everywhere. All people will busy themselves with trying to know the L-rd. Therefore, the Israelites will be great sages, knowing things which are at present hidden. They will obtain a knowledge of their Creator as far as possible by human understanding; `For the earth shall be full with the knowledge of the L-rd as the waters cover the sea.' (Isaiah 11:9).
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