Jewish Thought and Bible Prophecy Concerning the Advent of Messiah
"The Tanna debe Eliyyahu teaches: The world is to exist six thousand years. In the first two thousand there was desolation; two thousand years the Torah flourished; and the next two thousand years is the Messianic era, but through our many iniquities all these years have been lost." - Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin, folio 97a-b (here)
In the above comment you can see that Jews recognize the time for Messiah had come and gone... and nothing occurred. They know it has something to do with their unworthiness, but they can not pinpoint the problem to the advent of Jesus of Nazareth and their denial of His Messianic claim. With the passing of about two thousand years now, the Orthodox aren't quite sure what to make of Yahweh's plan for the nation. They think God is awaiting a time when Israel is ready and worthy of the advent of Messiah.
"R. Alexandri said: R. Joshua opposed two verses: it is written, And behold, one like the son of man came with the clouds of heaven, whilst [elsewhere] it is written, [behold, thy king cometh unto thee] lowly, and riding upon an ass! — if they are meritorious, [he will come] with the clouds of heaven; if not, lowly and riding upon an ass." - Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin, folio 98a (here)
It is interesting to see Jewish Rabbis ponder issues in the Scripture pertaining to the advent of Messiah to establish the Kingdom. Today we recognize that there are to be, in sum, two advents of Messiah. The Jews didn't quite understand this. They understood that Messiah would come and establish the Kingdom, but then, as for differing statements regarding His coming, it was figured that the manner in which He came would be determined upon the condition of Israel's heart in her reception of Messiah.
The entire chapter of Isaiah 60 is a prophecy of the coming glorious Kingdom Age for Israel. It ends with the declaration: "I, the LORD, will hasten it in its time." Jewish Rabbis pondered the meaning of this closing remark as follows:
"R. Alexandri said: R. Joshua b. Levi pointed out a contradiction. it is written, in its time [will the Messiah come], whilst it is also written, I [the Lord] will hasten it! — if they are worthy, I will hasten it: if not, [he will come] at the due time." - Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin, folio 98a (here)
Here we have, basically, an understanding that there is an appointed time in God's plan that the Kingdom will be established. Yet, there is room also for it to come ahead of schedule if Israel would receive it.
"Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD. He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse." - Malachi 4:5-6
This prophecy was fulfilled through John the Baptist. Israel is here told of a messenger who would inform Israel of the coming Messiah before the Day of the LORD comes, and that she had better heed the message else God would smite the land with a curse. But due to Israel's rejection of Messiah, God did smite the land with a curse. The Kingdom did not come, and not long after the close of the Offer to Israel her destruction and diaspora took place. John the Baptist's ministry was therefore only an initial fulfillment of this prophecy, and another coming of Elijah awaits the future. We will delve into this subject more deeply in our study of the ministry and baptism of John the Baptist.
"The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him. This is according to all that you asked of the LORD your God in Horeb on the day of the assembly, saying, 'Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, let me not see this great fire anymore, or I will die.' The LORD said to me, 'They have spoken well. I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. It shall come about that whoever will not listen to My words which he shall speak in My name, I Myself will require it of him.'" - Deuteronomy 18:15-19
Here, Moses prophesies of one who would be raised up to Israel, like Moses, and Israel must heed his declaration. Messiah will parallel Moses in the sense that Moses led the nation out of Egypt toward the promised land. Messiah will lead Israel out of her trouble and into the Kingdom. This prophecy is referenced by Peter in Acts 3 to this effect, which we will treat more thoroughly in the section pertaining to the content and termination of the book of Acts.
"Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined." - Daniel 9:26
This is that "hastening" referred to in Isaiah 60. In the prophecy, it is stated that seventy sevens (not sixty-nine sevens) were determined, at the close of which: "to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place." This is the establishing of the Messianic Kingdom. Yet we find, seven years prior to this, the manifestation of Messiah in which He "will be cut off and have nothing." Then what follows is a period describing the destruction of Israel and diaspora for an ungiven duration. This shows the conditional nature of the Kingdom announced as "at hand" during Christ's first advent ministry. Messiah was cut off and had nothing. This means Messiah would be rejected and the Kingdom wouldn't come. The Kingdom therefore would await the appointed time for it, at the close of the Great Tribulation described in Daniel 9:27 and which is part of the "curse" in Malachi 4:6.
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