2006-06-04 - Daniel
When the discussion of prophecy occurs, the question that is usually asked, "are we in the end times, or the last days?" By this we are asking, is the Messiah coming to establish His kingdom? Have things gotten bad enough in this world, that God will come and shut it down? Of course, this question has been asked numerous times over the last two thousand years.
One of the big problems with the study of prophecy is considering it objectively versus from a position of preconceived notions. These preconceptions often lead to the problem of date setting and embarrassing the Church. Judaism struggles with the same question, though without true understanding of the issues. Consider these comments on the "End" in the introduction to Rabbi Goldwurm's commentary on Daniel.
"Jacob was the logical one to reveal the final appointed time because the final Exile, that which was brought on by the descendants of Esau, would be directed against the high spiritual level of Jacob. Because he was the climactic Patriarch, the one whose greatness culminated the patriarchal epoch and who succeeded in giving birth to a generation of perfect tzaddikim, Jacob was great enough to pierce the dense layers of concealment that hid the End from the vision of all others. He knewbut he was not permitted to reveal it.
[Indeed, even Daniel, to whom the End was directly revealed, was permitted only to formulate the words within which the secret was contained, and which would later be committed to writing by the Men of the Great Assembly. The angel commanded him to conceal their meaning and never to reveal the interpretation of the visions that had been given him.]
It should be understood, therefore that no man may know the time of the End. The End is hidden; there is no knowledge of it. Know, therefore, that when the Sages described dire conditions conconcerning the era of the Messiah, they did not mean to say that such dire circumstances must take place. They meant to say that when such hardship and decay are observed, it should be taken as an indication that the time is propitious for the coming of the Messiah. His coming at the appointed time may well be preceded by intense suffering ; therefore the presence of such conditions may well be taken as symptomatic that the End is at hand. But, they surely did not mean to say that he must come at such a time, for no one may reveal the definite time of the Messiah's coming even if he could know it.
Sin is not Israel's essence. Though Israel may sin and sin grievously its essential nature remains pure. Therefore, even God's Attribute of Justice always maintains that Israel be redeemed and the world fall under the sovereignty of the Messiah at the proper time. This must happen for such was the purpose of Creation and Israel is the vehicle for its fulfillment. Only if Israel's essential nature were to change could its mission change. Such has not happened and cannot happen.
Not only Israel anticipates the Messiah's coming; God, too awaits it anxiously (Sanhedrin 97b). Since the universe was created in order to be brought to its fulfillment under the spiritual sovereignty of Israel, God's Own creation is deficient as long as Israel remains subservient to others. It is inconceivable, therefore, that the Exile should not come to an end. Why does it still endure? Because the Attribute of Justice, does not permit the Messiah to come while Israel is undeserving. Those who predicted the End erred because they though that His mercy was at hand; it was not. But even the Attribute of Justice demands that the Messiah must come eventually, otherwise, the purpose of Creation would be disrupted.
The exile will not endure forever, and we earn reward by having faith in that principle. Therefore, although we remain without knowledge of the exact time of the End, we continue with the unquestioning conviction that we await him and God awaits us. The time will come: `todayif you heed His call.' `I believe with a perfect belief in the coming of the Messiah. Even though he may delay, I will wait for him everyday to come' (Rambam, Thirteen Principles of Faith).
~ Rabbi Nosson Scherman 1
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