Anticipating the Messiah’s Return :: By Matt Ward

There is nothing at all new about the concept of “imminence.” According to Orthodox Jewish thinking, believing in the imminent return of the Messiah is critical if one is to be even considered in any way a “Jew.” Imminence, so derided today as a modern invention, is not in fact “new” in any way, nor is it “modern.” The concept of imminence predates Judaism itself (Genesis 3:15).

There remains even today within Orthodox Judaism a strong belief in the future coming of the Messiah. This belief in the imminent, any moment return of Messiah is so significant and important to Judaism that anyone who either rejects or even doubts Messiah’s imminent return is to be considered as if they have become heretical.

What a tragedy it is for Orthodox Jews that their Messiah did indeed come to them, but that they missed their deliverer two thousand years ago, a deliverer who was, “…lowly, and riding upon a donkey, and upon a colt the foal of a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9).

Yet one day soon that same Messiah will return and they will turn their faces back to the one they once rejected, with a new heart of belief:

“And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son” (Zechariah 12:10).

Though the Jewish nation rejected their true Messiah two thousand years ago, the belief within Judaism regarding the imminent return of their Messiah continues to this day. It is absolutely intrinsic to Judaism; it is the spine that holds the whole religion together. Waiting in anticipation for the any day return of Messiah is as old as Judaism itself:

“The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be” (Genesis 49:10, KJV).

This Messianic prophecy dates from the very beginnings of Judaism. When Jacob, grandson of Abraham, was old and approaching death he called together each of his twelve sons to tell them what would become of their lineages. At the grand age of 147, Jacob, who was renamed Israel by God, gave an oracle that has shaped the destiny of not just Israel, but the world.

Focusing on his fourth son, Judah, Jacob prophesied about the future emergence of a person called “Shiloh.” This man is the future Messiah and Ruler of Israel, a man to whom true rule and Kingship belongs. This man would hold the “sceptre,” meaning that he alone will have the right to rule, to him alone will belong the honour of Kingship, and he will have the sole right to administer justice and prescribe the law.

Later, Balaam, in the book of Numbers, declared the same when he famously prophesied, “a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel” (Numbers 24:17).

Psalm 45:6-7 refers to this mysterious individual:

“Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever; a sceptre of justice will be the sceptre of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; Therefore, God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of joy above Your fellows.”

Importantly, the psalmist here refers to this man who will one day soon hold “a sceptre” as being “God” himself in human form. The King to come will also be God Himself manifested in flesh.

The writer of Hebrews, in the New Testament, confirms the identity of this individual:

“But about the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever; a sceptre of justice will be the sceptre of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore, God, Your God, has placed You above Your companions by anointing You with the oil of joy’” (Hebrews 1:8-9).

The angel Gabriel, when he appeared to Mary, told her that her son would inherit, “the throne of his father David” (Luke 1:32-33) and that he would “reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end” (Luke 1:32-33).

Jesus of Nazareth, Son of Mary, is Shiloh, “…and unto him shall the gathering of the people be” (Genesis 49:10 KJV).

The “gathering of the people” referred to here means much more than the simple notion that this man Jesus will one day come to rule and reign in just Israel. The term “people” is in the plural. It is prophesying a time and a rule that extends far beyond the Davidic Empire, instead foreseeing an eternal and all-encompassing rule by Shiloh over all of the earth and the peoples in it.

It will also be a rule of peace. The term “the obedience of the peoples” denotes not just submission to authority, but a willing obedience. This will be an accepted and peaceful rule over all; and this coming kingdom will be built by the King’s subjects, out of their love for him and in their obedience to him.

Jews, from the very beginning were taught to live in active anticipation of the coming of this Messiah. An Orthodox Jew who is faithful to the law should always be living in a state of anticipation:

“Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long” (Psalm 25:5).

A Jew not actively anticipating Messiah is no Jew at all, according to Orthodox Judaism. Living in a constant state of anticipation over the coming of Messiah may seem like a minor point to modern Christians, but in Judaism it is anything but. It is at the very core of their whole belief system.

How different is the modern church today? Here, we find this same concept of imminence openly derided and mocked as a “fringe” belief by those esteemed as our leaders. Some of these leaders have a global reach.

Individuals within Judaism living without this daily and active expectation of Messiah were to be considered “apikoros,” or heretical: they were to be put in the same category as an unbelieving Jew. The imminent belief in Messiah’s return is just as important to modern Christian belief as it is to Judaism:

“Look, I come like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake and remains clothed, so as not to go naked and be shamefully exposed” (Rev 16:15).

The entire Mosaic Law is built on the single premise that one day a ruler will come. Moses, through whom the Law was given, spoke to this when he prophesied about the coming of Messiah, a “prophet like me” (Deuteronomy 18:15).

Moses was specific:

“The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him” (Deuteronomy 18:18).

A part of this process necessarily involves actively looking for and anticipating his coming; because he, Shiloh or Jesus Christ, personally spoke about it so often.

It is in this context, of actively anticipating the coming of Messiah, that we should understand the dialogue between the Pharisees and John the Baptist in the New Testament:

“Now this was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was.  He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, ‘I am not the Messiah.’ They asked him, ‘Then who are you? Are you Elijah?’ He said, ‘I am not.’ ‘Are you the Prophet?’ He answered, ‘No’” (John 1:19-21).

The Pharisees who questioned John were waiting in daily expectation for the arrival of their long- anticipated Messiah. It is the ultimate irony that, even though they were looking so intently, they did not recognize his coming and rejected the very man they had been so desperately longing for.

The situation is the same today. So many who proclaim a faith in Christ are oblivious to the fact that his coming is so obviously close. Even worse is that many can see the clear signs but simply don’t care and/ or worse, are ignoring them.

It is a part of the growing apostasy and falling away which will continue to get worse and worse.

Jesus encouraged his disciples to long for his return, telling them that he would certainly come again:

“I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:2-3).

In Mark 13:32-33, Jesus spoke these words:

“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is.”

Just as Orthodox Jews are meant to wait and watch for Messiah’s return, so are we! There will even be specific rewards given to those watching and longing for his return:

“Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing” (2 Tim 4:8).

Jesus commands us in Luke 21:36, “Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.”

How many are watching and praying that they “may be able to escape all that is about to happen?” To my eyes, not many. Equally, how many Christians today are watching and making themselves ready, so that when that hour does come they “… may be able to stand before the Son of Man.”

Revelation 16:15 is a warning as much as an encouragement – a warning to the unbelieving world and the church concerning the sudden nature of the coming of Jesus Christ for his Bride. The suddenness with which Christ will come will leave no room for escape, or for making any arrangements. This verse indicates that when Jesus does suddenly come, his coming will be one of judgment for his followers, and there will be some who will be put to shame:

“…Blessed is the one who stays awake and remains clothed, so as not to go naked and be shamefully exposed” (Rev 16:15).

That day fast approaches for all of us. So just as you would prepare for a great storm that approaches, yet for the moment remains on the horizon, so prepare for this day now whilst you still can – whilst there is still time and opportunity.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).


Sunshine :: By Matt Ward

The sun has been hot of late. All over the planet new heat records are being set, from Scotland to Ireland, from the Middle East to Canada and down to Southern California. Places all over the world have been experiencing their hottest ever recorded weather this month, and it looks like it may continue for some time to come.

At least 54 people, to the point of writing, have died in Montreal, southern Quebec, which has seen record temperatures. In Northern Siberia temperatures are a huge 40 degrees higher than they are normally at this time of year. Africa has just recorded the hottest temperature ever recorded on planet Earth. In Ouargla, Algeria, an incredible 51.3 Celsius (124.3 degrees Fahrenheit) has been recorded, beating the previous record set fifty years ago in Morocco.

Heat records have fallen all across the globe. In North America alone:

  • The University of Los Angeles published its hottest ever recorded temperature of 111 degrees on July 6th.
  • Mount Washington, N.H., tied its all-time warmest low temperature of 60 degrees on July 2.
  • Denver recorded an all-time high temperature of 105 degrees on June 28
  • Montreal recorded an all-time high temperature of 97.9 degrees on July 2. This broke a temperature record that had stood for 147 years.
  • Ottawa posted its most extreme heat and humidity combination on July 1.
  • Burlington, Vt., set an all-time warmest low temperature of 80 degrees on July 2.

In Europe:

  • Shannon, Ireland recorded its all-time high of 85.1 degrees on June 28.
  • Belfast achieved a record high of 85.1 degrees on June 28.
  • Castelderg hit its all-time record high of 86.2 degrees one day later, June 29.
  • In Scotland, Glasgow achieved a record high of 89.4 degrees on June 28.
  • Motherwell, another prominent Scottish city, recorded 91.8 degrees at the same time.

In the Middle East:

  • Quriyat, Oman recorded the world’s hottest low temperature ever recorded on June 28 of an incredible 109 degrees.

In Eurasia:

  • Yerevan, Armenia set a record temperature of 107.9 degrees on July 2.
  • Tbilisi, Georgia set a record 104.9-degree temperature on July 4.
  • Many other locations all over southern Russia have also tied record-high temperatures in the past month period.

This is a trend that has continued for quite some time. Dallas has never before in history hit 90 degrees or more in November. It did so a number of times in 2017. Pakistan, last April, recorded what was up to that point one of the hottest temperatures ever recorded on Earth, of 122.4 degrees. This record was beaten in just the last few weeks. Within the last year, San Francisco, Shanghai, Spain, Death Valley, Iran and Pakistan have all recorded their highest ever recorded temperatures.

In April this year, Earth recorded its 400th warmer than normal month in a row. The last time a whole month on earth was cooler than normal was February 1985.

Something clearly is happening, yet nobody seems to quite know why the world is experiencing these ever-increasing record setting high temperatures, and these temperature rises are making scientists look anew at one of our oldest companions, our own sun. What they are finding there is confusing.

Our sun is more active now than at any other time in the previous 1,500 years of human history. Scientists based at the Institute for Astronomy in Zurich have used ancient ice cores to map the activity of the sun over the past millennia, and what they have found is surprising. They have concluded that over the last century alone, the increase in sunspots from the sun has directly correlated with parallel rises in the earth’s global temperatures. In other words, when the frequency of sun spots increases, the temperature on Earth seems to also rise correspondingly.

The Sun has been actively monitored for sunspots, and data collected, since the development of the first reliable telescopes, in around 1610. Since then some remarkable conclusions have been drawn.

It was noted, for example, that between 1645 and 1715 there were very few recorded sunspots on the Sun’s surface. This corresponds to a period in earth’s history known as the “little Ice Age,” a period of prolonged and very cold global temperatures. Solar scientists strongly suspect there to be a link between the two events.

Using ice core samples, it has also been possible to identify other such specific times when the earth’s temperature experienced sustained and substantial periods of cooling, also, at just the same time when sunspot activity on the sun’s surface was minimal.

Dr. Sami Solanki, solar scientist, notes that this trend for cooling events seems to have come to an end. The sun has been substantially more active in the last seventy years, more active than at any time in the last 1,500. It is almost as if seventy years ago, the sun suddenly awoke and came to life. The sun changed from being largely dormant, with brief periods of sunspot activity followed by long periods of inactivity, to the much more active phase we see today. (1)

“Studying” the sun is becoming an oxymoron for the scientists involved: the more they learn, the more they do not understand. As an example, take something as basic as its composition. What is our sun made of? Solar scientists cannot tell you anymore, because at this point they really do not know.

Like any star, scientists do know that the sun consists mainly of hydrogen atoms fusing two-by-two to make helium, unleashing immense energy in the process. However, it is in the sun’s composition with regards to the smaller concentrations of heavier, metallic elements where scientists draw a blank.

It is in understanding the composition of a star’s heavier, metallic elements that solar scientists can then make judgments about the age, power and ultimately how a star is going to die.

“The more metallic a star, the opaquer it is (since metals absorb radiation), and how opaque it is relates to its size, temperature, brightness, life span and other key properties.” (2)

Solar scientists use our own sun’s metallicity as the yardstick for measuring the metallicity of all other stars. If these measurements are wrong, then science’s fundamental understanding of how stars work, at the most basic levels, are also likely wrong.

Astronomers have traditionally believed they had a good understanding of our sun, gauging its metallicity at 1.8 percent metal – a happy convergence that led them to believe they understood not only the length of their solar yardstick but also how our own sun works.

That belief has now been challenged, and shaken. Increasingly precise spectroscopic measurements over the last twenty years have progressively revealed a far lower metallicity than believed possible, of just 1.3 percent.

However, this has been contradicted using helioseismology, through which one can also infer metallicity in the sun using sound waves of different frequencies which penetrate into the sun’s interior. This process, confusingly, reveals a metallicity of 1.8 percent.

This should not be the case. Both measurements should correlate together, yet they don’t. One measurement is 1.3 percent and one is 1.8 percent, a huge difference when dealing with something as massive as the sun. This is a problem not only for solar science, but for physics and astronomy in general. It means that the standard solar model currently employed by all scientists could effectively be wrong, meaning that our understanding of the nature of the universe itself could also be wrong.

As Dr. Martin Asplund, an astrophysicist at the Australian National University explains, “Either astronomers do not understand how to measure elemental abundances of stars using spectroscopy, or our understanding of stars’ interiors…is incomplete.”

Sunny Vagnozzi, a physicist at the University of Stockholm in Sweden, goes even further, “If we get the sun wrong, we get everything wrong.”

The confusion doesn’t stop here though because something even more bizarre is happening inside our sun. Incredibly, a huge hunk of the solar core seems to be missing. Right in the very center of the sun, an enormous mass the size of 1,500 earths has simply disappeared. (3)

This is the equivalent to 9×10 to the power of 24 tonnes of matter, simply gone from the core of the sun. And nobody has the slightest clue where or how this has happened.

Aldo Serenelli, of the Institute of Space Sciences in Barcelona, believes he has a solution to this problem. He believes that the matter missing from the core of the sun has been replaced by dark matter, which is theorized to make up about 27% of the universe. Serenelli believes that several billion mega tonnes of dark matter have accumulated at the center of our sun and is being kept there by the huge forces of gravity exerted by our sun.

This conclusion, however, questions traditional beliefs about the fundamental properties that make up our sun. The reality is that scientists simply do not know why there is a huge, gaping hole at the very core of our sun. Neither do they really understand how the sun works; and these discoveries are bringing many within the astronomical community to one awkward conclusion: that they cannot reliably predict the actions of the sun, because they do not understand its workings even remotely well enough. And perhaps nor do they really understand the universe with the certainty they once believed they did.

These events in the sun are the birth pangs. These are part of the beginning of the “signs in the sun” (Luke 21:25) spoken of by Jesus himself, signs that have largely been overlooked up to this point. The signs we are seeing in the sun today are the same types of manifestations of birth pangs that we are witnessing in all other areas, all of them increasing in intensity and frequency. There are signs in geopolitics, in the geophysical world, in worldwide socioeconomic events, and now, clearly in the astrophysical world.

It can be no coincidence that the beginning of this solar unpredictability occurred at the very same time as all the other birth pangs did, with the rebirth of Israel 70 years ago, in 1948. (4)

“Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. Even so, you too, when you see these things happening, recognize that He is near, right at the door. Truly I say to you; this generation will not pass away until all these things take place” (Mark 13:28-30).

It has always been my understanding from the Old Testament prophet David, that a biblical generation is “three score years and ten.”

“The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away” (Psalm 90:10).

“Threescore years and ten” is seventy years. Today, in 2018, it has been exactly seventy years since the rebirth of the nation of Israel, since the fig tree came into bloom. Consequently, when we look at the activity of the sun over these same seventy years, we see a demonstration of Bible prophecy playing out before us, not on earth, but at the heart of our own solar system. The cosmos itself is testifying to the lateness of the hour.

The Bible speaks about a time yet to come, when temperatures on this earth will rise to the extent that people will be scorched and burned up by it. The Bible also identifies the cause of this torment; it will be because of the sun.

“The fourth angel poured his bowl on the sun. Then the sun was given the power to burn people with fire. People were burned because the sun was so hot. And they spoke wrongly about the name of God, cursing him because he had the power to send these troubles. But they would not stop the wrong things they were doing. They would not respect and honour God” (Revelation 16:8-9).

As the signs in the sun now testify to the lateness of the hour, how will you respond? Will you repent, or will you harden your hearts?

“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion” (Hebrews 3:15).

The time left to us is increasingly short, so believe in the Lord Jesus, and live.

“Sirs, what must I do to be saved? They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household” (Acts 16:31).

  3. New Scientist, 21st October 2017, Page 28