Apocalypse Now:The Messiah is Here–in Tel Aviv!
by James Tabor
Those of us in the United States are probably aware of, or even familiar with, the flood of books coming from Christian fundamentalist circles promoting the notion of an imminent apocalyptic doom coming upon the world. Most often the impending disaster of 2012 is connected to the current Presidential elections, the threat of Islamic terrorism, the takeover of a New World Order, the Mayan calendar, a total worldwide economic collapse, nuclear war in the Middle East–or any combination thereof. Such ideas have been picked up by the various conservative media outlets, whether television, radio, or internet broadcast. I could list a few of the main “best-sellers” here but would be hesitant to promote any of these books, so here is a basic list from Amazon that offers a good sample.
As part of the baby-boom generation of “hoary heads” (b. 1946), I remember well the 1970s when Hal Lindsey’s blockbuster book, The Late Great Planet Earth sold millions of copies in dozen of languages. I think it ended up being the best selling book of the decade. As of 1990 it passed 30 million copies in print and might well turn out to be the best-selling non-fiction work of the last century (leaving aside translations of the Bible like the KJV and NIV).
Over the years I have devoted quite a bit of time to studying modern as well as ancient apocalyptic or “millenarian” figures, groups, and movements, from the sect at Qumran who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls, to the tragedy at Waco, see my various publications here.
While “Christian” apocalypticism, fueled by the book of Revelation, is relatively common, less known are the orthodox Jewish manifestations of such ideas, particularly among Zionist groups in Israel. I was surprised and intrigued with the a series of screaming ads in the Jerusalem Post on-line edition this week with the following declarations:
The Moshiach is in Israel : in Tel Aviv!
The current government in Israel is the last government!
The Next leader of Israel is: the Moshiach!
Only Moshiach will save Israel in the coming up Gog and Magog war!
The world will soon go through catastrophic disasters, which have never seen before: severe earthquakes and mega tsunamis!
Towns and Cities in Europe and U.S.A: will sink under the ocean water!
World’s financial and economic systems will fail and collapse: God will smash the silver and gold idols!
Israel will go through a severe earthquake and fatal missiles attacks, including chemical, biological and atomic weapons after which: no building would remains intact!
If you are interested you can read more at the web site of the group behind these proclamations here, that was linked to the banner ad at the Jerusalem Post web site below. Most of the web site is in Hebrew but you will be able to get the main idea. This has nothing to do with Jesus coming again soon, the Rapture, or anything of the sort, but is rather an apocalyptic reading of the classical Jewish sources that deal with the “end of days” and what are called “the footsteps of the Messiah,” but with a really strange twist asking people to, quite literally, “shout to God to send the Messiah.” There is even a link to a YouTube video with an example of the shouting, between blasts of a shofar. Unfortunately the sound quality is really really bad and the impression one gets is that God must be really, truly, hard of hearing. The odd thing though is if the Messiah is already in Tel Aviv it is not clear to me what the shouting is about–except maybe to ask God to manifest him? But even more troubling is that all this “shouting for the deity” reminds one of the famous passage in the Bible, that contest on Mt Carmel between Elijah the Prophet of Jehovah and the priests of Baal–and how the latter group had to cry louder and louder for Baal to hear them–while Elijah makes fun of them when they get no response: “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened” (1 Kings 18:27).
I am working on a post for next week called “When Prophecy Fails,” that will deal with the ways in which both Jews and Christians through the ages have dealt with the utter failure of their expectations and, as often as not, the very opposite of what they proclaim as “coming soon” in fact end up happening. Stay tuned…
- Thanks to my friend Samuel Martin, who lives in Israel, for pointing out this ad campaign [↩]