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Acharit Hayamim - Perilous Times

I Adar 24, 5771

Perilous Times

and the End of Olam Hazeh...

by John J. Parsons

וּמָה אוֹת בּוֹאֲךָ וְקֵץ הָעוֹלָם

What is the sign of your coming and the end of olam ha-zeh? (Matt. 24:3) 

"But you must know this: in the last days perilous times shall come" (2 Tim. 3:1). Notice that this knowledge is not optional, since the Greek verb is imperative (i.e., Τοῦτο δὲ γίνωσκε - "this you must know...").  In order to heed this commandment, then, we need to understand some of the language being used in this verse. The Greek phrase "in the last days" (ἐν ἐσχάταις ἡμέραις) refers to the prophesied "End of Days," sometimes called acharit ha-yamim (אַחֲרִית הַיָּמִים) in Hebrew. Eschatos (ἔσχατος) refers to the end point of a sequence, indicating its outcome or final expression.  In the context of Paul's letter to his protege Timothy, then, the "last days" ultimately refers to the period of the Great Tribulation (צָרָה גְדוֹלָה) just before Yeshua returns to establish His Kingdom in Zion.

In traditional Jewish eschatology, human history is usually divided into three distinct epochs of 2,000 years. The period of "tohu" (יְמֵי תּהוּ) occurred from the time of the fall of Adam until the call of Abraham; the period of "Torah" (יְמוֹת תּוֹרָה) occurred from Abraham until the time of the destruction of the Second Temple, and the period of the "Messiah" (יְמוֹת הַמָּשִׁיחַ) refers to the time when the Messiah could appear before the Kingdom is established in Zion:


According to many of the sages, the time immediately preceding the appearance of the Messiah will be a time of testing (nisayon) in which the world will undergo various forms of tribulation, called chevlei Mashiach (חֶבְלֵי הַמָּשִׁיחַ) - the "birth pangs of the Messiah" (Sanhedrin 98a; Ketubot, Bereshit Rabbah 42:4, Matt. 24:8). Some say the birth pangs are to last for 70 years, with the last 7 years being the most intense period of tribulation -- called the "Time of Jacob's Trouble" / עֵת־צָרָה הִיא לְיַעֲקב (Jer. 30:7). The climax of the Great Tribulation is called the great "Day of the LORD" (יוֹם־יהוה הַגָּדוֹל) which represents God's wrath poured out upon a rebellious world system. On this fateful day, the LORD will terribly shake the entire earth (Isa. 2:19) and worldwide catastrophes will occur. "For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?" (Rev. 6:17). The prophet Malachi likewise says: "'Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and that day that is coming will set them on fire,' says the LORD Almighty. 'Not a root or a branch will be left to them'" (Mal. 4:1). Only after the nations of the world have been judged will the Messianic kingdom (מַלְכוּת הָאֱלהִים) be established upon the earth. The remnant of Israel will be saved and the 1000 year reign of King Messiah will then commence (Rev. 20:4). For more information about this, see "As the Day Draws Near."

Notice that Paul states that the time before the End of Days would be perilous (χαλεπός). In the entire New Testament, the only other place we find this Greek word is in Matthew 8:28, where it describes fierce demonic activity. Indeed, the word "perilous" likely comes from a Greek verb (χαλάω) that means "to let down from a higher place to a lower," thereby creating a sort of spiritual "chasm" or rift, which again suggests that Satan's activity will be increased upon the earth. In the "End of Days," then, a wave of fierce demonic activity will appear upon the earth that will menace and terrorize others.

Are we then to live in fear of these things? No. "There is no fear in God's love" (φόβος οὐκ ἔστιν ἐν τῇ ἀγάπῃ). The Greek word translated "times" in this verse (καιροὶ) is also translated as "appointed times" (מוֹעֲדִים) in the Scriptures. God has appointed this time to be one of judgment upon the earth, and we are therefore forewarned so that we can speak the truth and offer healing to the world... God will never leave us nor forsake us; He will walk with us through the waters, and through the fires, chaverim (Isa. 43:2). Our Good Shepherd knows how to calm the storms around us...

We are living in a decaying and moribund world, and the great age of apostasy will soon be coming to an end. The Apostle Paul provided a list of nineteen characteristics that would mark the heart of people during this final period of human history. "People will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power" (2 Tim. 3:2-5). Noteworthy in this litany is the phenomena of what might be called "misdirected love." People will be "lovers of themselves," "lovers of money," "lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God," and "not lovers of good." Loveless self-centeredness will be the "norm" of the day.... And even though he was being prophetic (i.e., speaking of the End of Days), the Apostle linked these nineteen middot ra'ot (evil attributes) to the character of false teachers presently in the church, and warned his protege Timothy that Satan can masquerade as an "angel of light." Therefore we are to have nothing to do with those who pervert the gospel message (2 Tim. 3:5). These false teachers would come to an end just as did "Jannes and Jambres" (Paul here cites a midrash regarding the identity of two of the Egyptian magicians who opposed Moses and whose rods were swallowed up by Aaron's rod in Exod. 7:11-12).

Paul then encouraged Timothy to "stay the course" and to refuse to exercise false "tolerance" in light of these conditions...  Now more than ever we must abide by the truth and refuse to compromise the message of the gospel.  We must never forget the reality and certainty of Yeshua's soon return. In what may have been Paul's last recorded words, he writes: "I charge you in the presence of God and the Messiah Yeshua, who is the Judge of the living and the dead (הֲשׁפֵט אֶת־הַחַיִּים וְאֶת־הַמֵּתִים), and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching (διδασκαλία), but will cater to their passions and gather around themselves teachers who say whatever their ears itch to hear. Yes, they will stop listening to the truth, but will turn aside to wander after myths" (1 Tim. 4:1-4). The phrase "having itchy ears" may be an idiom for satisfying their curiosity - they "itch" to hear things, in other words, that appeal to their sensuous nature rather than dealing with the underlying heart issue... They may be superficially interested in doctrine, but only because it satisfies their desire to be "in the know" about the latest religious ideas, etc.

All this leads to a sober assessment of the purpose of studying the Jewish roots of our faith. Some people genuinely seek to better know and love their Savior by engaging in the study of Hebrew, the Jewish holidays, and so on, while others undoubtedly do so because they "itch" to hear things in an attempt to satisfy their curiosity.... Indeed a lot of what is passed off as "Messianic Judaism" today appears to be based on spiritual pride. If you listen to some of the big-name Messianic teachers out there today, you'll hear that the Christian Church is either an entirely self-deceived social institution or else how "Christians" are woefully deficient regarding matters of spiritual truth. In short, these teachers insist that something more needs to be added, some additional knowledge, practice, awareness, insight, and so on. And of course these teachers are happy to proclaim themselves as the ones who can "disabuse" you of your pathetic misconceptions, etc. We see this trend in both the "Torah observant" schools of Messianic Judaism as well as in the "new wave" of "mystical Messianic Judaism" that is beginning to become more and more commonplace. For more on this, see the article entitled, "Kabbalah and Legalism."

It is one thing to "play games" and trifle with spiritual matters, and it is an entirely different thing to be shocked into conviction and genuine teshuvah...   Soren Kierkegaard once lamented there are many people who arrive at conclusions in much the way schoolboys do: "they cheat their teachers by copying the answer book without having worked the problem out themselves." This is part of the mob mentality within Christendom. We can parrot creedal formulas or recite catechisms, yet in the end it is our own responsibility to make an authentic faith commitment. Thomas Aquinas' most significant work was his Summa theologiae or 'Summary of Theology,' a massive book that attempted to systematize all of Christian theology. He worked on it from 1266 through 1273, but when he was nearly finished, he underwent an experience so intense that, as he himself explained, everything he had written "seemed like straw." He thereafter gave up writing about theology after he encountered the Reality itself.

There are a countless ways to become self-deceived, chaverim. "Every man's way is 'right in his own eyes' (יָשָׁר בְּעֵינָיו), but the LORD weighs the heart" (Prov. 21:2). There is a saying that we are "only as sick as the secrets we keep." That applies first of all to ourselves.  We must get past self-deception and wishful thinking in order to soberly see who we really are.... Earnest, fervent prayer "availeth much," for it is the means by which we can get away from pretense and appeal to the LORD for help.  We are to be "doers" of the Word, and not hearers only, since faith without works is dead and leads to self-deception (lit., "reasoning around" the truth, i.e., παραλογίζομαι, from παρά, "around, beside" and λογίζομαι, "to reason"). Only those who follow through and live their faith will be blessed in their actions (James 1:25). This mirrors Yeshua's statement, "If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them" (John 13:17).

"Examine yourselves to see whether you are living the life of trust. Test yourselves. Don't you realize that Yeshua the Messiah is in you? - unless you fail to pass the test" (2 Cor. 13:5). The message of the Messiah is central. Yeshua is the beginning and the end. Simply put, trusting in the sacrificial life, death, and resurrection of Yeshua as your personal righteousness before the Father is the central commandment of all the Scriptures...

גְּבוּרַת אֱלהִים הִיא לִתְשׁוּעָה אֶל־כָּל־מַאֲמִין

ge·vu·rat  E·lo·him  hi  lit·shu·ah  el  kol  ma·a·min

δύναμις γὰρ θεοῦ ἐστιν εἰς σωτηρίαν παντὶ τῷ πιστεύοντι

"It is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes" (Rom 1:16b)

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May God help us while there is still time...

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