Droughts, floods and record heat waves this year increased due to climate change; which is going to get much worse in coming decades. Europe and parts of China have experienced extreme temperatures this summer, dry conditions in Africa have put millions at risk of starvation, and the American West continues to see major forest fires due to a persistent lack of rainfall.
Cities worldwide are warming by 0.5 °C on average per decade according to a September 2022 article published online in Communications Earth & Environment. A survey of 998 cities from across the globe showed that 80% faced extreme climate events, and for nearly a third, climate-related hazards threaten at least 70% of their populations.
In worldwide data from 32,000 populations of more than 5,000 species of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish, the WWF Living Planet Index (2022) shows accelerating declines of 69% since 1970. In biodiversity-rich regions such as Latin America and the Caribbean, the figure for animal population loss is as high as 94%.
The index found that freshwater species had declined more than those found in any other habitat, with an 83% population decline since 1970. In Africa, where 70% of livelihoods rely on nature in some form, the report showed a two-thirds decline in wildlife populations since 1970.
Temperatures in the Middle East have risen far faster than the world’s average in the past three decades. Precipitation has been decreasing, and experts predict droughts will come with greater frequency and severity. And major wildfires in Europe are starting earlier in the year, becoming more frequent, doing more damage and getting harder to stop.
And 33 million people in Pakistan were battling the worst monsoon floods in a decade. Officials say 1600+ people have died so far. Pakistan’s floods this year are comparable to those of 2010 — the worst on record — when more than 2,000 people died, and more than a fifth of the country was under water.
Climate change is indeed the beginning of a time of transition from one World Age into another. How we move through this transition, either with resistance or acceptance, will determine whether the transformation will happen through cataclysmic changes or by a gradual religious reforms of society with spiritual peace and tranquility.
Since humans have free will, the exact time and manner of redemption cannot be determined in advance. Much depends on what we humans do. Repentance produces changes in the future of both individuals and nations. Repentance enables some individuals and communities to escape the consequences of prior evil.
On the other hand, God’s promise is that evil powers will never succeed in destroying Israel or in overcoming world wide justice in the long run. Thus even without full repentance, God will act if the Divine promise of a Messianic Age is actually threatened. As Prophet Isaiah states a few verses prior to the suffering servant passage:
“The Lord says: you were sold but no price was paid, and without payment you shall be redeemed.” (52:3) i.e. all your suffering in exile was not really merited and your redemption from exile will not really be fully earned. Both are part of God’s outline for human destiny and will occur sooner (through repentance) or later (in God’s own time).
Finally, if one believes that God inspired prophets are able to describe scenarios of various developments in the distant future then one has to accept that the understanding of these passages should change and improve as we come closer and closer to the times they describe.
As an example, Prophet Jeremiah describes a radical future in which woman surround men, “The Lord will create a new thing on earth-a woman will surround a man” (31:22). The great Jewish commentator Rashi understands ‘surround’ to mean encircle. The most radical thing Rashi can think of (and in 11th century France it was radical) is that woman will propose marriage (a wedding ring, or encircling the groom at the wedding ceremony) to men.
In today’s feminist generation we can see women surrounding men in fields once almost exclusively male such as law, medical and rabbinical schools. Of course, this means that a few generations from now we might have even better understandings of some predictive passages in the prophets so humility should always be with us.
As a Reform Rabbi who also believes that the world wide upheavals we see, are part of the birth pains of the Messianic Age, I offer Christians and Muslims some positive insights from the Jewish Prophets and the Rabbinic Sages because I believe that hope and trust in God must be an important part of our religion.
There are millions of Jews, Christians and Muslims who believe the wars of Gog and Magog (Gog u-Magog in Hebrew and “Yajuj and Majuj” in Arabic) which started in the 18th to 20 centuries will come to an end in the 21st century.
It is true that human society changed more rapidly, violently and fundamentally in the last 250 years than ever before in history. Doctors saved the lives of millions. Dictators sacrificed the lives of millions. Populations are exploding in Africa and populations are declining in Europe. Technology produces both worldwide prosperity and worldwide pollution at the same time.
Should we look upon the future with optimistic hope or with fatalistic trepidation? Is the world and our society heading towards a wonder-filled new age, or toward a doomsday? Or are both occurring almost concurrently because breakdown is always a prelude to breakthrough?
Jews, whose Biblical prophets were the ones who first wrote about a future Messianic Age, recognize that the birth of a Messianic Age must be preceded by its birth-pangs. But the prophets of Israel also emphasize the glories of a future world living in peace and prosperity with justice for all.
Ancient Jewish prophecies did proclaim that there would be an end to the world as we know it. But they did not prophesy that the world will come to an end, nor did the Prophets of Israel offer an exact date for the transition.
The exact advent of the Messianic Age is not knowable because humans have free will and thus the exact time and manner of redemption cannot be determined in advance. Much depends on what we humans do.
The beginning of the Messianic Age is a time of transition from one World Age into another. How we move through this transition, either with resistance or acceptance, will determine whether the transformation will happen through cataclysmic changes or by a gradual reform of human society; which will lead to a world filled with peace, prosperity and spiritual tranquility.
The Prophets of Israel conceived redemption as a transformation of human society that would occur through the catalyst of the Jewish community. This transformation, which will take place in this world at some future time, is called the Messianic Age.
The transition to the Messianic Age is called the birth pangs of the Messiah. The birth of a redeemed Messianic world may be the result of an easy or difficult labor. If everyone would simply live according to the moral teachings of his or her religious tradition, we would ourselves have helped bring about the Messianic Age.
But, if we will not do it voluntarily, it will come about through social and political upheavals, worldwide conflicts and generation gaps. The Messiah (Mahdi) refers to one or more human agents of God who help bring about this positive transformation.
The Jewish tradition teaches that this agent of God (together with several forerunners and many disciples) will be a human being, a descendant of Prophets Abraham and David, with great qualities of national leadership similar to Prophet Moses and Prophet Mohammed.
The arrival of the Messianic Age is what’s really important, not the personality of the agents who bring it about, since they are simply the instruments of God, who ultimately is the real Redeemer.
The Islamic 1400s we are now living in, is the age of the coming of Hazrat Mahdi. Prophet Jesus will also return to Earth in this century, Hazrat Mahdi will appear, and the moral values of the Abrahamic religions will rule the world.
As Prophet Micah proclaims: “In the last days the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and peoples will stream to it. Many nations will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.
“The Torah will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He will judge between many peoples and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor train for war anymore. Everyone will sit under their own vine and under their own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid, for the LORD GOD has spoken. All the nations may walk in the name of their gods, but we (Jews, Christians and Muslims) will walk in the name of the LORD our God for ever and ever.” (Prophet Micah 4:1-5)
One of the signs of the End of Days is the arrival and defeat of Gog and Magog (Ya’juj and Ma’juj or Ajuj and Majuj). Gog and Magog appear in the Hebrew Bible, the Christian Bible, and the Islamic Quran as individuals, tribes, countries and catastrophic acts of nature.
The Quran mentions Gog and Magog twice: “He said: “This (barrier) is a mercy from my Lord: but when the warning of my Lord comes to pass, He will reduce it to dust (and Gog and Magog—the Colonialist Empires, the Nazis, and the Communists would be released into the world); and the promise of my Lord is true.” (18:98) So Gog and Magog are destructive groups like the Colonialist Empires, the Nazis, and the Communists, who near the time of the end of days will penetrate into every part of the world.
The other mention of Gog and Magog in the Quran is: “But there is a ban on a town which We have destroyed: that they (the people of the town) shall not return (to reclaim that town as their own); until Gog and Magog are let through (the barrier), and swiftly spread out in every direction.” (21:95-96)
This verse refers to Jerusalem, destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE, and only reclaimed 18 centuries later as Israel’s capital, following the era of the defeat of the Nazis, the Communists, and the Colonialist Empires, who had been Gog and Magog for generations.
Thus, humanity has so far passed through the most devastating era of human history. However, we have not yet reached the goal of the Messianic Age when “They (all nations) will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore. Everyone will sit under their own vine and under their own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid, for the LORD GOD has spoken.” (Prophet Micah 4:2-4)
This era will come about when Israelis and Palestinians make a long lasting two state partnership of peace; thus fulfilling the 2700 year old vision of Prophet Isaiah: “In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria. The Assyrians will go to Egypt, and the Egyptians to Assyria. The Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together. In that day Israel will join a three-party alliance with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing upon the heart. The LORD of Hosts will bless them saying, “Blessed be Egypt My people, Assyria My handiwork, and Israel My inheritance.”… (Isaiah 19:23-5)
As The Abraham Accords Declare: “We encourage efforts to promote interfaith and intercultural dialogue to advance a culture of peace among the three Abrahamic religions and all humanity. We, the undersigned, recognize the importance of maintaining and strengthening peace in the Middle East and around the world based on mutual understanding and coexistence, as well as respect for human dignity and freedom, including religious freedom. We encourage efforts to promote interfaith and intercultural dialogue to advance a culture of peace among the three Abrahamic religions and all humanity.”