A J.R. Church classic article from April 1986

Passover is a time of looking backward for the Jews. It commemorates the deliverance of the children of Israel from the harsh hands of the Pharaoh some 3,000 years ago.

At the same time, it reminds the Jew to look forward to the day when Elijah will come to precede the advent of the Messiah. The prospect is so real for the Orthodox Jew that each year a chair is set at the Passover table for the prophet. So far, the chair has remained empty. One day, however, Elijah will come. Christians are looking for him, too. Could this be the year?

It is fascinating to examine what the Jewish people believed concerning the end time, the coming of the Messiah, the battle of Gog and Magog, and the possibility of an anti-messiah or antichrist in comparison with Christian beliefs on the same subjects.

Surprisingly, the Talmud, the ancient extrabiblical writing of the Jewish rabbis, has quite a bit to say about these events.

For instance, Christians are expecting Moses and Elijah to come during the Tribulation period just before the Battle of Gog and Magog as the two witnesses mentioned in Revelation 11:3: “And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth.”

The rabbis also wrote that Moses and Elijah would be returning before the Messiah comes. In the Targums, Aramaic paraphrases of the Bible written about the second or third century, there appears an intriguing comment concerning Exodus 12:42: “The fourth night when the world shall have completed its allotted time until the end when it should be delivered when the banks of wickedness shall be destroyed and the iron yoke broke, Moses shall go forth from the wilderness and the King Messiah from Rome. One shall lead the way on top of a cloud, and the other shall lead the way on top of a cloud, and the menrah shall lead the way between the two of them. And they shall proceed together. This is the night of the Passover of the Lord awaited and appointed for all Israel throughout their generations.”

According to that passage, Moses will come along with Messiah at the time of the Passover. The word menrah has been translated as the Word of God but actually could refer to the brilliant Shekinah presence, the Glory of God.

We are reminded that just such a fiery menrah was present when Elijah went to heaven. Could it be, therefore, that both Moses and Elijah are referred to in this passage?

In yet another Jewish writing, an early midrash (rabbinic interpretation) on Exodus titled Exodus Rabbah (Ch, 18, V.12), we find the anticipation of the arrival of Elijah stated more succinctly: “And that night, the anniversary of the event in Egypt, the Messiah, and Elijah will appear.” Apparently, the Jewish scholars extend not only Elijah on Passover but also Moses and the Messiah, as well.

Now, Elijah returned the first time, according to Jesus, at His first coming in the person of John the Baptist (Matthew 11:14). How does this correlate with what the rabbis say about Elijah’s coming?

In that regard, another rabbinic quotation from the Seder Olam (a semi-historical book of the Talmudic times—second through fourth centuries) contains an absolutely incredible statement: “In the second year of the reign of Ahaziah, Elijah became hidden and was seen no more. When the King Messiah comes, he will be seen again, then hidden a second time. He will not be seen again until Gog and Magog appear on the scene.”

According to the ancient writings of Talmud, Elijah disappeared in the days of Ahaziah (or he went home to heaven in a whirlwind) and would appear again when King Messiah would come (i.e., 2,000 years ago in the form of John the Baptist, for, remember, Jesus identified him as Elijah in Matthew 11). Then he would go away the second time and be hidden, only to come back at the Battle of Gog and Magog. That fits perfectly with the beliefs held by Christians.

It’s incredible that the Jewish people could not see this then, and cannot see it even today, nor accept Jesus Christ as their Messiah. And yet they are looking for Elijah to come at the Battle of Gog and Magog.

According to Revelation, Elijah, along with Moses, will have a ministry of three and a half years, from the beginning to the middle of the Tribulation period. At that time Moses and Elijah will die at the hands of the antichrist. Revelation 11:7: “And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them.”

They will be resurrected three and a half days later, however, their bodies having lain open in the streets of Jerusalem for all the world to see. Then they will ascend into heaven. Now, if Elijah is to come at the Battle of Gog and Magog, this indicates that the battle must take place at the beginning of or just prior to the Tribulation period.

According to earlier rabbinic writings, the war is to be short in duration, only nine months, the time it takes for the birth of a child. Upon Elijah’s reappearance in Israel, he will begin his ministry to continue for three and a half years or 1,260 days. The Talmud and other extrabiblical writings state that part of his mission will be to restore to Israel several things that had been lost. They include the golden Ark of the Covenant, the pot of manna, Aaron’s rod that budded, a vessel containing the anointing oil from the Temple, and the ashes of the red heifer with which they will make the waters of purification.

It was the opinion of Rabbi Yohanon that Elijah would also expound the Scripture dealing with the new temple sacrifices to be carried out in the Temple described by Ezekiel which is yet to be built (Ezekiel 40). Those temple sacrifices are listed in the Temple Scroll, which is part of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Temple Scroll and all of the things in it should be explained by Elijah when he comes. Two items that the rabbinic writing says that Elijah will restore, the pot of manna and Aaron’s rod that budded, were kept inside the Ark of the Covenant.

The indication is that the old, original Ark of the Covenant will be returned for the Tribulation period. The exciting thing is that these things have been searched for and are still being searched for today.

The 10th-century rabbi Rashi spoke of other things that would occur in Israel which he claimed were clear signs that the Messiah would appear soon.

In the Talmud (Sanhedrin, Ch. 98, Sec. A) one of the rabbis, Rabbi Abba, had said, “There can be no more manifest sign of redemption than this that is, what is said but ye, O mountains of Israel, ye shall shoot forth your branches and yield your fruit to my people of Israel, for they are at hand to come.” Rashi referred to this when he wrote (regarding Ezekiel 36:8), “When Palestine becomes so very fertile, Messiah’s advent is near, and there can be no clearer sign than this.”

When the land of Israel becomes fertile … For 2,000 the land lay waste. But since the Jews have returned there, they have transformed it into a veritable Garden of Eden. Oranges grow to the size of grapefruit. There are heads of lettuce the size of a bushel basket. They have turned the swamps into fertile land. They are even irrigating the deserts and are growing every type of vegetable in the world. Over 150 million trees have been planted since 1948, for the land was barren of almost all trees when Israel became a nation in 1948. And the ancient rabbis agree that the flowering of Israel is the clearest sign of the Second Coming of Messiah. Surely we live in those days.

The Talmud also teaches the millennium, that 1,000-year period when Messiah will reign on Earth. Although Christians believe that Jesus will come and set up a kingdom and rule on this earth as King of kings for 1,000 years, it is generally a surprise for us to learn that Jews hold a like view.

In addition, the Jewish writers and the rabbis even commented on what the end-times battle would look like and how the Messiah would return. His coming is pictured in the Targum on the Pentateuch (Genesis 49:11): “How beautiful is the King Messiah, Who is destined to arise from the house of Judah. He has girded His loins and gone down to battle against His enemies, destroying kings and their power, and there is neither king nor power that can withstand Him. He reddens the mountains with the blood of their slain. His garments are saturated with grapes.”

Here we have a description of the Messiah doing battle with the armies at the Battle of Armageddon and emerging victorious, a perfect parallel to Revelation 19 in the New Testament. The Jewish Messiah will do exactly what our Christ will do. The prophecies are identical and yet not all Jews accept Jesus Christ as Messiah. That remains one of the great paradoxes of history.

Concerning the Millennium when Messiah returns, Rabbi Katina wrote, “Just as the seven-year is one-year of release in seven, so is the world. One thousand years out of seven shall be fallow as it is written.” Then he wrote, “And the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day.” Basically, he is stating that there are 6,000 years, just as there are six days in a week, and on the seventh comes the Sabbath, the day of rest. Katina was saying that the seventh thousand-year period since creation is truly the sabbath day of rest when Messiah returns.

With this concept, the Bible agrees: “For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night”(Psalm 90:4). Peter restated it for us in 2 Peter 3:8 “But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”

Again we find the extrabiblical Jewish writings coinciding perfectly with the teachings of the Bible and New Testament Christianity. We are approaching the end of the six thousandth year since Creation. That means Messiah is soon to appear and set up the thousand-year millennial reign, the Great Sabbath.

There have been a lot of date-setters in the past in Christianity because within the hearts of Christians lies a desire to see Him, to whom having not seen we love. St. Jerome in the fourth century set a date for the coming of Christ. Joachim, in the twelfth century Abbot of Flores, selected the year 1260 for the coming of Christ. Nostradamus, a fifteenth-century astrologist set the date for 1999, and William Miller of the last century set the year of Christ first in 1843 and then in 1844.

But as we shall see, these men have had the company of a lot of Jewish writers with an indefatigable propensity for date-setting themselves. For example, Nostradamus, who lived from 1194 to 1270, stated that Ben Joseph (the son of Joseph), the Messiah would come in 1403, wipe out idolatry, gather in Israel, lead them to the Holy Land and be killed in the last Battle of Gog and Magog. These tasks, wrote the rabbis, would require forty years. At the end of that period, Messiah Ben David would arrive, wage war with Gog, and subject Israel to a final test of loyalty, which would take five years. Then he would set up His kingdom. In other words, according to Nostradamus, from the regathering of Israel as a nation to the Battle of Gog and Magog would be forty years, and five years later the Battle of Armageddon. Forty years from 1948, when Israel was regathered, brings us to 1988.

Sagei Gaon had the Lord coming in the year 965 BC. But his death in 942 prevented him from being around to face his contemporaries when his prediction proved wrong. Then there was Rashi, who predicted the Messiah’s coming in the year 1352. Rashi calculated the coming of Messiah, or the Jewish Christ, from the Exodus. He had it all figured out how the Messiah was to come 2,874 years from Exodus, which dated it 1352 in the Christian era. Abarbanel set his date for the coming of Messiah a hundred years later, in 1503. The disappointed rabbi died five years later in 1508, some say of embarrassment. Maimonides set his date according to the time when Balaam climbed up on Mt. Nebo and looked down upon the children of Israel intending to curse them and blessed them instead. That occasion, says the Talmud, was the midway point of human history. Maimonides reasoned that if it were a given number of years from Creation to Balaam, then it would be that many more years until the coming of Messiah. He ended up with a date of 4,976 years from Creation to the consummation, the year 1216. In 1204 Maimonides died, still expecting Messiah to come soon.

But the reason they set dates is because they were anxious to see the wickedness and the sin of this world changed into the glories of the world to come. We can hardly blame them for that desire. Men today seek a world without war, without disease, without poverty. But before that goal will be realized, seven dreadful years must come. We call it the Tribulation period, the time of Jacob’s trouble.

In the Talmud (Sanhedrin 97, Sec. A) the rabbis also taught that at the end of the seven-year period, the Messiah would come. In the first year, it states, “And I will cause it to rain upon one city and cause it to not rain upon another city.” In the second year, the arrows of hunger will be sent forth. In the third, a great famine in the course of which men, women, and children, pious men and saints will die and the Torah will be forgotten by its students.

In the fourth, partial plenty. In the fifth, great plenty when men will eat, drink, and rejoice, and the Torah will return to its disciples. In the sixth, heavenly sounds or voices announcing the Messiah’s advent will be heard. And then in the seventh, wars. At the conclusion of these seven years, the Messiah will come.”

Rabbi Joseph bewailed the fact that so many sevens have passed and He has not yet come. Abiah, another rabbi, reminded him, “Yes, but they have never happened in this order in this way before.”

In the first year, according to the Talmud, there will be rain in some areas, famine in other areas, and the weather will go wild during this first year of the Tribulation period. In the second year, however, there will be no rain at all (the Bible talks about Elijah shutting up heaven, that it rains not for three and a half years). Famine will come in the third year, tying in perfectly with Elijah’s ministry. Then in the fourth year, the antichrist steps in to control food distribution with the mark of the beast in the right hand or the forehead. His efforts will meet with some success because in that year there is said to be partial plenty. During this year the 144,000 will evidently win thousands of people because the Torah which was taken away early in the Tribulation period returns to its disciples. In the fifth year, great plenty is predicted and finally, the antichrist gets things moving. But it will not last long because in the sixth year are the trumpet judgments, the great sounds, the heavenly sounds when God begins to pour out His wrath upon the earth. This brings us to the seventh year—war, Armageddon, and then the coming of Messiah. It all fits, doesn’t it? And one of these days the last seven years will begin to unfold, the coming of Elijah, the coming of Moses, the rise of the antichrist, and the return of Messiah.

Both Jews and Christians agree the time may be near. For the Jews, those seven years will constitute their greatest trial yet. Moreover, unsaved gentiles will share in their calamity. But for the Christian, those same seven years will be a limitless joy as we are caught up to be with the Savior.

Where will you be? If you do not know Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior, I implore you, to trust Him today. Bow your head and your heart right now and pray a simple sinner’s prayer. Just pray, “Lord, I know I am a sinner. Please forgive me and save me. Lord Jesus, cleanse my heart and my life and be my Savior. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.”

Then you, too, can keep looking up!

The Passover Prophecy – DVD by J.R. Church

The Apostle John, author of the Gospel that bears his name, actually designed this marvelous story about the ministry of Christ around the Jewish ritual of the Passover, demonstrating that Christ became the prophetic fulfillment of the Passover Lamb. Jews have held the Passover festival as a reminder of their spiritual heritage. The unleavened bread, the bitter herbs, the shank bone of a lamb, and the four cups of wine illustrate what their forefathers went through during the Exodus. But the ritual has another prophetic significance. It demonstrates the first advent of the Messiah. J.R. Church clearly presents the prophetic insights and intricacies of the Gospel of John in this beautiful Passover Seder held at the First Southern Baptist Church in Del City, Oklahoma.


J.R. Church

J.R. Church

Prophecy in the News Founder

In November of 1979, Prophecy in the News launched its worldwide ministry from Oklahoma City, founded by J.R. Church, a Texas pastor with a heart and a vision for Bible prophecy, as well as reaching the world with the Gospel.

Church’s colleagues in the ministry, Noah Hutchings and Dr. David Webber at Southwest Radio Church, helped introduce J.R. Church to the fans of their far-reaching radio ministry and provided support as he built his prophecy ministry from its Oklahoma City base.