When Is Messiah Coming?
What does Judaism say regarding the sequence of events that will lead up to the Messiah's coming? And how will we know when the Messiah has actually arrived?
The Aish Rabbi Replies
This is indeed a timely question because I think we are seeing a good number of the signs today. Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan writes in the "Handbook of Jewish Thought":
There is a tradition that people will begin to despise the values of their religion in the generations preceding the coming of the Messiah. Since in a period of such accelerated change, parents and children will grow up in literally different worlds, and traditions handed down from father to son will be among the major casualties.
Our sages thus teach us that neither parents nor the aged will be respected, the old will have to seek favors from the young, and a man's household will become his enemies. Insolence will increase, people will no longer have respect, and none will offer correction. Religious studies will be despised and used by non-believers to strengthen their own claims; the government will become godless, academies places of immorality, and the pious denigrated...
The Jewish people will begin to return to the Land of Israel as a prelude to the messiah. The ingathering will begin with a measure of political independence, and according to some, with the permission of the other nations. First a small percentage of the exile will return to the Holy Land, and then Jerusalem will come under Jewish control and be rebuilt. (source: Talmud – Sanhedrin 97a and Sotah 49b)
Another major sign of the Messiah’s imminent arrival is that the Land of Israel gives forth its fruits in abundance.
As for recognizing when the Messiah has arrived, we know that he will:
1. Build the Third Temple (Ezekiel 37:26-28)
2. Gather all Jews back to the Land of Israel (Isaiah 43:5-6)
3. Usher in an era of world peace, and end all hatred, oppression, suffering and disease. As it says: "Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall man learn war anymore." (Isaiah 2:4)
4. Spread universal knowledge of the God of Israel, which will unite humanity as one. As it says: "God will be King over all the world – on that day, God will be One and His Name will be One" (Zechariah 14:9).
If he does not accomplish these, he is not the Messiah. And if he dies, that is a sign he is not the Messiah.