The End Time in Judaism

The end time in Jewish tradition is often depicted as a time of strife, of the wars of Gog and Magog, of what the rabbis called picturesquely "the birth pangs of the Messiah." Images of resurrection (based on scattered passages such as Daniel chapter 12) and an awakening of the dead were commonplace. But alongside the anticipated violent paroxysms of a new world being born there is a more peaceful, gentle view. In the Talmud, Samuel equates messianic days with the freedom of the Jewish people from the subjugation to foreign powers, a very "this-wordly" view.

The naturalistic idea appealed to the great medieval Sage Maimonides. He explains what will happen at the end of days as follows: It will not be a time of revenge or cruelty or even supernatural wonders. "You must not imagine that the messiah must prove his messianism by signs and miracles, doing something unexpected, bringing the dead to life, or similar things." Rather, nations will dwell together in harmony. People will settle quarrels without malice or injury. All will seek and achieve a knowledge of their Creator as far as possible by human understanding. And Maimonides caps his image of the end time with a quote from the prophet: "For the earth shall be full with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea" (Isaiah 11:9).