Why have wars, famines, and human suffering only increased since Jesus came?

Why have wars, famines, and human suffering only increased since Jesus came?

Why have wars, famines, and human suffering only increased since Jesus came?

As we explained in the previous answer, we are in the transition age, the age when God’s kingdom is being established throughout the earth, one life at a time. During this era, because the population of the world has increased and technology has advanced, there are now more evil people capable of doing more evil things, causing an increase in human suffering.

Also, Jesus told his disciples that before the end of this age, there would be great turmoil and upheaval, the final birth pangs before God’s kingdom was fully established on the earth. But this is only part of the picture. Throughout the world, the knowledge of the one true God has also increased dramatically since Jesus came. This was one of the key roles of the Messiah—to spread the knowledge of God to the nations of the world—and it is certainly no small matter that hundreds of millions of people who once would have lived and died in spiritual darkness have now come into the light of the Messiah.

As we noted in the last objection (2.1), most Jews think that when the Messiah comes, universal peace will be established on earth—immediately and almost automatically—and all suffering will end. Actually, these things will take place when the Messiah returns. It is only then that he will destroy the wicked from the earth and usher in that time of total peace for which we all long. But this will not simply be a dramatic, world-changing event that comes out of the blue. Rather, it will be the culmination of a process that has been taking place for the last two thousand years. In fact, it will bring about the culmination of a process that has been unfolding for four thousand years or more.

You see, even though we humans have failed over and over again by sinning against God and doing our own thing, he has refused to give up on us. Instead, he has given us countless opportunities to come into a right relationship with him. From the time of Abraham on, he has been working in a public way to bring us back to himself. That’s why, when God called Abraham (then Abram), he said to him, “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing… .

All peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Gen. 12:2–3). The reason God chose Abraham and his descendants was so that the whole world could be blessed. As expressed by the Jewish biblical scholar Nahum M. Sarna, “God’s promises to Abram would then proceed in three stages from the particular to the universal: a blessing on Abram personally, a blessing (or curse) on those with whom he interacts, a blessing on the entire human race.” 42

This expresses the heart of our heavenly Father and Creator: He did not and does not want people to die in their darkness and misery. He wants people to know him, serve him, and enjoy his goodness.

Therefore, after choosing Abraham, he singled out Abraham’s son Isaac, and then he selected Isaac’s son Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel. Thus, all the people of the world were to be blessed through the descendants of Israel. Then, out of the twelve sons of Jacob/Israel, he chose the tribe of Judah, and out of the tribe of Judah, he selected the family of Jesse, and out of that family, he made David his choice, promising to bring the Messiah through David’s line.

The time period from Abraham’s calling to David’s calling was roughly one thousand years, and the time period from David’s calling to the coming of the Messiah into the world was also about one thousand years. This was certainly a pretty slow process of development, especially when you consider that during this entire time—and even more so in the years before—very few people on this planet had a personal relationship with God or really knew him as Father. Instead, they worshiped all kinds of idols, spirits, and strange gods, living without a clear spiritual purpose and dying without a certain hope. 43 Even among the people of Israel, the Scriptures tell us that the great majority of our nation did not walk with the Lord or obey his commandments (for more on this, cf. above, 1.10).

“But that’s just the way things are today,” you say. “Not much has changed since your so-called Messiah has come into the world.”

Really? Do you know what is taking place around the world at this very moment? The knowledge of the one true God—through Jesus the Messiah—is spreading around the globe in ways that would boggle your mind. This wonderful story of the advance of Messiah’s kingdom, especially in the last one hundred years, is almost too wonderful to believe. But it’s all true!

You see, it is not only technology that has increased by leaps and bounds this century. 44 It is not only weapons of mass destruction that have been invented and devices of mass communication that have been developed. The kingdom of God has been established in more than one billion lives worldwide—to the tune of one hundred thousand or more every day. 45 The Messiah is finishing his work at an exponential pace and bringing God’s blessing to the nations!

Just consider this: In the time it takes you to read this page, more than two hundred people will have turned from darkness to light, from bondage to spiritual freedom, from sexual lusts to purity of heart, from idol worship to the service of the Creator, from hatred to love, from dead religion to living faith, and they will do it through Jesus the Messiah, who paid for our sins through his death on the cross, rose from the dead, and sent his Spirit to help us along the way. Yes, extraordinary things are happening, and they have been on a dramatic, wonderful increase since the beginning of the twentieth century.

Of course, you may be wondering why things haven’t happened even more quickly. I’ve wondered about that too! Still, there are some concrete answers I can give you, although the Lord in his wisdom hasn’t seen fit to tell us everything.

  1. God is accomplishing his plan of redemption with our cooperation. To the extent that we obey his Word and spread the good news about the Messiah, his work is being done. To the extent that we procrastinate and compromise, his work is being delayed. After all, we have a responsibility one to another, and we must cooperate with the Lord to help reach our fellow brothers and sisters here on this earth. It doesn’t happen automatically. As a Hasidic rabbi once commented, “Why has the Messiah not come either yesterday or today? Because we are today just as we were yesterday.” The same applies to his return.
  2. There is something significant about the end of a millennium and about the twentieth century as a whole. It seems that the Holy Spirit is turning up the heat and increasing the pace. Things are happening that have never happened before. 46
  3. Wars and atrocities have only increased around the world to the extent that the teachings of Jesus the Messiah have been rejected. The notorious mass murderers of this century—Hitler, Stalin, Mao Tse Tung, Pol Pot, and Idi Amin, to name some of the worst—are perfect examples of sinful human beings who did not bow their knees to the God of Israel or receive a new heart through his appointed Messiah. How then can Jesus—whom they scorned—be blamed for the bloodshed? You might as well point a finger at God and say, “If there really is a God, then why is there so much suffering in the world today?” 47

I should also point out that it is only to the extent that the church has rejected the Messiah’s teachings of love, compassion, and sacrifice in favor of violence, hatred, and strong-armed persecution that Jews—and non-Jews as well—have suffered at the hands of these people. In fact, the entire Christian world suffered. In other words, one key reason that the Dark Ages were so dark was because the church departed from its biblical foundations and embraced human traditions that contradicted and negated the precepts of the Old and New Testaments. How then is Jesus responsible for actions committed by those who followed him in name but not in deed?

Our focus, however, should not be on what hypocritical, false followers of the Messiah have done in the past or on what sinful, God-rejecting rebels are doing in the present. Rather, we should step back and see exactly what the Lord has been doing through Jesus the Messiah. We should note carefully how wonderfully Yeshua has worked on behalf of our rebellious planet, in particular in the last one hundred years as the time of his return draws nearer. You see, he taught his followers that the message about God’s kingdom had to be proclaimed throughout the entire world, to every nation and people, and then the end would come (Matt. 24:14). That end is getting closer!

Let me put this in perspective for you: By the year 100 c.e., the Bible had been translated into only a handful of languages (less than a half dozen, to be exact). By 200 c.e.—one hundred years later—the number had grown only to seven. By the year 500, it had increased only to thirteen, and by 1000, to just seventeen. Nine hundred years passed with less than twelve new translations! And all this time people were dying without the knowledge of God as contained in the pages of the Holy Scriptures. Thousands of lives were being touched, but the going was slow.

By 1500 c.e., the number of languages with the Word of God had grown to 34 (that’s still a pretty slow pace), then, picking up a little speed, by the year 1800, there were 67 translations, and then, by the year 1900, the number had swelled to 537. By the year 2000, the number will exceed the 2000 mark. Isn’t this incredible? It sounds like the knowledge of the kingdom of God is spreading. It sounds like the work of the Messiah is making awesome progress. (Remember: People are coming to God through the message of Jesus the Messiah brought to them by the followers of Jesus the Messiah. Without that message of light, they would continue to live and die in spiritual darkness.)

Missiologists (scholars who study contemporary and historical trends among those spreading the message of the Messiah) tell us that roughly 70 percent of all growth in the Messianic kingdom has taken place during this century. (In other words, 70 percent of all those who have believed in Jesus the Messiah and received a new heart through him have done so in the twentieth century alone.) Of that phenomenal growth, 70 percent has taken place since World War II. And—brace yourself—of that incredible increase, 70 percent has taken place since the mid-1980s!

These overwhelming statistics tell us that one-third of twenty centuries of the expansion of the kingdom of God has taken place in a period of less than twenty years—and most of it is occurring among the most impoverished, oppressed, and downtrodden peoples of the world. This means that millions of people have come to believe in the God of Israel and the Messiah of Israel in the last decade alone. Something unique is happening in the days in which we live!

Writing in the November 1990 issue of Missions Frontiers, Dr. Ralph D. Winter stated that in the year 100 there was approximately one genuine follower of Jesus for every 360 people on the earth; by 1900, there was one true follower for every twenty-seven people; by 1989, one for every seven; and by the year 2000, he projected that there will be one in three. The end is drawing near! The time of Messiah’s return is approaching.

To look at this from another angle and with a small variation in statistics, consider the chart showing milestone dates in the growth of true Christianity (bearing in mind that “true Christianity” is Jewish in the most biblical sense of the word; see above, 1.4–1.7). According to the compilers, the chart offers “at the dates indicated, a comparison of: (1) the number of Bible-believing Christians [people who have come to know the God of Israel through the Messiah]; and (2) the total number of people in the world.” You will see that it is not just a matter of an increase in numbers alone (since world population in general has also greatly multiplied in this century); rather, phenomenal growth has come to the people of God in terms of percentage of world population as well. The statistics are as follows:

  • One [true follower of Jesus] per hundred (1%) by a.d. 1430 (1 to 99 after 1430 years)
  • Two per hundred (2%) by a.d. 1790 (1 to 49 after 360 years)
  • Three per hundred (3%) by a.d. 1940 (1 to 32 after 150 years)
  • Four per hundred (4%) by a.d. 1960 (1 to 24 after 20 years)
  • Five per hundred (5%) by a.d. 1970 (1 to 19 after 10 years)
  • Six per hundred (6%) by a.d. 1980 (1 to 16 after 10 years)
  • Seven per hundred (7%) by a.d. 1983 (1 to 13 after 3 years)
  • Eight per hundred (8%) by a.d. 1986 (1 to 11 after 3 years)
  • Nine per hundred (9%) by a.d. 1989 (1 to 10 after 3 years)
  • Ten per hundred (10%) by a.d. 1993 (1 to 9 after 4 years)
  • Eleven per hundred (11%) by a.d. 1995 (1 to 8 after 2 years) 48

What this means in practical, down-to-earth terms—and it is staggering—is that there are approximately 100,000 to 150,000 people coming to the Messiah each day and more than 16,000 new congregations being established each week. Spiritually speaking, there can be no doubt: It’s harvest time, and this transition age is almost over.

Zechariah 10:1 reads, “Ask the Lord for rain in the springtime [literally, in the time of the spring rains]; it is the Lord who makes the storm clouds. He gives showers of rain to men, and plants of the field to everyone.” You see, there is a time for sowing and a time for reaping, a time for the fall rains and a time for the spring rains, and just as surely as there are agricultural times and seasons established by God, there are spiritual times and seasons established by God. The unprecedented, worldwide influx of souls into God’s kingdom in these last few decades means that, without doubt, it is spiritual harvest time.

You might say, “But Islam is growing rapidly too, and that certainly has nothing to do with the God of Israel, the Messiah of Israel, or the Scriptures of Israel.”

I agree! But the message of Jesus has everything to do with the God of Israel, the Messiah of Israel, and the Scriptures of Israel—not to mention the fact that true Christianity is growing far more rapidly than Islam, and its growth today is completely devoid of the use of force or coercion, something that cannot be said for Islam. 49 In fact, as soon as you recognize that the gospel message is Jewish from start to finish, you will get excited. That is to say, when you realize that the word gospel means “good news,” and the good news is that the Messiah has come to set us free from our sins and bring us into right relationship with God, then as a Jew you will be thrilled with the progress that the gospel of Jesus (the good news about our Messiah) is making. The Lord is bringing lost sinners into his kingdom in unprecedented measure around the world, and that is something to get excited about. I tell you again: The Messiah’s return is drawing near.

But all will not be rosy before he comes. He warned his followers twenty centuries ago that before the end of this age came there would be terrible times:

You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.

Matthew 24:6–8

Of course, these kinds of things have happened before, but Jesus predicted they would be on the increase before his return. 50 He also predicted that there would be a great increase in persecution for the faith: “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other” (Matt. 24:9–10).

This, too, has happened before, but in recent decades, persecution of Christians has increased a hundredfold, and church statisticians tell us that tens of thousands of followers of Jesus are killed each year for their beliefs—some would say as many as three hundred thousand annually—figures that are absolutely overwhelming. 51 The final conflict is coming to a close!

There are two other factors that should also be considered relative to human suffering in our day. First, God is beginning to judge the world for centuries of sin and disobedience, and the earth itself is vomiting out its inhabitants. (This does not mean that every weather-related disaster is a judgment from God on sinful people, but it does mean that some of the problems we are facing are a result of this planet beginning to react to countless generations of sinful abuse.)

In Leviticus 18:28, the Lord warned our people not to defile the Promised Land with sexual immorality, since “if you defile the land, it will vomit you out as it vomited out the nations that were before you.” Just as the physical body reacts to alcohol and drug abuse by breaking down and degenerating, it seems from the Bible that the earth itself reacts to moral and spiritual pollution (not to mention ecological pollution), “vomiting out” those who live on it. In keeping with this, Scripture tells us that in the end God will shake everything that can be shaken (see Heb. 12:25–29 and Hag. 2:6), an event that will bring the entire universe into upheaval. The end of the age will be anything but tranquil!

Second, we need to recognize that there is a destructive, malevolent figure, called Satan in the Hebrew Scriptures, who is on the warpath against our race. 52 He is a fallen celestial being who is in complete rebellion against God and hates the human race because we are created in the image of God. To make matters worse, the New Testament Book of Revelation speaks of a time when Satan’s destructive fury against humankind will be especially great “because he knows that his time is short” (Rev. 12:12). This describes a time at the end of this transition age, indicating that there will be a conflict between good and evil right up to the climax of this era, and great darkness will coexist right next to great light. (See Isaiah 60:1–3 for a picture of such a time as this.) The battle will only intensify until Jesus returns.

You need to remember that it was Hosea, an Israelite prophet, who predicted that there would be a long period of spiritual decline for our people, a time in which we would be without our Messianic King (see immediately above, 2.1). In other words, there would be many years of darkness before the outworking of the final redemption. Since we learned from the Hebrew Bible that the Messiah had to come before the Second Temple was destroyed, Hosea’s words about this long time without a Davidic king must refer to the period we are in now. That is to say, his prophecy of our spiritually desolate condition must refer to the period in between his first and second comings, the period in which we presently live. 53

Therefore, I can tell you again that things are right on schedule, proceeding exactly as our Scriptures said they would. On the one hand, the knowledge of God is spreading like holy fire around the globe, and masses of people are coming into his kingdom through Jesus the Messiah. On the other hand, sinful, God-rejecting humanity continues to shake its fist at its Maker, and the world is in a state of upheaval. 54 The transition age is just about over, and the Messiah is soon to appear.

Does this help you to see things more clearly? If you’re still struggling, perhaps the following thoughts will sharpen the picture even more.

According to one stream of thought in traditional Judaism, in each generation there is a potential Messiah, and, since no Messiah has yet been revealed, that must mean no generation has been worthy of him (or recognized him, which is the flip side of the same coin). 55 Our view is that there was one Messiah, foreknown by God and described in advance in his Word, who came at the appointed time and has been accepted by some and rejected by many. Thus, we believe that every generation has had to make up its mind about the same, one Messiah, God’s only Messiah, who came as predicted—as opposed to the traditional Jewish view that speaks of a different, never-revealed, potential Messiah in every generation. Moreover, this so-called “potential Messiah” is one who is not explicitly described in the Hebrew Scriptures (since he is a different person every few decades) and the time of his coming is not predicted (how could it be predicted, since it keeps changing?).

For our part, there is no reason to engage in such speculation, since the real Messiah was revealed and millions of people—Gentiles and Jews alike—have recognized him and embraced him. At some point in the not-too-distant future, there will be one generation of Jewish and Gentile people who will recognize the Messiah in a significant enough way that he will return.

In contrast with this is some of the recent “the Rebbe is Moshiach” fervor (i.e., the belief that the Lubavitcher Grand Rabbi, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who died in 1994, is the Messiah). Explaining this concept of a potential Messiah in each generation, one of the Rebbe’s followers wrote:

The first thing we have to know is—surprise!—the Messiah is already here. He’s been here all the time, walking the same streets as you … or I. Now, two things have to take place: God must reveal the Messiah to the Jewish people and the Jewish people have to accept the Messiah. But not necessarily in that order. It can very well be that, at first, the Jewish people have to acclaim a holy man as the Messiah and then God will give His own thumbs-up—but in God’s time. 56

With all due respect to the author’s sincerity, where in the Bible is there support for such a position? And how can he possibly question our belief, namely, that the Messiah came at the time predicted by the prophets, died for our sins and rose again as predicted by the prophets, and awaits our recognition as a people, also predicted by the prophets? 57 Again I ask, whose beliefs are scriptural and whose beliefs are speculative?

Interestingly, when the Rebbe died in 1994 without being revealed as the Messiah, many of his followers announced that his death served as an atonement for our sins, and they eagerly awaited his resurrection. 58 In fact, some Jewish leaders criticized them, stating that their views about the Rebbe sounded like Christian teaching about Jesus. They replied: “Not at all! The Christians got their ideas from us. These beliefs are really Jewish!”

There was only one ingredient lacking from the story: the hope that the Rebbe would one day return. Here, too, the Rebbe’s followers have followed suit, with one of his disciples concluding his biographical sketch of Rabbi Schneerson by writing, “May we merit his immediate return, even before going to press.” 59 (By the way, it strikes me as only fair to ask: If traditional Judaism is right and there is a potential Messiah in each generation, why do we need the Rebbe to return? Why not simply identify and welcome this new generation’s Messiah?)

So, it is “kosher” for this dear, religious Jew to believe that his rebbe is the Messiah who will one day return even though he did not rise from the dead and even though he is unknown by 99.9 percent of the people of the world (let alone by millions of Jews who have never heard of the “Lubavitcher Rebbe”). At the same time, however, it is not okay for us to believe that Yeshua, who fulfilled the Scriptures, who did rise from the dead, and who has brought the knowledge of God to more than one billion people, is the promised Messiah!

Doubtless, Rabbi Schneerson was a brilliant, devoted leader who brought thousands of Jews into a traditional expression of their faith, but contemporary scholars did not even deem him worthy of mention in a voluminous work like the Cambridge Biographical Encyclopedia (while religious figures such as Mother Teresa, scientists such as Dr. Jonas Salk, and rock stars such as Jimi Hendrix were discussed), and the Encyclopedia Judaica gave him only one line, while contemporary Jews such as Bob Dylan and Woody Allen had entire paragraphs written about them!

In fact, to help put this in even clearer perspective, a recent book listing the one hundred “most influential Jews of all time” ranked Jesus of Nazareth second, following only Moses (because of the influence of the Mosaic traditions on Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), with Saul of Tarsus (Paul) ranked sixth (right after Abraham) and Mary (i.e., Miriam), Yeshua’s mother, ranked ninth. The Rebbe was not even ranked in the top one hundred. In fact, he was referred to only once, and that in the article on Bob Dylan (who was ranked ninety-seventh). 60 Yet, somehow, for many Jews, it is legitimate to consider Rabbi Schneerson to be the Messiah while it is illegitimate to consider Jesus to be the Messiah.

We don’t need to look for any other candidate or Messianic pretender. The real Messiah came twenty centuries ago, and he is preparing to return. Are you ready? The stage is being set.

42 Genesis, The JPS Torah Commentary (Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society, 1989), 89. Sarna, contrary to the general trend of past Jewish scholarship, favors a passive translation of the verb bless (meaning that all nations will be blessed through Abraham’s seed), as opposed to a reflexive translation (meaning that all nations will bless themselves in the name of Abraham’s seed, saying, “May God make you like the descendants of Abraham”). For a discussion of the grammatical and interpretative issues, cf. Michael L. Brown, “brk,” in The New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis, ed. Willem VanGemeren (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1997), 1:757–67 (specifically 759–60).

43 Strangely, some anti-missionaries have appealed to verses such as Micah 4:5 (“All the nations may walk in the name of their gods; we will walk in the name of the Lord our God for ever and ever”) or Deuteronomy 4:19 (“And when you look up to the sky and see the sun, the moon and the stars—all the heavenly array—do not be enticed into bowing down to them and worshiping things the Lord your God has apportioned to all the nations under heaven”), as if it is fine for Gentiles to worship idols, as long as Jews are faithful to the one true God; cf. Sigal, The Jew and the Christian Missionary, xvii–xviii.

44 Some of the more startling statistics in this regard include the following (current as of early 1998): “More scientific knowledge has been amassed since 1960 than was generated in the previous 5,000 years of recorded history… . [The general] fund of information doubles every 2 to 2.5 years … [and] by the time a child born today finishes college, the body of knowledge may have increased fourfold. By the time the person reaches 50 years of age, accumulated knowledge may have grown 32-fold. As much as 97 percent of all knowledge will have been created [perhaps “discovered” is a better word!] since that person was born” (taken from www.ibm.com/Stories/1997/01/future4.html).

45 By the “kingdom of God” I mean his active rule over someone’s life, his bringing that person into submission to his will. Ultimately, that is the key to world peace and harmony: The Lord ruling over the earth!

46 I am not for a moment buying into the popular religious craze known as “millennial madness” (which is actually the title of a 1997 teaching video hosted by Bruce Marchiano; cf. also Timothy J. Dailey, Millennial Deception: Angels, Aliens, and the Antichrist [Grand Rapids: Chosen, 1995]). Nonetheless, this century has been the most momentous and eventful century in human history, and it is interesting to note that one of the greatest men of prayer in the history of the church, John “Praying” Hyde, an American Christian who gave himself to reach the people of India, wrote these words in the year 1901: “I hail in the twentieth century, the blessing of our age restored—a Church holy in life, triumphant in faith, self-sacrificing in service with one aim, to preach Christ crucified ‘unto the uttermost part of the earth.’ ”

47 Among the countless books devoted to Jewish and Christian reflections on “God and the problem of evil,” some recent studies of note include Richard Swinburne, Providence and the Problem of Evil (New York: Oxford, 1998); Joni Eareckson Tada, When God Weeps: Why Our Sufferings Matter to the Almighty (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1997); Edith Schaeffer, Affliction (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1993); D. A. Carson, How Long, O Lord? Reflections on Suffering and Evil (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1991); an older classic is C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (New York: Macmillan, 1962). For Jewish reflections, cf. recently Reuven P. Bulka, Judaism on Illness and Suffering (Northvale, N.J.; Aronson, 1998); Shmuel Boteach, Wrestling with the Divine: A Jewish Response to Suffering (Northvale, N.J.: Aronson, 1995); see also David Charles Kraemer, Responses to Suffering in Classical Rabbinic Literature (New York: Oxford, 1994).

48 Cited in Michael L. Brown, Let No One Deceive You: Confronting the Critics of Revival (Shippensburg, Pa.: Destiny Image, 1997), 212, with references on 283, n. 19.

49 For Islam and violence, cf. Amir Taheri, Holy Terror: Inside the World of Islamic Terrorism (Bethesda, Md.: Adler & Adler, 1987); Emanuel Sivan, Radical Islam: Medieval Theology and Modern Politics (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1985); Victor Mordecai, Is Fanatic Islam a Global Threat?, rev. ed. (Springfield, Mo.: n.p., 1996); for “Christianity” and the sword, cf. 2.6. In stark contrast with the New Testament admonition to love one’s enemies and turn the other cheek (see 2.5), the Koran praises those who die “in the way of Allah” (see, e.g., in the Koran 3:156–59, 169–75; the reference to the “way [Arabic sabila] of Allah” speaks in particular of holy war; cf. John Penrice, Dictionary and Glossary of the Koran [London: Curzon Press, 1970], 66).

50 Cf. the similar statements in the Talmud relative to the calamitous times immediately preceding the Messiah’s coming (b. Sanhedrin 97a; and note in particular R. Abbaye’s rebuttal to the claim of R. Yoseph that such things have happened before: perhaps, but never in the manner or order predicted!).

51 The respected church statistician David Barrett, editor of the prestigious World Christian Encyclopedia, 2d ed. (New York: Oxford, 1999), is the primary scholar associated with the three-hundred-thousand martyrs-per-year estimate. For the most complete account of martyrdom of Christians in the twentieth century, offering a representative sampling of both the suffering of these believers and their triumphant faith, see James C. and Marti Hefley, By Their Blood: Christian Martyrs of the Twentieth Century, 2d ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1996). Cf. also Paul Marshall and Lela Gilbert, Their Blood Cries Out: The Untold Story of Persecution against Christians in the Modern World (Dallas: Word, 1997); Nina Shea, In the Lion’s Den: Persecuted Christians and What the Western Church Can Do about It (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1997).

52 He is referred to as “the devil” in later Jewish and Christian literature; for in-depth discussion about this figure as depicted in different religious traditions, see the four-volume study of Jeffrey Burton Russell, The Devil: Perceptions of Evil from Antiquity to Primitive Christianity (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell Univ. Press, 1977); Satan: The Early Christian Tradition (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell Univ. Press, 1981); Lucifer: The Devil in the Middle Ages (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell Univ. Press, 1984); Mephistopholes: The Devil in the Modern World (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell Univ. Press, 1986). Note also Peggy Day, An Adversary in Heaven: Satan in the Hebrew Bible (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1988), and see, more broadly, Bernard McGinn, Antichrist: Two Thousand Years of Fascination with Evil (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1994).

53 This prophecy cannot be interpreted with reference to the time of the Babylonian exile, since it was not followed by the promised seeking of God and the Davidic king, nor can it refer to the time of the Second Temple, since during that time there were sacrifices being offered and at least some of the priestly functions being fulfilled.

54 The New Testament paints a picture of the end of this age that can be characterized as a time of parallel extremes, using images such as the separation of the wheat and the tares at harvest time (Matt. 13:24–30); the separation of the good fish from the bad fish after a large catch (Matt. 13:47–50); the separation of the sheep from the goats at the final judgment (Matt. 25:31–46); the shaking of everything that can be shaken so that only God’s unshakable kingdom will remain (Heb. 12:25–29); Messiah’s return resulting in the exultation of the righteous and the destruction of the wicked (2 Thess. 1:6–10). See further this statement from the last chapter of the last book of the New Testament: “Let him who does wrong continue to do wrong; let him who is vile continue to be vile; let him who does right continue to do right; and let him who is holy continue to be holy” (Rev. 22:11).

55 For further discussion of this, see vol. 2, 3.24.

56 Mordechai Staiman, Waiting for the Messiah (Northvale, N.J.: Aronson, 1977), front, inside cover, his emphasis. Of course, there are many well-known midrashim in the Talmud and later Rabbinic literature that speak, e.g., of the Messiah already being at the gates of Rome at the end of the Second Temple period (b. Sanhedrin 98a, waiting to be revealed) or being born on the day the Temple was destroyed (Bereshit Rabbati, 130–31; see conveniently Patai, Messiah Texts, 124–25).

57 See vol. 3, sect. 4 for discussion of the relevant prophecies.

58 In fact, the first major biography of the rebbe put out by Lubavitch contained the Rabbinic prayer, “May his death serve as an atonement,” right in the front of the book; for more on this traditional Jewish concept that the death of the righteous atones, see vol. 2, 3.15.

59 Staiman, Waiting for the Messiah, 250.

60 Michael Shapiro, The Jewish 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Jews of All Time (Secaucus, N.J.: Citadel, 1996); the reference to Menachem Schneerson is found on 365. Of course, this book only represents Shapiro’s educated opinions, but they are opinions that, for the most part, reflect a fairly wide consensus. At the least, they remind us that it was several Jews intimately connected with “Christianity”—Yeshua, Saul of Tarsus, Miriam (Mary)—who mightily influenced the world and that their influence completely dwarfs—really, that is a vast understatement—the influence of Rabbi Schneerson. In fact, there are more Jews today who believe that Yeshua is the Messiah than those who believe that the Rebbe is the Messiah! This too is something worth considering. Interestingly, in the eyes of his admirers, the Rebbe has taken on colossal importance; see, e.g., the evaluation of The Encyclopedia of Hasidism, ed. Tzvi M. Rabinowicz (Northvale, N.J.: Aronson, 1996), 430, where Rabbi Schneerson is hailed as “the most phenomenal Jewish personality of the twentieth century.”

Brown, M. L. (2000). Answering Jewish objections to Jesus, Volume 1: General and historical objections. (88). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books.

Why have wars, famines, and human suffering only increased since Jesus came?