False Jewish Messiahs
(Taken from WayofLife.org, May 11/2016, David Cloud)
Jesus warned that false messiahs would come, and this has been fulfilled many times over and will be fulfilled yet more in Daniel’s 70th Week.
“For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many” (Mat. 24:5).
“For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect” (Mat. 24:24).
“I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive” (John 5:43).
Having rejected the true Messiah, the Jewish nation was left to wander in a wilderness both physical and spiritual.
“And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them” (Mat. 13:14-15).
“But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him: That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them. These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory, and spake of him” (John 12:37-41).
“And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word, Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers, Saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive: For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them” (Acts 28:25-27).
The Lord warned that the Jewish nation of that generation would be like a man who is dispossessed of an unclean spirit that returns with seven other evil spirits.
“When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none. Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation” (Matthew 12:43-45).
The Lord Jesus said that the spiritual blindness would continue until the nation of Israel receives Him during the Great Tribulation.
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord” (Mat. 23:37-39).
Since the destruction of the Second Temple in AD 70, Jews have been looking for a Messiah that will rebuild the temple. In Jewish Talmudic tradition, the rebuilding of the temple is associated with the coming of the Messiah. According to Maimonides (also called Rambam), the highest rabbinical authority, any Jew that starts rebuilding the temple is a potential Messiah.
Following are some of the messianic figures that have appeared over the past 2,000 years:
SIMON BAR KOKHBA was the name given to Simon ben Kosiba. When Simon sought to liberate Jerusalem in 132 AD, he was proclaimed the Messiah by Rabbi Akiba ben Joseph and renamed Bar Kokhba (“Son of the Star”) based on the Messianic prophecy of Numbers 24:17. The Jews struck the coin of Bar Kokhba depicting the temple with the ark of the covenant inside and the Messianic star on the roof. The other side was inscribed with “To the Freedom of Jerusalem.” In 135 AD, the revolt was put down by the Romans with terrible brutality with the death and enslavement of more than half a million Jews. Judea was reduced to rubble, with 50 fortified towns and nearly 1,000 villages razed. Jewish children were allegedly wrapped in Torah scrolls and burned alive. It must also be noted that the Jews had extended their own brutality to Christians who refused to curse Jesus and accept Simon’s claim to Messiahship.
MOSES OF CRETE led many astray in the fifth century. His real name was Fiskis, but he claimed to be the new Moses who would lead the Jews back to Palestine by way of the Mediterranean Sea. Expectations were raised to fever pitch by predictions in the Babylonian Talmud about the return of the Messiah in the eighty-fifth jubilee between 440-471 AD. Fiskis traveled throughout Crete for a year gaining followers. They left their occupations and possessions, congregated on a cliff overlooking the sea, and the foremost of them cast themselves off at his command. The Chronicle of John of Nikiu says that “Moses” perished with many of his followers, while the history by Socrates Scholasticus says that he simply disappeared.
SERENE OF SYRIA announced himself as the Messiah in 723, claiming that he would lead Israel back to their land. “He had followers as far away as Spain,” but he was arrested by the Muslim Caliph Yasid and turned over to unsympathetic Jews.
OBADIAH OF ISPHAHAN proclaimed himself the Messiah in 744 and led a rebellion against the Caliph of Persia. He and his followers were killed.
ABRAHAM ABULAFIA (1240-1291) of Syria practiced a form of Jewish Kabbalhaism by syncretizing Judaism with pagan mysticism. (The word kabbalah means “tradition.”) Through allegorical interpretation of Scripture and supposed esoteric or secret knowledge about God and the universe, the Kabbalah movement has produced a bewildering variety of views. Kabbalah began with rabbis who wrote parts of the Talmud. Because Kabbalah teaching has at times produced insanity and apostasy, rabbis in the seventeenth century restricted its study to married men over age forty. Abulafia promoted a mystical path of achieving union with God. Called “prophetic kabbalah” or “ecstatic kabbalah,” it “aims at producing a state of mystical ecstasy wherein the boundaries separating the self from God are overcome” (Daniel Frank and Oliver Laman, Jewish Mysticism). In such a condition, the mystic becomes a prophet. In 1280 he journeyed to Rome to convert Pope Nicholas III, but the pope died before he arrived. Abulafia declared himself a Messiah soon thereafter. After writing a meditation manual in 1291, he disappeared from history. His meditation techniques include fasting, wearing the phylactery, using Hebrew letters and God’s names as mantras, breathing techniques, bodily positions, trembling, and mental imagery. The objective is to pass one-by-one through the “Fifty Gates of Understanding” to reach God and perfect knowledge. Abulafia described “another spirit” rising within his body through meditation. “You will then feel as if an additional spirit is within you, arousing you and strengthening you, passing through your entire body and giving you pleasure” (Aryeh Kaplan, Meditation and Kabbalah, p. 85). He described human forms appearing before him and communicating with him and fearful experiences of becoming “another man.” This reminds us of the great spiritual danger of pagan meditation techniques and their potential for demon possession and spiritual delusion.
SHABBETHAI TZVI (1626-1676), a Sephardic rabbi and Kabbalist, proclaimed himself Messiah in 1648 by pronouncing the Tetagrammaton or the name of Jehovah God to his followers, something that, under Jewish tradition, was allowed only by the high priest on the Day of Atonement. The Bible is filled with mentions of God’s name and commands for God’s name to be spoken in reverence, but Jewish tradition has made it unpronounceable. Shabbethai sang Spanish love songs all night, giving them mystical interpretations, and prayed and wept at tombs. Nathan Benjamin Levi declared himself Shabbethai’s Elijah and declared that 1665 would be the Messianic year when the Messiah would conquer the world and lead the “Ten Lost Tribes” back to Israel, “riding on a lion with a seven-headed dragon in its jaws.” That year, he was declared the Messiah in the synagogue of Smyrna “with the blowing of horns, and shouts of ‘Long live our King, our Messiah.'” His followers called him “Our Lord and King, His Majesty be exalted.” He had a wide following, not only in Turkey and Syria, but also in Europe, and many prominent rabbis accepted his Messiahship. But in 1666, after arriving in Constantinople, Shabbethai was given three choices by the Muslim Sultan Mehmed IV: endure trial by arrow (a volley of arrows would be shot at him, and if they missed he would be proven to be the Messiah), be impaled, or convert to Islam. Shabbethai converted. He took a second wife and called himself an Ishmaelite to prove his sincerity. About 300 families of his followers followed suit and were known thereafter as the dönmen (converts).
NACHMAN OF BRESLOV (1773-1810), founder of the Breslov Hasidic movement, promoted Kabbalah and its “esoteric secrets.” He taught that God could be approached as an intimate friend, ignoring the fact that Scripture teaches the necessity of atonement and mediatorship as signified by the Levitical priesthood and offerings. He taught his followers to spend an hour a day in solitude engaging in such prayer. This is called hitbodedut (“to make oneself be in solitude”). He promoted a positive confession that would produce continual happiness. He taught the use of a mantra for meditation and used Ribono shel Olam (Master of the Universe) as his own mantra. He did not claim to be the Messiah, but in a secret writing found after his death he taught a mantra based on his own name that is supposed to help bring the Messiah into the world. It is Na Nach Nachma Nachman Meuman. Earlier Kabbalah rabbis had stated that a song would be revealed that would restore true faith in God to the world by the Messiah, and this mantra is thought by many to be that song. It is based on the four Hebrew letters of the name Nachman, ending with a reference to the place of his burial in Uman, Ukraine. The mantra is thought to dispel spiritual darkness and bring every sort of blessing, including forgiveness of sin. It has been put to song in contemporary Jewish music and can be seen inscribed in many places in Israel today. Those who use the mantra are called the Na Nachs. They believe it is God’s will for them to be happy and that it is their duty to spread happiness through society by dancing, playing, and laughing. Tjhey drive around in vans blasting out music, and at red lights they jump out and dance. An adherent says, “Hopefully people will be a little happy when we pass by, and they’ll get the light of Rabbi Nachman” (“Israel’s Orthodox Ravers Are on a Holy Mission,” National Public Radio, Mar. 14, 2014). They believe that by this means they connect with God.
RABBI MENACHIM SCHNEERSON (1902-1994), known as the Rebbe, didn’t proclaim himself the Messiah, but he was considered that by hundreds of thousands of Jews in the 1980s and 1990s. Even since his death in 1994, many have continued to consider him the Messiah and are waiting for his resurrection. Some don’t believe that he is dead. Schneerson was the seventh rebbe or rabbi leader of an ultra-orthodox Jewish sect called Lubavitch (also called Chabad and Habad). This sect focuses on the return of the Messiah. Schneerson “transformed it from a small movement into the largest and most widespread Jewish movement in the world today.” It emphasizes humanitarian as well as religious activities. Schneerson’s photo can be seen plastered on signs and walls in many parts of Israel. It is often accompanied with a crown and the Hebrew word Mashiach (Messiah).
Other false Messiahs are Menahem ben Judah, David Alroy (1160), Asher Lemmlein (1502), Reubeni and Solomon Molko (1525), Isaac Lauria (1572), Sabbatai Zvi (b. 1626), Mordecai Mokiah (1680), Jacob Frank (1726-71), Moses Luzzatto (17070-1747).
Many Jews are still looking for a temple builder, whether prophet or Messiah, and the Temple Institute has prepared the articles for the Third Temple. These include the menorah (made from 95 pounds of gold valued at two million dollars), the garments for the priests and the high priest, the table of shewbread, the laver, and the table of incense. In July 2012 the Temple Institute published a video entitled “The Children Are Ready,” depicting children building a model of the Third Temple on an Israeli beach.
As we have seen, in Jewish tradition, the coming of the Messiah is associated with the rebuilding of the Temple. Any Jew that starts rebuilding the Temple is a potential Messiah, and this is the belief of the Temple Institute.
The Jews are looking for a Messiah that will bring peace, that will solve their problems, that will help them to rebuild the temple, that will allow them to follow their tradition on equal footing with the Scripture, and that will not rebuke them as sinners but will help them follow their “positive inclinations.”
The Antichrist will be all of this and more–at first.
When the Antichrist comes, he will appear to be a sincere man who wants to help the world. He will not appear to be a monster. He will have more charisma than any ruler that has preceded him in history. He will be an astounding orator, speaking “great things” (Dan. 7:8). He will be bold and authoritative. Daniel says he will have a fierce countenance and understand dark sentences (Dan. 8:23). He will be a master of intrigue and have an astonishing ability to solve age-old problems.
But it will be a lie. Five times in Daniel the Antichrist is called a liar and a flatterer (Dan. 11:21, 23, 27, 32, 34). After three and a half years, he will show his true character, and his peace program will result in “sudden destruction” in the form of the greatest time of trouble the world has ever seen.