Resources from a Messianic perspective



In the year 132 A.D., a man with great charisma and leadership arose among the Jewish people whom had suffered under brutal Roman rule for over a century. He was given the name Bar Kochba, meaning "son of a star" by Rabbi Akiva (considered to be one of the foremost rabbinical authorities of all time). Akiva called Bar Kochba the "Messianic King" and anticipated the fulfillment of all messianic prophecies through him. Bar Kochba was indeed initially succesful in leading a revolt against the Romans. But after three years, the mighty Roman army regrouped and overwhelmed the Jewish forces. In the final month of battle alone, 500,000 Jews were killed. As for Bar Kochba himself, the head of this messiah was brought to Julius Severus, the Roman commander.

After the decline of Roman rule, speculation flourished regarding messianic aspirations. According to a popular legend of the day that was attributed to Elijah the prophet, "The world will endure no less than 85 jubilees (4250 years) and in the last jubilee, the son of David will come." Based on rabbinical reckoning, the coming of the Messiah would take place between the years 440 and 490 A.D. The oppressed Jews on the island of Crete found their Messiah in a man called Moses. With promises of redemption and freedom, he persuaded the people to follow him. In a repeat of the Exodus from Egypt, this Moses led the people to a cliff before the sea, where they would begin to walk on dry land to Israel. But unlike their ancestors, hundred of people, in blind obedience, plunged into a watery grave.

In the year 1147, during the second Crusade, a charming and handsome Jew named David Alroy emerged. In the city of Baghdad he studied the Bible, Talmud and Arabic magic. Because of persecution and widespread ignorance of the Scriptures among the people, Alroy convinced them that he was the Messiah. Using magical illusion, his claim was supported by performing supposed miracles. Alroy instructed his Jewish followers to fast and pray in preparation to go to Jerusalem. But first he began a revolt against the Sultan of Persia. The Sultan responded by demanding that the Jewish community denounce Alroy's messianic activities. Alroy declined, so his own father- in-law had him beheaded.

As the persecution of the Jews continued through the fifth Crusade, messianic speculation intensified. Abraham Ben Samuel Abulafia emerged toward the end of the thirteenth century as the next would-be Messiah. A devotee of Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism), he proclaimed, "The spirit of the LORD reached my mouth and worked through me so that I manifested many dread and awful sights and signs and wonders" and "When I reached to the Name [of God] and untied the seal bands, the LORD of all revealed Himself to me and made known to me His secret." Abulafia mounted a campaign to go to Rome in order to convert Pope Nicholas to Judaism. Ultimately, Abulafia was rejected by his own Jewish people, but was accepted by some persons who called themselves Christians.

During the Spanish Inquisition of the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries, three million Jews were forcibly baptized into Christendom. Known as Marranos, many of these Jews yearned for a powerful Messiah to bring relief to their oppression. This time his name would be David Reveuni. His disciple, Solomon Molcho, used astrology to predict catastrophes which brought him respect and favor. A large number of Marranos prepared to return to the land of their forefathers along with their messiah. But before they could depart, the Inquisition intervened and Molcho was burned at the stake while Reveuni died in prison.

Less than one hundred years later, another messianic candidate appeared. Trained by rabbinical sages in Egypt, Isaac Luria was considered to be a superior scholar in the Talmud and mysticism. He was monastic and fasted and prayed for extremely long periods of time, which led to strange visions and conversations with characters of the Bible. His disciples wrote, "Luria could read faces, look into the souls of me, and recognize souls that migrated from body to body." Though heralded as "Holy and Divine," he died suddenly at the age of 38.

In the mid 1600's an attractive young man with alluring qualities, named Shabbatai Zvi, came upon the scene. Following the pattern of previous "anointed ones," he fasted and prayed in total isolation for six years. He then acquired a disciple who revealed in a trance that Shabbatai was the Messiah. Shabbatai agreed and began spreading the word, accented by a message promoting sexual indulgence. Enticed by his captivating character and immoral teachings, a mass hysteria began among the people. Many persons were giving prophecies and receiving visions. The story of Shabbatai comes to an abrupt end, however. In an attempt to capture the land of Turkey, he fell into the hands of the Sultan who gave him the choice of death or becoming a Moslem. Shabbatai chose the latter.

Jacob Frank, and eighteenth century faker of the faith, was equal to Shabbatai in every way. The people of Poland became entranced by the behavior of this brazen messiah. He delved into mysticism and rose to prominence by urging followers to indulge in sexual deviation and to acquire wealth even by improper means. He later proclaimed himself to be the "living embodiment of God" and appointed twelve apostles and twelve concubines to serve him. But when social pressure arose he converted to Islam and was also twice baptized into the church. He ultimately sent into exile and many of his followers were killed.

What can be learned from this chronicle of false messiahs? Compare the common traits among these false messiahs in the left column and the biblical portrait of the Messiah in the center and right columns:

A false messiah is often handsome to the eye and captivating with words. A true messiah is not noticed because of physical attractiveness. "He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him" (Isaiah 53:2).
A false messiah is a student of teachings outside of the Bible. A true messiah is a man of the Word of
God — the Bible.
"And on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him" (Luke 4:16).
A false messiah may develop his beliefs in isolation or claim to be the sole interpreter of truth. A true messiah is from the mainstream of the people and his words are consistent with previous messengers of God. "The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me [Moses] from among your own brothers. I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him" (Deut. 18:15,18).
A false messiah manifests emotional imbalance. A true messiah is wise and compassionate. "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls" (Matt. 11:29).
A false messiah encourages loose morality. A true messiah is sinless. "For the transgression of my people he was stricken...though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth" (Is. 53;8-9).
A false messiah offers political and religious satisfaction in times of stress. A true messiah offers spiritual peace. "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid" (John 14:27).
A false messiah preys upon the oppressed and the ignorant. A true messiah is willing to sacrifice for others. "We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth" (Is. 53:6-7).
A false messiah dies like everyone else. A true messiah is resurrected from the dead. "You will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay" (Psalm 16:10).
A false messiah produces death for others. A true messiah produces life for others. "The bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world" (John 6:33).

Though many persons have tried to fill the role of God's Anointed One, their legacy is invariably failure. There is only One who fits the biblical description—Yeshua (Jesus)—and His legacy is victory over death.


Dr. Galen Peterson
© 2003 American Remnant Missio