If, when visiting New York, a van pulls up and, to the accompaniment of oriental melodies blaring out through huge speakers on the roof, you are accosted by wiry curly haired men in black, you are not being mugged or abducted into the mother ship. No, you have met some Lubavitcher Jews and their Mitzvah Tank. You are spared embarrassment if you answer in the negative to the first question, “are you Jewish?” Otherwise you are coaxed into the van to put on tefillin. You will roll up your left sleeve, bind the ceremonial paraphernalia to your arm and recite a prayer. At least it is less painful than giving blood! You will then be given a small kit to instruct you on how to light Sabbath candles and further literature as their way of saying thanks for the mitzvah you have made, doing your little bit to usher in the Mashiach (Messiah). The mitzvah, the divine instruction, is your good deed, not quite the fully blown repentance that would have been preferred, but not to be sneezed at. This concept of public good deeds was dreamt up by their Rabbi, the now deceased Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Schneerson, who, until he died in 1994, was the odds-on favourite Messiah candidate of his generation. He said:
“a mitzvah is a deed of cosmic significance, a deed of infinite value unto itself”.
His belief was that just one person performing a single mitzvah, could be performing the very deed that tips the scales, ushers in the Messiah and brings redemption to the world. Yes, in the words of the Lottery operators, it could be you!
Well, anyway, that’s how they see the whole Messiah thing. What’s really going to happen is the following, looking forwards to the day when Jesus, the true Son of David, Mashiach ben David, will make his final appearance.
What an awesome day that will be. God will show His power, stronger than any Cruise or Scud missile, and the whole world is going to realise what a terrible mistake it has made in turning its back on the one true God. The Jewish people will particularly be affected as the truth finally dawns on them. Their reaction to this knowledge will be significant. We read in Zechariah 12:10: ‘And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a first-born son.’
The awful realisation of the identity of Jesus their Messiah, the ‘one they had pierced’, will initiate a national repentance the like of which the world has never seen before. The next three verses bear testimony to this, speaking of every clan in the land weeping and mourning. Then, perhaps led by their religious leaders, Orthodox and Messianic believers together (though, of course, all will now be ‘Messianic’), they will sing the messianic Psalm, Psalm 118, as Matthew 23:39 tells us, for I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’]“ and the Lord Jesus will return.
And where will he return? Certainly not in the world capitals of London, Paris or Washington. A clue is given in Acts, Chapter 1. The scene is the Mount of Olives, overlooking Jerusalem on the east side. Jesus is with his disciples for one last time, when suddenly a cloud hides him from their sight and he is taken back into heaven. The angel’s last words to them are in verse 11: ‘This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.’
He is going to return in the same way that he went – from heaven to the Mount of Olives. If you complain that I’m reading too much into the text, then head to Zechariah, Chapter 14. We read another account of that final battle over Jerusalem. More depressing details are given but again we are told that it is God Himself, or specifically the Messiah, who will fight against these armies of the nations. In fact it’s the first thing he does when he returns. Verse 4 tells us ‘On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south.’
It is going to be a truly awesome sight and the very geography of the region is going to be altered as a result. The Mount of Olives will be split in two and we read of a great river forming, flowing from east to west.
Jesus will return as Messiah King. No longer the suffering servant of his first coming. This time he will come to reign among his people, as the Son of David. He will come to live out those Old Testament scriptures that were not fulfilled by his first coming. For example, Isaiah 2:3-4: ‘Many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” The law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war any more.’
Come, Lord Jesus.
How will Christ return?