Something very strange happens when people face an imminent threat to life and livelihood. The strange thing is unity such as would never have been possible otherwise. History provides countless examples, such as the defense of New Orleans in January 1815. When a veteran British force attacked the city, an odd assortment of people turned out to defend their home. They included Regular soldiers of the American army under Major General Andrew Jackson, as well as Creole gentlemen and their American merchant rivals, common laborers, farmers, militia men from far away states, black slaves and free men, and even pirates and smugglers affiliated with the infamous Jean Lafitte. Once the threat was past, these disparate segments of society returned to their separate lives and the circumstances that divided them, but for one glorious moment they experienced the joy of being a people united in a common cause.
We might consider as well the example of our Jewish brethren in World War II. Immediately before the war, an Arab revolt in British Palestine compelled His Majesty’s government to issue a White Paper in 1939 which closed the door on Jewish immigration to the Holy Land. This was a political and military necessity for the British; another Arab revolt would threaten their hold on Egypt, their link to India and the Pacific, and the lifeline of the Empire. When faced with war against Hitler’s Germany, Great Britain could not afford to lose that lifeline, and thus European Jews in peril of their lives in the Shoa (Holocaust) lost their last and best chance at escape from the death camps.
One might suppose the Jewish response to the White Paper – particularly among those living in the Land – would be violent rejection and revolt. Some did respond that way, but the most memorable response was by David Ben Gurion, at that time among the most prominent leaders of the World Zionist Organization and the Jewish settlers in the Land. He expressed his position this way:
Ben Gurion’s pragmatism was instrumental in establishment of the Jewish Brigade, the only regular military unit of any Allied army in World War II comprised entirely of Jews. The Jewish Brigade served with distinction in the British forces in Egypt, Italy, and Northwest Europe, and it also served as a training ground for Jewish warriors who carried the fight for Israel’s independence after the British Mandate over Palestine ended in 1948.
Most people have no desire to discuss the return of Messiah at the end of this age. Many of them lump it into the category of “too weird”, or “myth and legend”. Others suspect it may be true, but hope that it doesn’t happen in their lifetime. That response comes from fear that they might not end up on the right side of the balance sheet, as well as a hefty dose of distraction due to the worldly interests that have ensnared their attention.
But then there are the believers, both Christian and Jewish, who anticipate that this age will end at some point with the great Day of the Lord. What observant Jews think of that subject is something I am even now beginning to learn. What Christians believe is something I have encountered all of my life. Usually their attitudes fall into one of two categories: either they believe God will take every person on earth by surprise because “no one can know the day or the hour”; or they affirm that we can know exactly when Jesus will return because we have the clues in the Bible. As in all things, the truth exists somewhere between these two extremes.