"For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak and not lie; though it tarry, wait for it, because it will surely come, it will not tarry." (Habakkuk 2:3)
What is meant by ‘but at the end it shall speak and not lie?’— R. Samuel b. Nahmani said in the name of R. Jonathan: Blasted be the bones of those who calculate the end. For they would say, since the predetermined time has arrived, and yet he has not come, he will never come. (Babylonian Talmud: Sanhedrin 97)
Rab said: All the predestined dates [for redemption] have passed, and the matter [now] depends only on repentance and good deeds. But Samuel maintained: it is sufficient for a mourner to keep his [period of] mourning. This matter is disputed by Tannaim: R. Eliezer said: if Israel repents, they will be redeemed; if not, they will not be redeemed. R. Joshua said to him, if they do not repent, will they not be redeemed! But the Holy One, blessed be He, will set up a king over them, whose decrees shall be as cruel as Haman’s, whereby Israel shall engage in repentance, and he will thus bring them back to the right path. Another [Baraitha] taught: R. Eliezer said: if Israel repents, they will be redeemed, as it is written, Return, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings. R. Joshua said to him, But is it not written, ye have sold yourselves for naught; and ye shall be redeemed without money? Ye have sold yourselves for naught, for idolatry; and ye shall be redeemed without money — without repentance and good deeds. R. Eliezer retorted to R. Joshua, But is it not written, Return unto me, and I will return unto you? R. Joshua rejoined — But is it not written, For I am master over you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion? R. Eliezer replied, But it is written, in returning and rest shall ye be saved. R. Joshua replied, But is it not written, Thus saith the Lord, The Redeemer of Israel, and his Holy One, to him whom man despiseth (see Yeshayahu 53), to him whom the nations abhorreth, to a servant of rulers, Kings shall see and arise, princes also shall worship? R. Eliezer countered, But is it not written, if thou wilt return, O Israel, saith the Lord, return unto me? R. Joshua answered, But it is elsewhere written, And I heard the man clothed in linen, which was upon the waters of the river, when he held up his right hand and his left hand unto heaven, and swore by him that liveth for ever that it shall be for a time, times and a half’ and when he shall have accomplished to scatter the power of the holy people, all these things shall be finished. (Dan 7:25 Dan 12:7) At this R. Eliezer remained silent.
Sanhedrin 97b records two things:
אGodGod That the predestined dates for Mashiach’s coming have already passed. (See Sefer Daniel 9)
בGodGod That we should not "calculate" the end, specifically to do with his coming. This is to state in the first point that without a doubt, God has fulfilled the Word He spoke to the prophets concerning Mashiach’s coming. Our difficulty is with the warning (point 2) not to ascertain the time of His coming since it would cause us to despair that He will not come at all. But there is a problem with this because if the predestined time has passed there can only be two options, either God did not keep His word (God forbid), or we missed the Mashiach. In the latter case our despair would not be that Mashiach "will not come at all", but that we missed his revelation.
An essential point to do with the Mashiach’s revelation is Teshuva / Repentance.
It is impossible to properly anticipate and prepare for the Mashiach’s return unless there is an "about-face"; that we turn our hearts back to HaShem, confessing our sin before Him. According to the Rabbis repentance and redemption go hand in hand. In Sanhedrin 97b R. Eliezer and R. Joshua dialogue on repentance to ascertain whether repentance originates from above or below. As their dialogue heightens with each Rabbi answering verse for verse, R. Joshua settles the debate with a scripture reference to do with the date of Mashiach’s coming. Moreover, the conclusion leaves off that repentance comes from above, from HaShem. It also serves to show us that both repentance and redemption originate from God. What are the implications of R. Joshua’s answer if the question to do with the origin of repentance can be answered with scripture to do with Mashiach’s date of coming? It means that the same proof with which we prove that repentance is from above also must apply to the scriptures of predestined dates of Mashiach’s arrival – that they should be interpreted as they are stated. In other words, the origin of Teshuva is proved with the surety of a prescribed date for Messianic redemption. It is another sign that redemption and repentance are closely associated since one is proof for the other. According to R. Joshua repentance is made certain on the certainty of the dates of prediction in the Hebrew Scriptures. Therefore if the dates are certain, and repentance certain, Mashiach has already come for the Jewish people according to the predestined dates in scripture referred to by Rab in Sanhedrin 97b.
Since we have proven that Mashiach has already come, what’s left is to admit that it is we who did not recognize Mashiach when he came- not that God had not sent him at the prescribed time. But R. Eliezer could not be considered entirely wrong who tried to prove that repentance comes from below, since his scripture references are also words that HaShem has spoken. I.e. “Return unto me, and I will return unto you “. Indeed, knowing that Mashiach already came may be a stepping stone towards repenting. It is true that Teshuva originates from God but it comes down to us – where we have to deal with it. Once we are faced with having to repent we must agree with HaShem or else we are rejecting Him.
Consider the words of Maran Yeshua HaMashiach:
Yochanan: 5:24 “Most certainly I tell you, he who hears my word, and believes him who sent me, has eternal life, and doesn’t come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.”
Yochanan 7:16 “Yeshua therefore answered them; "My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me.”
12:44-45 “Yeshua cried out and said, "Whoever believes in me, believes not in me, but in him who sent me. He who sees me sees Him who sent me.”
Yochanan 14:24 “He who doesn’t love me doesn’t keep my words. The word which you hear isn’t mine, but the Father’s who sent me.”
Since we know that Yemot HaMashiach (days of Mashiach) has already started (close to 2000 years ago according to rabbinical calculations), then the logical question that we can ask is: How can we have Yemot HaMashiach without Mashiach? To sum up what we’ve been saying; two Rabbis’ argue about whether repentance is originated from above or below. The argument is settled when R. Joshua states that repentance must be from above, citing that redemption (the Mashiach) comes after a fixed time.
Therefore, the fixed time must stand or repentance doesn’t originate from God. I.e. God doesn’t initiate anyone to repent. This is false which means that the prescribed dates for Mashiach’s coming stand. Hence, the Mashiach has already come and we have only to repent and believe in Him.
Yochanan 6:40 “This is the will of the one who sent me, that everyone who sees the Son, and believes in him, should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day."
For Further Iyun: HaShem’s 7,000 year redemptive plan teaches and reveals how individuals progress from spiritual darkness to spiritual life and rest. These times go from lawlessness to order, from Adam to Mashiach. These times are divided in 4 parts: 2000 – Tohu = desolation (no Torah) 2000 – Torah = Instruction (Days of Torah) 2000 – Yemot Mashiach = Days of the Messiah 1000 – Athid Lavo – The future = Mashiach’s Kingdom Olam Haba – The world to come – Eternity. These as well are divided in 3 parts: Olam Hazeh = The present world / age, Athid Lavo = world to come (Mashiach’s Kingdom), Olam Haba = The world to come (Eternity) Time is going forward to the past. That which was is that which shall be (Ecclesiastes 1:9). The world to come is seen as being like the Garden of Eden. Time is going forward in a circle.