“He shall be a wild man: his hand will be against all men, and all men’s hands against him: and he shall pitch his tents over against all his brethren.” (Genesis 16:12)
In the Gospel According to St Luke 21:24 we read “and they shall fall by the edge of the sword; and shall be led away captives into all nations; and Jerusalem shall be trodden down by the Gentiles; till the times of the nations be fulfilled.” The verse speaks of the sack of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. It is a rather disturbing verse as it implies that when the Jews recover possession of the earthly Jerusalem the ‘time of the nations [will] be fulfilled’. In various places the New Testament foretells a great apostasy of the Gentiles preceding the end of time. As Our Lord says in Luke 18:8 “the Son of man, when he cometh, shall he find, think you, faith on earth?” Indeed, in the discourse of which Luke 21:24 forms a part there is a clear shift at this very verse from describing the sack of Jerusalem to describing the end of the world. The very last event prophesied before the return of the Lord is the conversion of the Jews. As St Paul explains in Romans 11 “For if the loss of them be the reconciliation of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead? … For I would not have you ignorant, brethren, of this mystery, (lest you should be wise in your own conceits), that blindness in part has happened in Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles should come in and so all Israel should be saved”. But between the falling away of the Gentiles and the conversion of the Jews there intervenes the reign of the Antichrist.
The old city of Jerusalem was recaptured by the Jews on 7th June 1967. One would have to be very blind not to have perceived a great falling away of the nations since that time. This carries the alarming implication that things are only going in one direction and that the Antichrist is on his way. It is slightly chilling that in revelation when the 144,000 are enumerated from the twelve tribes they are all alive while the ‘great multitude’ of the Gentile Christians are all dead. It is as if the remnant of the faithful in the time of Antichrist will all be children of Abraham (or rather Jacob) according to the flesh as well as the spirit. It is slightly consoling that the elect are drawn from all twelve tribes and who knows who might be descended from Israel in the female line? Another mysterious statement in Revelation 14:1-4 implies the Israelite elect will all be celibate. This might resolve a difficulty St Augustine raises towards the end of the De Civitate Dei. St Augustine notes that Our Lord says it is only possible to despoil the property of the strong man while he is bound and Revelation tells us that in the last days the Devil will be unbound. St Augustine considers the possibility that during the three and a half years during which the Antichrist will rule the world no one will be justified. He discards this idea because of the efficacy of infant baptism. However, if the remainder of the faithful at this time are all celibate, infant baptism may not be such an objection. Our Lord even says in Matthew 24:37-39 “And as in the days of Noe, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, even till that day in which Noe entered into the ark, and they knew not till the flood came, and took them all away; so also shall the coming of the Son of man be.”
So, if the gentiles are to fall away entirely until only a tiny number of celibate Catholics, all descended from Jacob, remain, where will the Gentiles fall away to? A monk once showed me a book (written by a Protestant) given to him by a Cardinal which pointed out the startling similarities between the eschatology of the Mohammedans and that of the New Testament. The one key difference is that the heroes of Mohammedan eschatology are the villains of Christian prophecy. In Christian eschatology there are two key figures behind the final persecution of the Church: the Antichrist and the False Prophet. These correspond to the first and second beasts of Revelation 13. One is a great temporal ruler and the other his false religious auxiliary. Yet there seems to be some confusion in the tradition, for while the temporal ruler seems to take the lead and it is towards him that the False Prophet directs the worship of the reprobate, it is the second beast – the False Prophet – who is described as impersonating the Messiah “two horns, like a lamb, and he spoke as a dragon”. Yet it is normally the first beast who is though to be the Antichrist. The hero of Mohammedan eschatology is the Mahdi who will subject the entire world to Islamic rule. In his time Isa (the Mohammedan Jesus) will return. The Mahdi will offer to defer to the pseudo-Jesus but the latter will recognise Mahdi as greater. Isa will then commence the extermination of all remaining Jews and Christians on earth (two groups which, it would seem from the New Testament, may by then be materially identical). This suddenly makes a lot of sense of the two figures in the New Testament. Indeed, St Hippolytus in his treatise on the Antichrist seems to suspect that this is partly why the second beast has two horns: “By the beast, then, coming up out of the earth, he means the kingdom of Antichrist; and by the two horns he means him and the false prophet after him. And in speaking of the horns being like a lamb, he means that he will make himself like the Son of God, and set himself forward as king.”
In Galatians, St Paul famously contends that Ishmael is a type of the unbelieving Jews. As Ishmael was a slave so they are bound in servile subjection to the law. As Ishmael lived out his life in Arabia so they are bound to the covenant given on Sinai “a mountain in Arabia”. As he was rejected in favour of the miraculous son of the promise so they have been rejected in favour of the miraculously converted multitude of the Gentiles. How does this typology run once the children of Isaac after the flesh have once more become children of the promise? If the apostasy of the Jews means the conversion of the nations and the conversion of the Jews (and apostasy of the nations) means the end of the world might it not be that the return of the Jews to the promises of God will mean the transformation of the Gentiles into children of Ishmael according to the spirit?
“But what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son; for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the free woman.” (Galatians 4:30)