JERUSALEM, ISRAEL – One of the most important themes running throughout the Hebrew Bible is that the God of Israel promises to send the Messiah to earth one day to redeem the Jewish people and rule Israel and the entire world.
Obviously, the world’s 2.6 billion Christians believe that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah and that He is coming back to earth in the “last days” of history.
Also obvious is that the vast majority of Jews worldwide – and here in Israel – do not believe that Jesus is the Messiah.
Yet here is a fact that is not obvious at all.
Nearly half of all Israeli Jews have given up believing that the Messiah is real and coming any time in the future.
When asked by researchers, “Do you believe the Messiah is coming?,” a shocking new survey finds that a mere 54.9% of Israeli Jews say “yes.”
Fully 45.1% say “no.”
No one said, “I don’t know.”
The survey of 1,200 Israeli Jews was designed by two Jewish professors in the United States.
For the record, neither believe that Jesus is the Messiah.
The survey was conducted last month in Hebrew by one of the top research and polling firms in Israel.
It was partially funded by ALL ISRAEL NEWS and the results are being published here for the first time. More results will be published over the next few days and will also be released at the National Religious Broadcasters convention in Orlando, Florida, this week.
WHY HAVE SO MANY ISRAELIS ABANDONED BELIEF IN THE MESSIAH?
Why have upwards of three million Israeli Jews given up believing that the Messiah is ever coming to earth?
It’s an important question and one that will require serious analysis.
Unfortunately, the survey didn’t ask.
I look forward to interviewing a range of Israeli scholars, religious leaders, and others in search of the answer and reporting my findings here on ALL ISRAEL NEWS and on my weekly, prime time TV show, THE ROSENBERG REPORT, that airs on the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN).
That said, I suspect that the simplest answer is likely the most accurate.
Large numbers of Israelis have stopped reading the Jewish scriptures.
They might have grown up hearing the Bible read in the synagogue.
But they are not reading the Torah or the prophets for themselves.
So, they’re not focusing on the specific prophecies that describe who the coming Messiah will be, much less taking those prophecies to heart.
What’s more, given that religious Jews believe that God still hasn’t sent the Messiah for more than 3,000 years since the first prophecies were given in the Bible, is it likely that traditional, secular, and non-religious Jews would hold to a belief that the Messiah will still come one day?
MASSIVE SPLIT BETWEEN RIGHT-WING AND LEFT-WING VOTERS
Here we find some interesting data inside the survey.
There is an immense chasm between Jewish right-wing voters in Israel and Jewish left-wing voters on the matter.
Consider a snapshot of Jews who still believe:
93.8% of Israelis who voted for right-wing Orthodox political parties still believe Messiah is coming one day.
But only 54.9% of those voting for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party agree – a number that precisely mirrors the overall view of the country.
An even sharper contrast can be found among those who voted for the opposition parties, including those led by Yair Lapid and Benny Gantz – only 22% of these voters believe that the Messiah is literally coming some day in the future.
Even more striking is that only 15% of Israelis who voted specifically for left-wing parties like Labor and Meretz believe the Messiah will ever literally come to earth.
Now consider a snapshot of Israelis who have given up believing:
Fully 85% of Israelis who voted specifically for left-wing parties say “no,” they don’t believe the Messiah is ever coming to earth.
A stunning 78% of Israeli Jews who voted for any of the opposition parties say “no,” they don’t believe the Messiah is ever coming.
A remarkable 45.1% of Netanyahu/Likud voters say they don’t believe the Messiah is ever coming.
Curiously, 6.2% of those voting for the Orthodox religious parties say they don’t believe the Messiah is coming.
Bottom line: There is no question that the more religious an Israeli Jew is, the far more likely it is that he or she will believe that the Messiah will still come one day, while the more secular one is, the more likely it is that they have given up on the concept of the Messiah altogether.
WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT THE COMING OF THE MESSIAH?
Throughout the ages, Rabbis and other Jewish scholars have pointed to a range of Biblical passages as evidence that Messiah will come one day.
In Deuteronomy 18, for example, Moses tells the children of Israel, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him….The Lord said to me, ‘They have spoken well. I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. It shall come about that whoever will not listen to My words which he shall speak in My name, I Myself will require it of him [i.e., will bring that person into judgment].’” (Deuteronomy 18:15, 17-19)
The Hebrew prophet Isaiah declared, “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this.” (Isaiah 9:6-7)
Through the Hebrew prophet Micah, God declared, “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity….And He will arise and shepherd His flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord His God. And they will remain, because at that time He will be great to the ends of the earth. This One will be our peace.” (Micah 5:2, 4-5a)
In the Book of Proverbs, we are asked a critical series of questions about God and His son. “Who has ascended into heaven and descended? Who has gathered the wind in His fists? Who has wrapped the waters in His garment? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is His name or His son’s name? Surely you know!” (Proverbs 30:4)
Consider just one more passage, though there are many in the Hebrew scriptures.
The Hebrew prophet Daniel declared that “Seventy weeks [sets of seven years] have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place. So, you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress. Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary.” (Daniel 9:24-26a)
While Christians and Messianic Jews believe these and related prophecies were fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth, the vast majority of Israeli Jews do not.
HOW WAS THE SURVEY CONDUCTED?
Two American Jewish professors designed the survey.
Neither are Christians or Messianic Jews.
One was Dr. Mordechai Inbari, full professor in the Department of Philosophy and Religion at the University of North Carolina Pembroke.
The other was Dr. Kirill Bumin, the dean of the Graduate Studies and full professor in the Department of Political Science and International Studies at Stonehill College
The scholars contracted with the Geocartography Knowledge Group, one of the leading research and polling companies in Israel, to professionally conduct the survey.
A representative sample of 1,200 Israeli Jewish respondents were surveyed.
The sample provides a 95% confidence level that the sampling error does not exceed ±2.82%.
The sample includes 1,000 respondents who were interviewed online in Hebrew.
It also includes 200 respondents who were interviewed by phone in Hebrew. These were Israelis ages 65 and over, and ultra-Orthodox Israelis, both of which are historically less responsive to online surveys and more responsive to phone surveys.
Joel C. Rosenberg is the editor-in-chief of ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS and the President and CEO of Near East Media. A New York Times best-selling author, Middle East analyst, and Evangelical leader, he lives in Jerusalem with his wife and sons.