The universe has two basic time periods, one, the period of exile, two, the period of redemption.
By understanding what exile is, we understand what redemption is – exile is nothing more and nothing less than an unnatural state.
When the world was created, man and woman were completely taken care of by God in The Garden of Eden, where primarily, their delights were spiritual.
In this pristine state, Adam had a desire to taste the physical, and according to Kabbalah Eve understood it was God’s intent for man to fall (for reasons we will explain later) and so she orchestrated the eating of the forbidden fruit – Adam had his taste and the world we know today was born.
No longer would there be a free lunch, “By the sweat of your brow you will eat,” God “cursed” man; “Childbirth will be painful,” God “cursed” woman, and most importantly as the sages teach us, the presence of God actually felt within this world, was removed into higher worlds.
In other words, the natural state of reality is one where the presence of God is felt, heard and experienced.
However, God understanding human nature, desired something loftier than a handout. If I were to give you a million dollars you might be excite; But if you were to earn it by the sweat of your brow, as when a child comes after nine months of labor, then you will appreciate it.
So in exile we have a new reality, one in which evil entered into the consciousness of man, for all that man desires (caused by Adam’s self serving act, as opposed to selfless desires) creates a self-justification for the attainment of the pleasure, and thereby shortly thereafter, we find jealousy, murder, until the world descends into total chaos and a great deluge (flood) wipes out humanity, save a few precious souls.
For another five hundred years or so things don’t properly improve until Abraham rediscovers God, rejecting the paganism and cult worship of his time and then God begins his spiritual “descent” back into the world, so we can experience his presence.
At the giving of the Torah (Ten Commandments) the Jewish people as well as the Egyptians who came out of Egypt joining the free ride, experienced God, saw how his reality is the only real reality, and all others are superimposed.
Then this high was lost at the sinning of the golden calf that the Egyptians convinced the Jews in, having feared that Moses abandoned them, because again it was not a spiritual high that God was after (for all is designed by God, both the high and the “mistake” that causes the fall) rather the labor of man to bring about the messianic age and utopian era of redemption.
To do this, the Jews had to enter into the real world, conquering Israel, setting up two holy temples (after three hundred and some years of the Mishkan / Tabernacle) and eventually take their precious values of peace, justice, charity and harmony into the rest of humanity; suffer extraordinary persecution by those forces that seek power above peace, that seek prestige above love, that seek totalitarianism above justice (e.g. Nazis, Arabs) and through their spilled blood, the nations in whose midst they lived, would come to realize their own foolishness and change their ways.
After two thousand years of wandering, after a holocaust that laid bare once and for all that conquest is evil, that murder reprehensible, and hence the Jewish values of peace, justice, charity and harmony were seared into the gentile world (perhaps excluding the Arabs who not only assisted the Nazis but continue to be belligerent.)
It is in this paradigm of peace, justice, charity and harmony that the messiah will find a ready audience.
So redemption is getting back to the natural state of reality whereby God’s presence will be seen, felt and experienced.
The redemption will come about – herald if you will – through a messiah, a man born of flesh and blood, and in the word of Maimonides, the only Jewish codifier based on Jewish sources of how to identify the messiah: “If a king will arise from the House of David who diligently contemplates the Torah and observes its mitzvot, as prescribed by the Written Law and the Oral Law as David, his ancestor – will compel all of Israel to walk in (the way of the Torah) – and rectify the breaches in its observance – and fight the wars of God – we may, with assurance, consider him Mashiach.
If he succeeds in the above, builds the Temple in its place, and gathers the dispersed of Israel, he is definitely the Mashiach.
He will then improve the entire world, motivating all the nations to serve God together, as Tzephaniah 3:9 states: ‘I will transform the peoples to a purer language that they all will call upon the name of God and serve Him with one purpose.”
In other words, the Jewish belief has always been that there are two stages, the first is when the messiah builds his credentials in the reality of today and the second is when he heralds in the redemption of tomorrow.
One of the primary differences between the two parallel redemptions, namely that from Egypt and of the soon to be messianic one, is the nature of the audience.
In other words, when the Jews were in Egypt, all they really knew was that they were Jews – culturally even religiously, they were idol worshiping Egyptians.
In contrast to this, the world today is far more defined, far more unique, far more certain, far more Jewish i.e. the values of justice, peace, charity and harmony than ever before.