Friday, October 26, 2007

Islam and Revelation

From the time that John wrote his Revelation of Jesus Christ in the first century AD, there has been much speculation about the identity of the Beast from the Sea (Revelation 13), more commonly referred to in theology and culture as the Antichrist. Recent events may offer some clues as about the background of this future world figure.

There are several reasons to speculate that the Antichrist will lead an army of Muslims against Israel in the latter days. The most obvious of these is that the Antichrist is out to destroy Israel. Israel has been in a constant state of war with its Muslim neighbors since its inception in 1947.

Hostility to Israel

As British forces withdrew from Palestine in 1948 to allow its partition into two states, one Jewish and one Arab, a combined force of the armies of Jordan, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia invaded the Jewish state on multiple fronts. Azzam Pasha, Secretary-General of the Arab League, stated, “This will be a war of extermination and a momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacres and the Crusades."

Israel’s War of Independence ended with an armistice in 1949, but the fighting never really stopped. Arab fedayeen guerillas attacked Israeli towns and citizens in terrorist style attacks.

In 1956, Israel invaded the Sinai Peninsula with British and French support in response to an Arab blockade and boycott of Israeli shipping and the Egyptian seizure of the Suez Canal. Prior to the war, Egyptian President Gamal Nasser said, “There will be no peace on Israel's border because we demand vengeance, and vengeance is Israel's death.”

Low intensity guerilla warfare continued until 1967 when Nasser rallied Arab nations to attack Israel once again. Israeli forces launched a pre-emptive strike against Egypt on June 5, 1967 to start the Six Day War. When the smoke cleared, Israel had captured the Sinai and the Gaza Strip from Egypt, the West Bank (of the Jordan River) from Jordan, and the Golan Heights from Syria. Following the Arab defeat, Egypt launched the War of Attrition, a limited war against Israel that continued until Nasser’s death in 1970.

The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) staged terror and guerilla attacks against Israel throughout most of Israel’s history. The PLO was given sanctuary at various times by Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon. This eventually prompted Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982 and the partial occupation of Lebanon by Israel until 2000.

Terror attacks, as well as artillery and rocket attacks, continue against Israel to this day. The First Intifada started in the West Bank in 1987 and the Second, or al-Aqsa, Intifada began in 2000. The Intifadas were marked by civilian deaths on both sides. Israel unilaterally withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005, but fighting and terror attacks continue there. From Lebanon, Hezbollah continues to attack northern areas of Israel. In 2006, these attacks sparked yet another brief war.

Revelation 17:16 states that the armies of the world will gather together at Armageddon. Armageddon is a Hebrew word that literally means “Hill of Megiddo.” Megiddo itself means “to cut off” (Nelson Study Bible, pp. 2190). Today, Megiddo is a town in Israel located approximately 100 miles north of Jerusalem, and is on a traditional invasion route to Jerusalem.

In John’s day, Megiddo was a strategic junction and the site of several battles throughout history. Interestingly, the Battle of Megiddo in the 15th century BC (between Egypt and the Canaanites) was the first battle to be recorded for history. John’s readers would remember Megiddo as the place where King Josiah was defeated by the Egyptians in 609 BC (2 Kings 23:29) and would associate it with slaughter.

When the armies of the world gather at Armageddon, they are presumably on their way to attack Jerusalem. In addition to the traditional enmity between the Arabs and Israelis, the Muslims have another motive to attack Jerusalem. Jerusalem is home to the oldest existing Islamic building in the world.

The Dome of the Rock mosque is located on what is widely believed to be the location of the ancient Jewish temple. The mosque was constructed in AD 630 on the site where Muslims believe that Mohammed, accompanied by Gabriel, ascended to Heaven to receive Islamic prayers from the prophets. Orthodox Jews believe that Abraham was instructed to sacrifice Isaac and Jacob dreamed of angels climbing a ladder on the same spot.

The Dome of the Rock is considered very sacred to Muslims. So sacred, in fact, that when Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon merely visited the Temple Mount in 2000, it set off Muslim riots. The Israeli occupation of Jerusalem is considered an affront to Allah and could easily lead to a war of liberation.

Similarly, Daniel 9:27 refers to a covenant (treaty or agreement) between the Antichrist and Israel. A treaty would only be notable in prophecy if it were highly unusual and notable. A peace agreement between the Arabs and the Israelis has been sought after for longer than Israel has been a nation, yet seems as far away now as ever.

One World Religion

Another similarity between the ideology of radical Islamists and John’s prophecy is the desire of the radicals to promote Islam as the one religion of the world. John wrote in Revelation 13 about a Beast from the Earth who would deceive people and trick them into worshipping the Antichrist. People who refuse are executed.

Today, radical Muslims are already calling for a the establishment of a worldwide caliphate. Al Qaeda’s charter states bluntly that “There Will Be Continuing Enmity Until Everyone Believes In Allah. We Will Not Meet [The Enemy] Halfway And There Will Be No Room For Dialogue With Them.” Similarly, Ayman al-Zawahiri said “The whole world is an open field for us."

Persecution of Christians

The Revelation is full of references to persecution of Christians and those who refuse to worship the Antichrist. Revelation 6:9-11 speaks of martyred Christians asking God when He will take vengeance on their killers. Revelation 13:7 and 17:6 also refer to persecution of Christians.

Muslim persecution of Christians is currently at a very high rate. In some cases, the persecution is the work of mobs and militant groups, such as attacks on Christians and churches in Indonesia that have cost thousands of lives. In other Muslim countries, the persecution is government sponsored. For example, in Saudi Arabia Christians are not allowed to have worship services or attempt to convert Muslims. Those who break these laws face jail time, deportation, or execution. In several countries, Muslims who have converted to Christianity have been executed. One of the first modern attempts at genocide was the Armenian Genocide, in which the Muslim government of the Ottoman Empire, today’s Turkey, killed thousands of Armenian Christians during WW I.

Revelation 20:4 is another verse that foretells persecution of Christians. This verse is unique, however, because it tells specifically how they are executed. According to John, the forces of the Antichrist behead followers of Christ.

In today’s world, beheading is associated with Al-Qaeda terrorists in Iraq who murder hostages by cutting their heads off, but other Islamic nations and groups also practice beheading. Abu Sayyaf, an Al-Qaeda affiliated group in the Philippines, practices beheading. Muslim members of the Bosnian army practiced ritual beheadings of Serb prisoners during the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s. Islamic Chechen soldiers beheaded captured Russian soldiers and hostages during the Chechen Wars. Saudi Arabia is probably the largest current practitioner of beheadings. Amnesty International reports that over 100 Saudi prisoners have been decapitated in 2007.

Babylon

An additional hint of the Muslim involvement in the end times is the location of the Antichrist’s seat of power: Babylon. Jewish readers in John’s day would have recognized Babylon as the power that destroyed the ancient Israelite kingdom and led the Jews in captivity in 586 BC. Babylon itself eventually declined and the prophet Jeremiah wrote that it would never be rebuilt (51:26).

Saddam Hussein did not believe Jeremiah’s prophecy and started rebuilding Babylon in 1985. The United Nations may pick up where Saddam left off. The International Herald Tribune reports that UNESCO is looking for investors to turn Babylon into a tourist attraction (http://www.iht.com/articles/2006/04/13/news/babylon.php).

If John is correct, before Jeremiah’s prophecy becomes complete, Babylon will reemerge the world’s commercial center and the capitol of the Antichrist’s government. The location of Babylon in Iraq implies another Muslim connection. Revelation chapter 18 describes final destruction of Babylon.

Daniel’s Clues

An additional clue to the identity of the Antichrist is found in Daniel 9:26. Daniel says that the “people of the prince who is to come” will destroy Jerusalem and the Temple. The Romans destroyed the Temple in AD 70, so the Antichrist could come be someone of Roman descent. The Roman Empire surrounded the Mediterranean Sea, an area which is largely dominated by Muslims today. Even European countries are becoming increasingly Muslim through immigration. Today Italy, the seat of the Roman Empire has a Muslim population of about 2.4%.

Daniel 9:27 refers to an abomination in the Jewish temple. This will be some sort of desecration of a temple that has yet to be built. Arab armies have desecrated Jewish synagogues, cemeteries, and holy sites in past wars.

Many Orthodox Jews believe that the Temple will be rebuilt soon. The Temple Mount Faithful is a group dedicated to rebuilding the Temple. They already have the cornerstone and many of the sacred temple vessels ready. The only obstacle is the fact that the Dome of the Rock currently sits atop the site of the ancient Temple.

Ezekiel describes a new Temple that has not yet been built in chapters 40 through 48. Interestingly enough, this follows immediately after the prophecy of the War of Gog and Magog in chapters 38-39. (Ezekiel 37 describes the reconstitution of Israel as a nation. This prophecy was fulfilled in 1948.) Joel Rosenberg’s book, Epicenter, describes this prophecy in detail. Rosenberg believes that the War of Gog and Magog will be a war in which Russia, Iran, and their allies, predominantly Muslim nations, attack Israel and are supernaturally destroyed by God. It is possible that the Dome of the Rock will also be destroyed in this war, paving the way for a new Jewish Temple.

There is much circumstantial evidence that points to a Muslim link with the forces of the Antichrist, but the most chilling connection comes from a sect of Shia Islam known as Twelver Islam.

The Mahdi

To understand Twelver Islam, we must first understand the origin of the split between Sunni and Shia Islam. Shortly after the death of Mohammed in AD 632, a disagreement arose over who should take his place at the helm of Islam. The Shia believe that Mohammed ordained Ali, his cousin and son-in-law, and his descendents to succeed him. The Sunnis believe that Abu Bakr, Mohammed’s father-in-law and a Muslim leader, was the rightful head of Islam.
Abu Bakr eventually gained control of the Ummah, the nation of Islam and today approximately 90% of all Muslims are Sunni. Al Qaeda is a Sunni organization. The Shia, which means the “Party of Ali,” predominantly live located in Iraq and Iran.

The Shia believe that there were twelve imams, religious leaders who were directly descended from the prophet Mohammed. The twelfth imam, who is also the current imam, has been absent from the earth for over one thousand years.

The Twelfth Imam, Muhammad al-Mahdi, as a five-year-old child, is believed to have led a prayer at the funeral of his deceased father in AD 874. The Mahdi, or “Guided One,” reportedly disappeared into occultation (ghaybat), where he will remain until a time when Allah sends him to bring justice to the world.

The Mahdi is believed to have said, “During the last times, my people will be afflicted with terrible and unprecedented calamities and misfortunes from their rulers, so much so that this vast earth will appear small to them. Persecution and injustice will engulf the earth. The believers will find no shelter to seek refuge from these tortures and injustices. At such a time, God will raise from my progeny a man who will establish peace and justice on this earth in the same way as it had been filled with injustice and distress.”

When this chaos fills the world, Twelvers believe that the Mahdi will usher in an age in which Islam covers the world. Muhammad will reappear with the legendary sword, Zulfiqar, which was given to Ali by Mohammed the prophet. Muslims also believe that Jesus will return with the Mahdi and will replace the Bible with the Koran.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a believer in the Mahdi. Iran produces a main battle tank called the Zulfiqar and, in 2006, held wargames called The Blow of Zolfaghar.
Ahmadinejad is reported to believe that the return of the Mahdi can be hastened by creating chaos in the world. He has said that Israel occupies the Holy city, Jersusalem, and should be “wiped off the map.” He has also written an open letter to the American people that some interpret as a da’awah, a request for submission to Islam that is a necessary step toward a just war in the Islamic view. Together with Iran’s drive to produce a nuclear weapon, Ahmadinejad’s beliefs are especially disturbing. (http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/iran/ahmadinejad.htm)

Twelver beliefs are almost a mirror image of John’s prophecy. In the Twelver view, chaos and war will cause the return of the Mahdi who will convert the world to Islam and take Jerusalem from Israel. In John’s view, a demon-possessed leader will institute a single religion, persecute followers of Jesus, and attack the Holy city of Jerusalem. Could the two figures from different religions be the same man?

Mohammed claimed to receive revelations from God approximately six hundred years after Jesus Christ died and rose again. It is within the realm of possibility that the Enemy, seeing the growth of the Christian church throughout the known world, planted a seed that would blossom into a major religion poised for world domination fifteen hundred years later. John could have seen that members of that yet unborn religion would one day be in a position to challenge world superpowers and set the stage for the end of the world as we know it. The animosity between Isaac and Ishmael (Genesis 16), who sired the Jews and Arabs respectively, could be the origin of a nuclear holocaust in the end of days. Only time will tell.
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Source: Wikipedia.org except where noted

1 comment:

captainkudzu said...

John 16:1-3

"All this I have told you so that you will not go astray. They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me.