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Sin, forgiveness and talk about “end times”

God’s awesome grace, mercy and forgiveness

Sam Muhammad Jeddah Red Sea

Sam with friend Muhammad al Jishi on the bank of the Red Sea. The two men often discuss the many theological commonalities of Islam and Christianity.

Last night I had an amazing discussion with my Palestinian friend Muhammad al Jishi. I had been studying the subject of “sin and its forgiveness” as understood by Muslims, Jews and Christians.

As I spoke of what I had found, Muhammed eagerly recited a prayer of the Prophet Mohammed that I had not heard. There are several references to the Prophet’s prayer in Islamic hadiths (sayings).

The prayer goes, “O God, I seek refuge with You from laziness (that comes) from geriatric old age, from being in debt, and from committing sins. O God! I seek refuge with You from the punishment of the Hell Fire, the afflictions of the grave, the punishment in the grave, and the evil of the affliction of poverty and from the evil of the affliction caused by Al Masih Ad-Dajjal. O God! Wash away my sins with the water of snow and hail, and cleanse my heart from the sins as a white garment is cleansed of filth, and let there be a far-away distance between me and my sins as You have set far away the East and the West from each other.”

As Muhammed recited this prayer, immediately two scripture passages from the Torah popped into my mind.  I had memorized them long ago. I quoted these verses to Muhammad. He, too, was amazed at the close similarities.

Here are the Torah passages: The first is a statement by the prophet Isaiah “‘Come now, let us settle the matter,’ says the LORD. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like (white) wool’” (Isaiah 1:18 NIV). And the second is a passage penned by the prophet King David,  “He made known his ways to Moses, his deeds to the people of Israel: The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions (sins) from us” (Psalm 103:7-12 NIV). In still another Psalm, David cries out to God, “Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow” (Psalm 51:7 NIV).

Now, higher textual critics might try to argue that the Prophet Muhammad had in some way come in contact with a copy of the Torah before he authored his prayer. But there is no evidence that the Prophet ever saw these verses, and it is well known that the Prophet Mohammad was illiterate–not able to either read or write.

My Palestinian friend’s explanation was excitedly clear, “See, Sam! The same God who revealed his words to the prophets David and Isaiah also revealed these same truths to Prophet Mohammad.”

The Antichrist appears

An archangel of God will sound a sudden trumpet call at the great resurrection.

An archangel of God will sound a sudden trumpet call to summon the great resurrection and calling the living and the dead to judgment.

There were four Arabic words in the prayer, however, that I didn’t clearly understand—the words “Al Masih ad-Dijjal.” I recognized al Masih as meaning “the Messiah,” but soon I would realize that when combined with ad Dijjal (“the false”), it would mean the “false Messiah.” I discovered that these words refer to the coming of the Antichrist.  In essence, the Prophet Muhammad is saying, “O God, save me from the evil of the affliction that will be caused by the Antichrist.”

Having grown up in evangelical Christian circles, I realize that Evangelicals and Muslims share a common belief in remarkably similar end-time scenarios. According to both faiths, the “end times” are quickly approaching, and soon all humankind will be held accountable.

Eschatology (from the Greek word eskatos which means last) in both Islam and Christianity speak of a coming  Day of Resurrection, also known by Christians as the Rapture.  There will be a sudden, loud trumpet call from the heavens, when the living and the dead will be gathered to face the al Qiyāmah or Great Judgment.

According to Islam, this will be the day that all humankind, past and present, are presented before the judgment seat of God to answer for their faith or unbelief in God and his revealed word. All men and women will be held accountable for those good and bad things done on earth against God and to others.

The time of the event is not specified, although there are major and minor signs which have been foretold to happen, that will bring about the end of time and judgment. There are many verses in the Qur’an, the Torah and the New Testament that contain information about this impending Day of Resurrection and/or Day of Judgment.

End times and the return of Messiah Jesus

Peace lion lamb

The prophet Isaiah describes a future time of peace on earth when “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them” (Isaiah 11:6). Some Christians believe this is a reference to the Millennium–1000 years  of peace to come.

Like Christianity, Islam not only teaches a resurrection of the dead and the Day of Judgment, it also speaks about a final tribulation and eternal division of the righteous and wicked. Islamic apocalyptic literature, as do Christian prophecies, describes a final battle between Satan and God as Armageddon, often known in Arabic as fitnah, malāhim (or ghaybah in Shī‘a Islam). And both Christianity and Islam teach that the righteous will be rewarded with the eternal pleasures of Jannah (paradise or heaven), while the unrighteous are punished forever in Jahannam (hell).

Much of the writing and teaching about the end times is apocalyptic, frightening and threatening. Many mainstream churches will tell you to not take these teachings literally.

A period of tribulation is also described in Qur’anic hadiths with various levels of ecclesiastical veracity, support and enlightenment. But, it’s true the hadiths describe the end times with more specificity than the Qur’an, freely warning of signs that will proceed the end of life as we know it.

The Torah, the New Testament and the Qur’an all describe times of terrible corruption and chaos along with heavenly signs, wars and seismic activity. Messiah Jesus will return, will do battle with the Antichrist or Satan. and will triumph; leading to the liberation of many who have been incarcerated because of fighting against Antichrist. This is said to be followed by a time of serenity with all people living godly values, true to their faith.

This period of peace is referred to by many Christians as the Great Millennium—a thousand years of peace on earth where Christ will rule and every knee shall bow in obedience to him and God (Philippians 2:10).

While there are significant differences in the interpretation of revelation, even among Christians (Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox), I was surprised to learn that Muslims, too, eagerly anticipate the return of the Messiah Jesus and are commanded in the Qur’an to listen to his instruction and obey him. “When Jesus came with clear signs, he said: ‘Now have I come to you with wisdom, and in order to make clear to you some of the (points) on which you dispute: therefore fear God and obey me” (Qur’an 43:63).

Warning! 

Anyone who tells you they know who the Antichrist will be, beware! There are millions of fierce opinions out there, and people will fight at the drop of the hat to defend their personal interpretations of the holy books and beliefs. Eschatology easily turns into belligerent, antagonistic squabbling over who has the truth about the future.

In the meantime, I find it much safer to leave the guessing and theatrics to Hollywood or the tabloid news media!

Jesus himself warned us that many false “christs” will come, adding, “So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the desert,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it” (Matthew 24: 26 NIV).

Many have used the notion of the Antichrist to do harm or to pray down the wrath of God on another leader or their political opponents. Remember this bizarre indictment during the 2008 US presidential campaign?

References: Wikipedia, CNN, The Holy Qur’an Text and Commentary by Abdullah Yusuf Ali, The Bible (New International Version)

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March 3, 2013 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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