Understanding the similarities and differences
There exists, today, three major monotheistic religions. One began some 3500 years ago, being Judaism. The second, Christianity, began about 2000 years ago, and is directly derived from Judaism. The third, Islam, began about 1400 years ago, and draws upon many of the basics of both Judaism and Christianity.
It should not be too surprising, then, that all three of these religions have many similarities in their eschatological outlook (the end times). It is our intention to examine some of these similarities, and in so doing perhaps gain greater insight into the particulars of Christian eschatology, and thus a greater understanding of what is going on in the world today.
There is agreement on several particular points: (1) that the world, as we know it, will come to an end; (2) that this end will be judgment by God (or in the case of Islam, Allah); (3) that the world will be in frightful shape when this judgment descends from above, and; (4)a person known as Messiah (Judaism), Christ Jesus (Christianity) or Mahdi (Islam) will be the prime mover in the dispensing of justice on this earth prior to it's complete destruction.
At the core of interest in this study will be the particulars of these individuals; not only who they are according to each religions tradition and interpretations, but the part they will play in bringing an out of control world back into line with God.
We will begin by presenting an overview of each religions basic view of the end times. Keep in mind it is not our purpose to be either exhaustive in addressing all of the facets of each religion, or to follow one particular sects versions of events. For that reason, each presentation will combine the views of the observant, secular and orthodox Jews, the Sunni and Shia Islam, and dispensational Christianity.
The Jewish View
In the eyes, tradition, and history of the Jews is an understanding, deeply ingrained in all that they do, that God will eventually deliver Israel from all their troubles, and will re-establish Israel as the head of all nations under the leadership of a descendent of King David. This time,according to Jewish thought, will be a time of sublime perfection, with an absence of war, strife, starvation, want, disease or any imperfection. Even the animals will get along, with lions and lambs in harmony, and swords (or implements of war) being beaten into plowshares (tools of agriculture). This is referred to as the Messianic Age. However, this time will only come after a period of trouble (referred to in scripture as the "time of Jacobs trouble) during which time Israel will be compassed about by enemies, and on the verge of complete destruction. At this point in time, a messiah will arrive who will miraculously snatch victory from the hands of the attackers, and will not only restore Israel, but will also restore the Throne of David, rebuild the Temple and re-estasblish the Sanhedrin and Levitical priesthood along with sacrifices and oblations.
Of particular interest is the book of Daniel, specifically chapters 7 thru 12, where Daniel lays out the framework and some specifics regarding the end of days. Chapters 9 and 11 especially hold forth many details concerning a particularly vile "king" that sets the stage for the Christian understanding of the "anti-christ", or false messiah. Chapter 12 adds to other prophets writings concerning the "time of Jacobs trouble".We must interject here the fact that in Matthew 24 and 25, Jesus makes specific reference to the prophecies of Daniel concerning the end of days, this "vile person" and the events that will transpire.
For a more detailed look at the Jewish eschatological outlook, see this study on this site.
Jewish Signs of the End
According to Sanhedrin 97b, there are ten specific signs that will accompany the "birth pangs" of the end times.
- 1. The world is either all righteous or all guilty
- 2. Truth is in short supply
- 3. Inflation will soar
- 4. Israel begins to be repopulated
- 5. Wise people will be scarce
- 6. Jews will despair of redemption
- 7. The young will despise the old
- 8. Scholarship will be rejected
- 9. Piety will be held in disgust
- 10. Jews will turn against Jews
The Christian View
Christian eschatology is centered in Judaic tradition and belief. Much of the New Testament contains repeated references to Old Testament sayings concerning the end of times. While the OT contains many references to the end times and the Messianic Age, they are generally a "framework" that is fleshed out and filled in with many of the NT passages and books, particularly Revelation.
Christian eschatology foresees a time to come when the world in general is in chaos, the things and people of God are maligned and persecuted, and Israel itself is in grave danger. At the point in time when Israel is surrounded by her enemies and appears to be in danger of extinction, the "vile person" described by Daniel will appear, and through various means seem to "rescue" Israel from the brink. This person, known in Christian circles by the term anti-christ, and referred to in the NT as "the beast", ushers in the period known as the "tribulation".
During the first 3 and one-half years following his "salvation" of Israel, he manages to arrange for the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem, paving the way for the re-institution of sacrifices. He also manages to gain essential control of all the nations of the world through economic and military means. At the halfway point of the 7 year tribulation, he invades Jerusalem, and stands in the Holy of Holies in the Temple, and declares himself god. It is at this point that the warning of Jesus in Mat. 25:15-22 becomes apparent, and the "great tribulation" or Time of Jacob's Trouble really begins. Another view and description of this time can be found in Joel 2 where it is referred to as "the day of the Lord". Compare Joel's description of that day to Revelation 5-16 and John's descriptions of the 21 judgments of God poured out on the earth.
The tribulation period comes to an end when Jesus returns to this earth, setting His feet on Mt. Zion and destroying all foes and casting the "man of sin" into the lake of fire. After this begins the "millennial reign" of Christ, which is the same as the Jewish Messianic Age.
Christian Signs of the End
- 1. False christs (Matthew 24:5)
- 2. Famines & earthquakes (Matthew 24:7)
- 3. Wars between nations (Matthew 24:7)
- 4. Israel reestablished(Isaiah 11:11-12)
The Islamic View
Islam adopted from Judaism and Christianity the doctrine of a coming judgment, a resurrection of the dead, and everlasting punishments and rewards; the righteous are rewarded with the pleasures of Jannah (Paradise or the garden of Heaven, from the Hebrew gan or garden), while the unrighteous are punished in Jahannam (a fiery Hell, from the Hebrew ge-hinnom or 'valley of Hinnom'; usually rendered in English as Gehenna). A significant part of the Quran deals with these beliefs, with many hadith (sayings) elaborating on the themes and details.
Of paramount interest within the Islamic view is that there will come a person they refer to as "Ad Dajjal", which carries the same meaning as the Christian "anti-christ" or the Jewish "false messiah". While the hadith contain many details about Ad Dajjal concerning his looks, and where he will go and not go, the essence of his description is that he will appear to be good, but will be bad....very, very bad. Both paradise and hell will accompany him, but the paradise is really hell, and the hell is extreme.Interestingly, some of the hadith refer to ad dajjal as Shaytan-the devil.
Just as the Jews have a "messiah", or anointed one, and the Christians have Jesus Christ (same meaning), the Islamists have a "Mahdi", or "guided one". This Mahdi is supposed to be an anointed messenger of God who will appear to lead Muslims to preeminence in the world, put an end to wars and strife, and reign for either 7, 8, 9 or 40 years.
According to what are called "twelver" Shia, the coming Mahdi is actually the twelfth Imam, who was hidden by God in a well and is still alive, waiting on his time to be called forth and deliver the world. All branches of Islam believe in the Mahdi, but diverge on just who it might be.
According to the President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Mahdi is in a well in the Iranian city of Qom, and he has spoken with him. At one point shortly after taking office, Ahmadinejad had all of his appointed ministers sign an oath declaring support for Mahdi, and throwing the paper down the well so Mahdi could read it. Ahmadinejad seems to believe, and has so stated on numerous occasions, that he believes that it is his responsibility to do whatever it takes to cause Mahdi to come forth. As we will see in the following sections, this makes Ahmadinejad's job one of creating chaos, not suppressing it.
Islamic Signs of the End
- 1. Gross materialism
- 2. Women outnumber men
- 3. Muslims defeat Jews in battle; Muslims and Christians battle unbelievers together, then Muslims defeat Christians in battle.
According to Moojan Momen (a Ba'hai theologian), among the most commonly reported signs that presage the advent of the Mahdi in Shia Islam are the following:
- Before his coming will come the red death and the white death. The red death is the sword and the white death is plague.
- Several figures will appear: the one-eyed Antichrist (Masih ad-Dajjal), the Sufyani (an evil tyrant...not dajjal) and the Yamani (unknown).
- The Muslims will throw off the reins and take possession of their land, throwing out the authority of the foreigners.
- There will be a great conflict in the land of Syria, until it is destroyed
- Death and fear will afflict the people of Baghdad and Iraq. A fire will appear in the sky and a redness will cover them.
Connecting the dots
We can see, even in this short comparison, the parallels and similarities that exist within the three religions. Let's go ahead and make a general list that shows these amazing "coincidences" in eschatological thought.
- 1. There is a definite end to this world as we know it
- 2. The general state of this world will be one of chaos characterized by widespread strife, famine, disease and economic instability
- 3. Deliverance from this state of chaos will come in the person of a deliverer, or messiah
- The arrival of this "deliverer" will be characterized by a tremendous increase in war
- 4. After the deliverer defeats all enemies, there will be a period of peace, justice and equity before the world is wiped out and then recreated.
Within the context of these four major areas, we can see other similarities. In Judaism, the Messiah will save Israel from sure annihilation, and restore it to a position of leadership and greatness in the world stage. While there is little said about an individual being responsible for the calamities and attacks that press upon Israel prior to the appearance of the Messiah, it can only be supposed that an individual is somewhere behind the scenes directing and leading the Arabic nations (read Islamic) that are confronting her.
In Christianity, this period of "great tribulation" will be brought about by a single individual who rises to power over a consortium of nations, and by dint of both economic and military power creates this period of "great tribulation such as has not been seen before, or ever will be again." It is only by the arrival of the real Messiah that Israel and the world is spared complete annihilation.
In Islam, trouble and chaos is precipitated by the arrival of Ad Dajjal, who seduces people and nations into following him. The Mahdi then arrives, followed by Isa (Jesus), who together wipe out Dajjal, Israel, and all non-believers (non-Islamic)
As we look on the world today, we can certainly see all of the characteristics and signs of "the end" promulgated within each of these religions. Certainly, we have wars. While we always have, it seems they are getting to be more numerous, closer together in time, more costly, and encompassing a vastly wider range of people and territories. Famines are increasing in more diverse areas of the world, no longer limited to just the desert areas. Genocide and ethnic cleansing are becoming commonplace, and pestilence and disease run rampant through much of the world. Even the modernized and progressive civilizations of the west are no longer free from this horseman, as antibiotic resistant "superbugs" are showing up in hospitals. Even diseases thought to have been vanquished (TB, polio, plague, and more) are rearing their ugly heads in new strains.
With a world population of over 6 billion, those who hold to no particular religion or spiritual belief is estimated to be as much as 40%, up from less that 20% just 15 short years ago.
The economic woes that are currently upsetting markets all across the world can be attributed to a single cause...gross materialism. As certain countries have flourished, greed has manifested itself in greater and more innovative ways. It is no longer uncommon for the leadership of not only businesses, but countries, to lie, cheat and steal and find unique ways to line their pockets or gratify their narcissistic egos. Books get cooked, stocks manipulated, money printing presses run overtime, and governments and people are propped up or torn down according to the whims of those who find it within their power to do so. Inflation runs rampant, exceeding 2000% in some nations. Truly, a loaf of bread (a measure of wheat) costs a days wage....or more. There is some question as to how long the world's leading economic power (the US) will be able to stay afloat because of crippling debt and a government that doesn't care if it gets bigger.
In Israel, Jews are fighting Jews over settlements in the West Bank. In the middle east in general, Muslims are fighting Muslims (and Jews) in Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Syria and Libya. The entire middle east is beginning to resemble Momem's description of "a fire will appear in the sky and a redness will cover them".
In Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad believes that it is his purpose in life to foment discord and war, to wipe out Israel, and to bring the world to the point described in the hadith and Quran where the Mahdi MUST appear, so that all infidels will be slaughtered and the remainder converted to a world wide Islamic caliphate. Small wonder then, that he has no real interest in curtailing his nuclear ambitions or development. He's going to have a war, one way or another!!!
There have been, in the past year or so, a large number of books being written where it is emphatically stated that the antichrist is one and the same as the Islamic Mahdi. Since most of these books and writers have been elevated to “best seller” status, or appear on multiple TV programs and hold big conferences, one might assume that they have the answer down pat. Still others have linked the person presented by Benjamin Creme as “the christ”, one Maitreya, as the 12th Imam, or Mahdi, currently lurking in the shadows somewhere waiting on his chance to shine.
I've never written a book (that got published), much less been on a best seller list. I haven't been invited to be on anyone's TV show, declared to be an expert in prophecy, or hosted or spoken at any big conferences. I have, however, read the Bible many times, and I find some scriptures that certainly put a big stumbling block in the way of these theories.
The book of Daniel is accepted by most who seriously study prophecy as being a very important text. Within Daniel are some interesting comments that usually seem to get passed over. Let's look at some of them, and using our brains take a good hard look at what these scriptures imply.
Let's begin with Dan 9:26 “And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof [shall be] with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined.”
Here we have a definitive statement concerning this “prince”, later described as a “desolater”. First he is going to be a leader of a certain group of people, that people being those who will “destroy the city (Jerusalem) and the sanctuary (Temple). In the Traditionalist view, the book of Daniel was penned between 605 and 562 BC, while Daniel was captive in Babylonia. This effectively eliminates consideration of the first Temple as to who destroyed it. The second temple, begun in approximately 538 BC and completed in 515 BC remained standing in Jerusalem, and was renovated by Herod in about 15 BC. In 70 AD, the Romans completely destroyed the Temple, fulfilling not only Daniel's prophecy, but the prophecy made by Jesus when He told his disciples that “not one stone shall be left standing that shall not be thrown down” (Mat. 24:2).
While neither I nor anyone else can definitively say that the coming anti-christ is going to be a Roman, we can say that he will be a leader of a group of people from that area of the world. Most prophecy scholars believe that the group, or “people” being led by the anti-christ will be a consortium of nations that roughly encompass the area once controlled by the Roman Empire of Jesus' time. Since the Roman Empire covered a vast part of the known world, it still leaves a lot of ground for this person to come from, including much of what is now called the middle east.
In Dan 9:27 we see “ And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week:..”. The word for covenant here is “beryith”, which means agreement, treaty or alliance. Apparently, the anti-christ is in a sufficient position of power to be able to make and enforce (confirm) some kind of treaty. With whom? Since Daniel is writing about what is to happen to the Jews, it must be....the Jews!
Also in Dan. 9:27 we see “...and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease ...”. This of necessity indicates that if he can cause the sacrifices to stop, they must have started. And, they can only start if there is a Temple to have them in. Ergo, the temple destroyed in 70 AD has been rebuilt.
In Daniel 11 there begins a narrative that covers a long span of time concerning kings and leaders that shall rise, fight against each other, and disappear. Wars will rage from north to south, east to west. At the end, though we see Dan 11:21 “And in his estate shall stand up a vile person, to whom they shall not give the honour of the kingdom: but he shall come in peaceably, and obtain the kingdom by flatteries.” This describes a person who will rise to power through deceit. Apparently, this person is not one who comes from “royalty”, and has not been recognized as a leader by his peers and “bosses”, but through deceit and flattery will manage to gain a position of leadership.
Dan 11:23 “ And after the league [made] with him he shall work deceitfully: for he shall come up, and shall become strong with a small people. “ Somehow, this person will be able to use his relatively small consortium (small people) in a manner that is out of proportion, strength-wise, to it's size, all the while using deceitful tactics to gain more power.
Here, though, we begin to see a few words that go far (in my opinion) to giving us better clues as to who this vile person, beast, false messiah is...not by name, but by background.
In Dan 11:24 “ He shall enter peaceably even upon the fattest places of the province; and he shall do [that] which his fathers have not done, nor his fathers' fathers; he shall scatter among them the prey, and spoil, and riches: [yea], and he shall forecast his devices against the strong holds, even for a time.”
Keeping in mind that Daniel (a Jew) is writing to Jews about Jewish things, it is reasonable to assume several things in this verse. First, that the province being referred to is Israel...not Babylon, not Chittim, not Persia or Syria, simply because the other locations are usually named as such. Note that this person “enters peaceably even upon the fattest places...”. This certainly indicates that he is accepted by Jewish leaders as a personage worthy of being invited, escorted or shown the best that Israel has (the fattest places).
At this point, I would like to ask you to seriously consider the following: If this vile person is the Mahdi of Islamic thought, and given the stated (by Hadith) purposes of the Mahdi to unite Islam, and wage war against the Jews (and Christians), would the Jewish nation and leaders be inclined to accept him as a person of peace whose purpose is to help restore not only Israel, but Judaism and the Temple? I'm inclined to think not. However, as explained in my study on Jewish eschatology, Jews generally are willing to accept that any person could fulfill their view of a (little m) messiah. Indeed, they have considered a number of known pagans in the past to have been messiahs, sent by God for a purpose. Keep also in mind that the Quran gives an Islamist free reign to dissemble or outright lie to anyone other than a Muslim for a purpose (Surah 5:89, 2:225, 16:106, Ehiaa Oloum al-Din, Vol. 3, pp284-287). As we shall see, the eventual purpose of this anti-christ is to destroy Israel. However, I don't think that anyone proclaimed as Mahdi, or 12th Imam by Ahmadinejad or any other Islamic leader or country would be seen by the Jews as a “reformed” Muslim bent on helping instead of hurting.
In Dan 11:31 we see “ And arms shall stand on his part, and they shall pollute the sanctuary of strength, and shall take away the daily [sacrifice], and they shall place the abomination that maketh desolate.”
This occurs after a series of battles that the anti-christ is involved in regarding a rebellion “in the ranks” of his combined nations, and against his leadership. He prevails, and returns to Jerusalem where he “... shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvellous things against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished.” This event also corresponds to Dan. 11:36, and to Jesus' admonition to His disciples in Mat. 24:15 about seeing the “abomination of desolation.” It is at this point in time that the “great tribulation” begins, signifying that 3 and a half years (time, times, and half a time) remain before Jesus' descent on to the Mt. Of Olives.
So what do we have here? Jews expect a Messiah, but say that he is not divine, and he is to pragmatically fulfill certain expectations. Muslims expect a Messiah, and say that he will unite all Muslims, wage war against the Jews and infidels, and get help in killing ad-Dajjal (Shaytan) from Isa (Jesus). The Christians expect a Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, who will destroy the anti-christ, and imprison Satan.
I personally do not see how the Islamic version of messiah, or the Mahdi, could possibly be the anti-christ, since he would not be acceptable in any manner to the Jews. We cannot forget that the anti-christ is going to make a treaty of protection with the Jews, so somehow or another he will have to be a person whose heritage is not antithetical to Judaism. There are some verses in Daniel that even leave the vague possibility that this person is going to have Jewish roots, which would go a long way towards explaining why the Jews would trust him.
The upshot of this is that the main characters in all three religions bear striking similarities to one another...an anti-christ, or false messiah, a false prophet, or Sufyani or Yamani, all empowered by the devil, or ad-dajjal, and the one and only REAL Messiah, Jesus Christ.