What Brings Peace

Finding peace in our hectic and chaotic world can be an elusive task. We all desire peace, whether it is between nation states, between family members, or in the depths of our own hearts. It’s the freedom to be unburdened by anxiety regardless of any situation. Peace is the ability to exist in harmony with others around us, even without unity or without being in perfect agreement. Both Islam and Christianity give advice on how to find such peace, but their methods are quite different.

In Christianity, God has much to say about peace. Jesus tells us that peace is one of the things that He grants to those who follow Him. Right after He tells His disciples about the Holy Spirit (John 14:26) He tells them that they will have peace (John 14:27). Indeed, peace is one of the aspects of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). Ultimately, this peace comes from God through His Son Jesus Christ (Acts 10:36). But this peace isn’t even some external emotion that God gives us. Rather, it is Christ Himself who is our peace (Ephesians 2:14). Peace is something we are to pursue (Romans 14:19). Letting go of anxiety, being in prayer, and being thankful (Philippians 4:6) help us tap into the peace that God gives us, and this peace is so vast and outrageous that it will make no sense to the world around us (Philippians 4:7)!

Yet there is another side to tapping into this peace. Ultimately, finding true peace is all predicated upon our having peace with God Himself (Romans 5:1). It was God who made peace with us by reconciling us to Himself through the forgiveness of sins. And notice what our response is to be (1 Corinthians 2:18-19).

18 Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.

In other words, since God has made peace with us by forgiving our trespasses, so too we are to go out and do the same with others (Matthew 6:14; Mark 11:25). Lack of peace comes from the refusal to forgive others. The bitterness and turmoil of not forgiving others only harms ourselves. The command for Christians to forgive others thus ultimately benefits our own state of mind. This call to forgive others because God has first forgiven us is perhaps stated no more clearly then in Ephesians 4:32.

Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

The bottom line is that peace comes through forgiveness. The Bible testifies to this truth, and my own personal experience backs this up as well. So what does Islam teach about finding peace, particularly as it relates to forgiveness?

There are various ways in which Islam discusses peace, including the Muslim greeting of “Salam Alaikum”, which means, “Peace be upon you.” This particular aspect of peace within Islam was discussed in a previous article. Yet the relationship between peace and forgiveness is not as well understood. It is seen in the context of one of the most violent verses of the Qur’an. While many people with knowledge of Islam are familiar with the first verse in this pair, not nearly as many are aware of the second.

[9.14] Fight them, Allah will punish them by your hands and bring them to disgrace, and assist you against them and heal the hearts of a believing people.
[9.15] And remove the rage of their hearts; and Allah turns (mercifully) to whom He pleases, and Allah is Knowing, Wise.

People often cite Surah 9:14, which commands Muslims to fight the unbelievers. However, what is discussed less often is the reason the Qur’an gives for them to do so. Specifically the Qur’an says that fighting the unbelievers will “heal their hearts” and “remove the rage of their hearts”.

So how do Muslims interpret this promise of the therapeutic impact of jihad? Respected Qur’an commentator Al-Maududi says that Allah promises jihad will “soothe the hearts of many believers.”[i] In other words, anxiety and pain can be eliminated by obeying this command to fight. Fighting is the curative remedy that will bring calming peace for the Muslim. Within Islam, peace is promised by waging jihad and through the ensuing conflict with those outside Islam. The Qur’an says that jihad is the balm that heals the anxious heart. As Mark Durie says, “Strange therapy indeed for the human soul!” [ii]

In Christianity, peace is found through forgiveness and reconciliation. In Islam, peace is found through jihad, killing, and conflict. I recognize that stating this may cause discomfort for readers, but it’s what the religious texts and Islamic commentators teach. If any Muslim reader would like to dispute these interpretations, I welcome your thoughts and opinions in the comments section of this article. For Christian readers, I suggest we work harder to befriend our Muslim neighbors so that they too can experience real peace.

[i] http://www.searchtruth.com/tafsir/tafsir.php?chapter=9

[ii] http://www.frontpagemag.com/2015/mark-durie/challenging-islams-warrant-to-kill/

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Who is the Beast

Eschatology is defined as the study of end time events. The interpretations of these future events can stir up controversy, particularly if certain viewpoints are embellished or overblown. So I tackle this next article with some trepidation, and therefore ask for some latitude. There is room for disagreement on these issues.

In Revelation 13:1, the Bible talks about a beast that will arise in the last days. Historically, a vast number of Biblical scholars nominated Rome and correspondingly some form of the papacy as this beast of Revelation 13. Additionally, commentators have been ridiculously sure of their understanding of such a difficult passage. Albert Barnes says that the details of the passage “make it morally certain that Rome, in some form of its administration is referred to. Of this there can be no doubt.”[i] To see how cemented this belief is, consider J.B. Phillips, who wrote a new translation of Revelation. Although he did not comment upon it, when reaching Revelation 13:18, he felt compelled to add a footnote stating “This number undoubtedly refers to NERO CAESER by means of a simple Hebrew cipher.”[ii] What is safe to say is that the “undoubtedly” certain interpretation of such an enigmatic passage should be highly suspect.

This view that the beast of Revelation 13 is some form of the revived Roman empire still holds weight today. However, a little investigation shows that some deep-seated problems with this view exist. For example, Dave Hunt recognized that the Bible speaks of an antichrist kingdom which encompasses a much larger territory than a revived Roman empire would currently control. To resolve this problem, Hunt devotes an entire chapter to describing how the Arab world must undergo significant and systemic change in order that it could unite with Europe and fit the mainstream interpretation. Hunt surmises that this melding of Europe and Islamic states cannot come about unless disillusionment with Islamic governments occurs, so he concludes such disillusionment must be “inevitable.”[iii] While clutching to the theory of a revived Roman Empire, he nevertheless recognizes Islam as the primary motivating factor in this crucial part of the world:

“It is impossible to understand the current situation in the Middle East, much less anticipate probable future developments there, except in the context of the religion that grips and motivates the Arab world.” [iv]

Hunt is correct that any analysis of the current global scenario cannot be accomplished without a fuller understanding of Islam. Certainly, the end times scenario must take Islam into account in a systematic and cogent manner. Yet how did so many scholars throughout the ages completely ignore Islam’s potential role and unswervingly look to Rome as the beast of Revelation 13? As it happens, throughout all ages of church history, there was always a minority opinion of those who saw Islam as the antichrist kingdom. Even those who held to the traditional Roman or papal view saw aspects which matched that of Islam if not named specifically.

The patristic authors could not conceive of a future religious force such as Islam, but Lactantius wrote that the Antichrist would come from Syria, currently an Islamic nation.[v] During the middle ages, John of Damascus identified Islam as “the forerunner of Antichrist”.[vi] The Spaniard Paulus Alveras wrote in the 9th century about the connection of Islam and the Antichrist. His contemporary, Eulogius wrote about the Christian martyrs of Cordoba who were killed by Muslims and said they fought “against the angel of Satan and forerunner of Antichrist”.[vii] In the 11th century, Joachin of Fiore held a view that linked the Roman Empire with the antichrist kingdom, but he also thought that the Antichrist would come to the aid of either Saladin or another Muslim ruler. [viii]

Martin Luther vehemently wrote about the Pope as the Antichrist. Yet in his commentary on Revelation, the glimmer of Islam sneaked in as he interpreted the three woes of Revelation 8:13 as the persecutions of Arian, Muhammad, and the Pope.[ix] In an even more dramatic statement, Luther said that “The pope is the spirit of Antichrist, and the Turk (Muslim) is the flesh of antichrist. They help each other in their murderous work.”[x]

Throughout the ages, there have been inklings of prominent Christian authors seeing Islam as having connection to the kingdom of antichrist. The point of these references is not to provide proof texts; far from it. The point is that the specter of Islam has always been subtly present in how the antichrist kingdom has been viewed through the ages, even in the minds of some of the most staunch supporters of the revived Roman Empire theory. For now, we are out of time, so stay tuned.

[i] Barns, Albert. Notes on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1951, p321.
[ii] Phillips, J.B. The Book of Revelation. New York, NY: The Macmillan Company, 1957, p28.
[iii] Hunt, Dave. Global Peace and the Rise of Antichrist. Eugene OR: Harvest House Publishing, 1990, p200.
[iv] Ibid, p223.
[v] McGinn, Bernard. Antichrist: Two Thousand Years of the Human Fascination With Evil. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 1994, p68.
[vi] Shoebat, Walid. God’s War on Terror. United States, 2008, p328.
[vii] McGinn, Bernard. Antichrist: Two Thousand Years of the Human Fascination With Evil. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 1994, p86.
[viii] Ibid, p141.
[ix] Ibid, p205
[x] Shoebat, Walid. God’s War on Terror. United States, 2008, p329.

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The King of Kings

This blog focuses on the differences between Christianity and Islam. Of course, when talking to Muslims, it is often best to discuss similarities of the two religions in order to build a bridge of communication. However, at some point, the truth starts standing out and can no longer be suppressed. Yet these issues need to be handled with reverence and respect (1 Peter 3:15). Sometimes these distinctives are not caused by an issue of doctrine. Instead, they occur because characters on the two opposing sides of the grand eternal spiritual struggle are referenced identically. The hero is called the villain and the villain is called the hero. To see this in action, consider the one who is entitled “The King of kings”.

In the abstract, the title “King of kings” refers to an absolute ruler. It indicates complete and utter sovereignty, such as the kind that God alone possesses. Thus, in the New Testament the title “King of kings” is given to the only one worthy of it, God. Sometimes the title refers to God the Father, such as this reference from 1 Timothy 6:14-16.

14 that you keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which He will bring about at the proper time—He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen.

Other times the title “King of kings” refers to God the Son. These references appear in the book of Revelation, where Jesus is fully revealed as the King of kings (Revelation 17:14). This title of King of kings is so important, it will even be inscribed on His garments when he returns to earth (Revelation 19:16).

At this time when the true King of kings is being more fully revealed, massive events are underway. A great battle will occur and the unholy trinity of Satan, the beast, and the false prophet will be dealt with. The beast and false prophet will be thrown alive into the lake of fire (Revelation 19:20). Satan will also be thrown into the lake of fire after being bound for a 1,000 years (Revelation 20:2, Revelation 20:10). As the enemy of God, Satan is constantly trying to undermine God’s purposes. Yet his doom is guaranteed when the King of kings, the Almighty Sovereign, hands Satan his ultimate defeat. From Satan’s point of view, this Sovereignty of God must be the most terrifying aspect of God.

So what does any of this have to do with Islam? As it happens, in Islam the King of kings is a name that carries a much different connotation. While the term never appears in the Qur’an itself, it does appear in the Hadith, the traditions of Muhammad. In Sahih Bukhari, the most trusted and reliable Hadith collection within Islam, we learn something about Allah. Here is what Muhammad says about Allah and the name “king of kings”.

Allah’s Apostle said, “The most awful name in Allah’s sight on the Day of Resurrection, will be (that of) a man calling himself Malik Al-Amlak (the king of kings).” [i]

Within Islam, the most odious and fearful name from Allah’s point of view is the one calling himself the King of kings. It’s also written within the Islamic literature that Allah’s wrath will be targeted at the one calling himself the King of kings. From another well respected Hadith collection, Sahih Muslim,

Abu Huraira reported from Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) so many ahadith and one of them was this that Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) said: The most wretched person in the sight of Allah on the Day of Resurrection and the worst person and target of His wrath would of the person who is called Malik al-Amlak (the King of Kings) for there is no king but Allah. [ii]

Let’s recap. From the Christian point of view, Satan is the enemy of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is God who alone who holds the title “King of kings.” In the end times Satan will target his wrath at the King of kings, who is God. Yet Satan is in terror at this name because by it his plans to battle God will be thwarted. Conversely, from the Islamic point of view, it is Allah who despises this name “King of kings” and it is toward the one calling himself this title that Allah will pour out his wrath.

So exactly who is it that despises the one calling himself “King of kings?” Is it Allah or Satan?

[i] http://www.sahih-bukhari.com/Pages/Bukhari_8_73.php

[ii] http://www.searchtruth.com/book_display.php?book=025&translator=2&start=0&number=5339#5339

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