Eschatology is a theological doctrine, popularly known as “End Times” studies, having to do with the second coming of Jesus Christ, the last judgment and some other events in the future.
ISIS is of course the Islamic State now keeping the world on edge as it expands in Syria and Iraq. It has established a “Caliphate” over areas it controls in Syria and Iraq. This Caliphate is important in analyzing the mainspring of what drives ISIS.
An article in the March, 2015 issue of The Atlantic entitled “What ISIS Really Wants” by Graeme Wood analyzes the ideology of ISIS which is steeped in Islamic theology. ISIS is following the exact teachings of Muhammad and the Qu’ran in preparation for a final apocalyptic battle with evil and the end of the world.
To do this they have turned to the earliest texts of Islam for the purest expression of their faith, and of the prophecies contained therein. There are remarkable parallels between Christian history and some of this.
Perhaps the greatest reformer in all Christianity, the German Augustinian friar, Martin Luther, called on the reformation of a Church corrupted by earthly wealth and power by returning to the original documents of Christianity, the Gospels.
In somewhat the same fashion, Muslim scholars and activists in the Caliphate of ISIS, or sympathetic to it, want to purify Islam from the contamination with worldly values by returning to their roots. That includes following literally the commands of Islam to purify and prepare themselves for Armageddon, or the apocalyptic end of the world.
There is a problem—a big, insurmountable problem—with this mission, but let’s follow this thread briefly.
In this dramatic reversion to original tenets, macabre violence like beheadings and crucifixions fulfill the mandates of Allah and the Prophet Muhammad to purge the faithful and exterminate the non-believers in preparation for the End.
A monumental battle between Good and Evil will then take place. There is much disagreement on just how and when this will occur, but the Jihadists are preparing themselves, and the world, for this apocalyptic vision to become reality.
In one interpretation the new Caliphate will expand, sack Istanbul, and then an anti-Messiah will appear. He will kill vast numbers of the Caliphate’s warriors, leaving only 5000 cornered in Jerusalem. Just as the anti-Messiah, known as Daijal, “prepares to finish them off,” writes Wood in his study, “Jesus—the second-most-revered prophet in Islam—will return to Earth, spear Dajjal, and lead the Muslims to victory.”
And herein lays the insurmountable problem for the Jihadists.
The Second Coming of Jesus as prophesized in the Scriptures of both Jew and Christian is not to save Islamic warriors from the flames of hell. It is rather to render the last judgment on all the survivors of the Apocalypse, the Rapture, the Millennium and all the other elements in eschatology and restore Jesus Christ to his earthly throne.
If you believe in him, you will be saved. If you only believe he was a prophet and not the divine son of God, then you will not survive Armageddon.
That is the missing link in Islam. They do not believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ. The jihadists have embraced a mythology based on fundamental doctrines put in place by Muhammad, and they are so devoted to it that they will carry it to their deaths, both in the natural and in the spiritual worlds.
The new jihadists are living in three dimensions: one from the far past in the Medieval times of Islam, the second in the present, and the third in the future.
Among Christian End Times experts of all stripes, two points are certain: Jesus will return to claim his own–those who believe in him as their God and Savior; and no one knows when it will all come to pass but God, Matthew 24:36.
There are no jihadists rising out of the ashes of the Apocalypse in New Testament eschatology, although plenty of deceived followers and false prophets.
We simply cannot dismiss the spiritual dimension of this struggle emerging between the Caliphate of ISIS and the rest of the world.
In our country, we tolerate all religions under the broad principle of freedom of religion, and it is right that we do so since the freedom of conscience is a fundamental right in our way of life.
This rule is for all religions. When one claims absolute authority and dominion over the truth, and demands that others conform to their rule, or be slaughtered, then it needs to be struck down.
It contradicts the basic truth that we are a nation where the freedom and rights of individuals are expressions of the natural rights of all humankind, and that means all regardless of where in the world they are.
This OpEd appeared Sunday March 22, 2015, in The Tuscaloosa News as Eschatology Drives the Islamic State