What Islam Teaches About: Jesus’ Return, Armageddon, Jerusalem and the Jews – Program 2

By: Dr. Ergun Caner, Dr. Emir Caner; ©1995
Is the Allah of the Qur’an the same as the God of the Bible? What do Muslims know about grace?

Who is Allah?


Every 24 hours, 68,000 people in the world become Muslims, and begin to follow the teachings of Muhammad and learn about Islam’s surprising view of end time events. Islam teaches that Jesus will someday return to Earth to prove to the world that He is a true Muslim, that He will fight in the last great war of Armageddon, the battle for Jerusalem, and bring about the final Islamic defeat of all Christians and Jews? These beliefs greatly affect all aspects of Muslim life today.

Dr. Emir Caner: And so it is the ultimate jihad, it’s the ultimate picture of what will happen at the end of time, that Jesus defends Muhammad’s character. Jesus defends the Qur’an. Jesus defends everything it is to be Muslim. And Jesus defends that He is merely human, as chapter 5 of the Qur’an says, and is no more; and that those who say so, whether it’s Christians who say that He is the Son of God, or those who have corrupted it as Jews have done by eating swine or by corrupting the text, these people of the book are finally put in their place.
Today on the John Ankerberg Show, my guests are two former Muslims who turned away from Allah and placed their faith in Jesus Christ.
Emir: We worshiped a false god, which was given to us by a false prophet, which gave a false hope, through a false word, until one day we were introduced to a true and living God, who was triune, and the son sacrificed His life for our sins, and the Holy Spirit, He indwelt us.
These men went on to get their Ph.D.’s and now Dr. Ergun Caner is President of Liberty Theological Seminary at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, and Dr. Emir Caner is Dean of the College at Southwestern on the campus of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. They are best-selling authors of Unveiling Islam and More Than a Prophet and are writing the first major commentary on every verse in the Qur’an from an evangelical Christian perspective.
Dr. Ergun Caner: This is for the Muslim, this war that is taking place now, eschatological. This is a prophecy for them, but they believe as they fight they are fulfilling the final days when Islam will take over and the world will be Islamic. And when the world becomes Islamic, Allah comes for judgment.
Join us for this special edition of the John Ankerberg Show.

Ankerberg: Welcome. My guests are two former Muslims who decided to leave Islam, and they placed their faith in Jesus Christ. They became Christians, and it cost them. Their family disowned them; they left, went out on their own, they went on in their education, they got Ph.D.s. They are professors in seminaries, and they are best-selling authors.
And we are going to talk today about, when they were in Islam, what did they hear taught about Allah? Who was Allah? Did you ever think that Allah was the same as the God of the Bible? Because today in Christianity we have some people say, “Hey! It really is the same God,” okay? Start us off.
Emir: I’m not sure there is a more passionate topic on which we speak than this one. There is such ignorance out there. The typical argument is Allah means God in Arabic and Jehovah means God in Hebrew, and thus we worship the same God. And ignorance just becomes more blissful from there.
They do not understand, we are not discussing something of a semantic argument. This is not about linguistics, this is about theology. We worshiped a false God, which was given to us by a false prophet, who gave us a false hope through a false word. Until one day we were introduced to a true and living God who is triune. And the Son sacrificed His life for our sins. And the Holy Spirit, He indwelled us.
And they do not understand that when Elijah calls on the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18 he says, “Choose today whom you will follow. If Baal is God follow him, if the Lord is God follow Him.” [1 Kings 18:21] That passage is so central to Christians, because the word Baal is just the Canaanite root word for master or Lord. If it were merely about words, Elijah would owe an unqualified apology to the prophets of Baal.
But it is not about words, it’s about worshipping a false god who is silent and will not answer, because he is not dead, he never existed; versus someone, our Lord Jesus Christ, who is eternal and is the one who not only created, but will finish this whole creation. Elijah has it exactly right. What Elijah says is a god made of human imagination is no god at all. Paul finished up in Acts 17. He says a god made by human hands is no god at all, either. [Acts 17:16 ff]
Ergun: When we talk about the triune God in Scripture, we have God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Anyone that would ever say this, and by the way, parenthetically, in all of our debates we have never met one Muslim still to this day, not one Muslim scholar who would ever say that the Allah of the Qur’an and Jehovah God of the Bible is the same God, ever! It’s always these touchy, feely, scratch and sniff type of Christians.
Islam denies the fatherhood of God, the divinity of the Son, the person of the Holy Spirit, the intimacy and indwelling of the Holy Spirit upon salvation, grace itself as shed by the blood of the Son. What part of God did they get right? Muhammad has 99 attributes of Allah that he lists. Every single one of them has to be redefined. Every single one of them has to be redefined. He may use the word grace, but grace means something else, he may use the word mercy, but mercy means something else. Allah is judge, creator, transcendent. He is not intimate, he is not father.
Ankerberg: Okay, between Christianity and Islam you have a different God.
Ergun: Yes!
Ankerberg: Okay. Next take me to what you fellows believed you had to do to get to heaven. What was the plan of salvation in Islam?
Emir: Well, here are, you know chapter 2 of the Qur’an, which we would recite and memorize, that “Allah loves not the transgressor, but Allah loves those who do righteous deeds.” And so Allah was always judge. He was always to be feared. He was always to be recognized as a person, a God of wrath. And we just hopefully prayed, as the prayer of Islam says, that he is “often merciful.” But even then, I could be the best person in the world; my scales could tip so strongly on the good side, yet Allah is also one who makes the decision at his own pleasure and not based on my works alone. And thus it says, “Allah leads astray whomever he pleases.” And in fact, the Hadith makes this clear, in probably the most savage of all notions. Book 32, Number 6435 deals with this, where it’s dealing with the young lady who has just lost an infant. She goes to Muhammad, she says “At least the bird” referring to her child, “is flying in paradise” and Muhammad responds to her and says, “Some birds are created for paradise; some birds are created for hell.” And there we see a heart of Allah. Not merely transcendent, but arbitrarily, sovereignly, it is the same thing acts according to his purpose, not merely you being good.
Ankerberg: Okay, when you guys were growing up, you were thinking of these scales every day and you were trying to balance your good deeds versus your bad deeds. And you were always worried, okay, as anyone would be. And the fact is, for those that are Muslims that are listening right now, what is grace? Because if you don’t know what it is, it’s not just another plan of how you can work to get to heaven. We are talking about something completely different. What is it?
Ergun: I have the joy of telling the Muslim, that not only does God love you, but YOU were created for a personal relationship with HIM. That every person on the planet, regardless of your background, your culture, your color; every person was created with this hole, this gaping hole inside of you, that can only be filled by God.
Secondly, grace fills that hole where works tries to fill it with everything else: success, goodness, niceness. You know the Bible tells us that “your righteousness is as filthy rags.” [Isa. 64:6] And the hard thing for us to understand is, we think of our unrighteousness as filthy – that makes sense; our sin as filthy – that makes sense. But what the Scripture is actually saying is, my best day in the flesh, my best acts, my most well-intentioned motives are as filthy rags. So, even the good things that I do if I do them in the flesh are not sufficient to balance out any scales.
So grace is God seeing this gaping hole between me and Him; knowing that there is not a single human being that could fill this. It had to be a spotless Lamb that would not die for its own sins. Well, since nobody on the planet has ever been spotless, the incarnation of God – Jesus didn’t come to the earth to be God. He was God before He left – the incarnation of God in the flesh was for the purpose of being the Spotless Lamb, which was why John the Baptist, who cried out for repentance, John the Baptist said, the Agnes Dei, the Lamb of God. [John 1:29, 36] This one statement portrays His purpose and His future: that He was going to be crucified. Grace was the blood that was shed, grace was the forgiveness that was offered. And grace means that I cannot clean myself up. I cannot make myself nice enough. I cannot repent enough to earn salvation. All I have to do is throw myself on the mercy of the court. And He will forgive.
Ankerberg: Yes! You’ve got a chapter in one of your books that talks about grace. And for Islam, your salvation is that you do good works, and after you do them, you can hope that God will give you mercy, okay? But you’ve got to do those good works. If you don’t do the good works forget even applying, okay?
You can be a total sinner over here in Christianity, looking at Christianity, and the fact is, you come to Christ and you realize He is going to forgive all that you have done, and all you will do. You’re not making any promises in the sense that I’m going to, at the front end, get in because I make these promises or do good works. And you are not going to stay in because you do good works. Front end and back end are covered by Jesus Christ. It is totally grace. Talk to that.
Emir: And the Muslim will say, “Well, it seems like you are cheapening God’s grace. Somehow someone who is on death row can accept Christ and he is going to heaven? How can you explain that?” And there is no cheapening, because it was the very blood of God shed for them. They don’t understand that atonement means all sins must be accounted for, not some sins. That is, you cannot have sins atone for other sin. You can’t have good works atone for other sins; you must atone for everything that is wrong with something that is righteous. And a good work is filthy because it is in comparison to God Himself and the standard can’t be kept. Grace is something that is undeserved and a Muslim knows graciousness; a Muslim never does understand grace.
Ankerberg: Alright, we are going to take a break, we are going to come back and we are going to talk more about this. We are also going to talk about what Islam said was going to happen at the judgment. And what was the basis that you were looking forward or not looking forward to judgment in Islam? And we are going to compare that with what Christ said. So stick with us; we are going to be right back.

Ankerberg: We are back and we are talking with Drs. Ergun and Emir Caner, two former Muslims that became Christians. And we are talking today about what they used to believe in Islam in terms of the plan of salvation. And we’ve talked about God, we’ve talked about grace, let’s talk about hell.
Emir: Chapter 74 of the Qur’an and Chapter 14 of the Qur’an as well as other places deal with the doctrine of hell, of what it will be like. To show the fear that a Muslim has of entering hell, of the boils which you will have, of the angels guarding you, and pounding you with rods, of basically the recreation of your body over and over again to be tortured over and over again. This is the fear that encapsulates the Muslim mind.
Why people go to hell is given as well. Not only for their bad works, but, for example, Muhammad said the majority of those who will be in hell will be women. Why? Because they are ungrateful to their husbands. He deals with those who will be forbidden to go to heaven for they are stained with urine on their garments and so forth. And so there is such an incredible trepidation, for there are so many rules to be followed. And the more rules there are, the less hope there is, and the more fear that arrives.
Ankerberg: What about the fellow that is old and is just coming in. What hope does he have?
Ergun: Just coming in to Islam?
Ankerberg: Right.
Ergun: Well, a recent convert into Islam, the best thing he can hope for is to be a servant himself. There are 100 degrees of paradise in Islamic teaching.
Ankerberg: 100 degrees?
Ergun: 100 degrees; 100 levels. Muhammad said that the highest level, the 100th degree of paradise is reserved for the martyr; the one who has died in the declared fatwa, in an act of jihad.
Ankerberg: So this is the eternal security, the only eternal security that is offered in Islam.
Ergun: Islam only offers one. There is only one person who can be absolutely certain of his paradise, and that is the martyr. As my brother shared, Muhammad himself said, “Even I don’t know where I will go.” Well, if the one who is the exemplar of the faith doesn’t know, how could I as a normal everyday Muslim know?
Ankerberg: So Muhammad was not even sure he was going?
Ergun: I’m sure he felt he was, he was doing this as a teaching method. He was telling that there is no certainty. There is no assurance. I think his purpose was that, because in the context he was telling this woman that, “Look, even I don’t know where I’m going, don’t rest on your laurels.” Again, a works-based faith must go cradle to grave. A works-based religion must go all the way to death.
Now, there are seven degrees of hellfire. Here’s what’s interesting. Muhammad taught that there were seven degrees of punishment. The lowest is for men such as ourselves, hypocrites, Muslims who converted to anything else. Level six and level five are reserved for Jews and Christians. And so Muhammad delineates almost the abode of his enemies and the paradise of his friends. Those who come late to Islam are promised not the best, but it is the warmth of fellowship, even as you see others celebrating greater. And so it’s skin of your teeth type of celebration; “at least I’m not suffering,” type of paradise.
Ankerberg: What about the Holy Spirit?
Emir: The Holy Spirit is a force, not a person. And so you see, again, some similarities with false religions such as Jehovah’s Witnesses and others who speak of “he” as an “it” instead of properly as John 14 and John 16, those two chapters of the Gospels do.
Ergun: And Muhammad also built on this later and taught that the Holy Spirit, the phrase “the messenger,” is for the angel Jibrael [Gabriel], that is, it was the angel Jibrael. Now remember this as it applies to the nature of God. Why would Allah ever talk to man? He wouldn’t even talk to Muhammad. So Allah gives his message, revelation, the wahai, to the angel. It is the angel who brings it to Muhammad. And because Allah does not speak directly to Muhammad, that the angel becomes this intermediary. And that is the position of the Holy Spirit in Islamic teaching. He is the intermediary, an angel messenger, an angel deliverer, that Muhammad hoped for. It was the one who spoke to him directly.
Emir: And thus by the time you come to John 14 and John 16, Muslims then look at that passage and interpret that it, “the force,” Holy Spirit, is actually he, Muhammad. And Muhammad is the one who gains revelation through the angel Gabriel. He is the final one called who will walk alongside of Jesus. And thus to delineate someone who will be with, alongside of Christ, it is Muhammad who fulfills his mission.
Ankerberg: Alright, let’s switch gears. Where do the five pillars come in? Did you have to do them? Did you have any hope of getting into heaven if you didn’t do the five pillars?
Emir: Well, the promise if you do not follow the pillars of reciting the creed, praying five time daily, and tithing, and the hadj, and so forth. These are so central to the practice of Islam that, if you do not do these, than as much good works as you do, it cannot earn you heaven. And this is a great point to make to Muslims. If you take the hadj, the pilgrimage to Mecca; more than 2 million Muslims a year now go there, it’s absolutely overpopulated, cannot handle any more. The average Muslim lives about 70 years or less. If you assume that there is no duplication in Mecca, that every year the hadj is formed of 2 million new people, then only 140 million Muslims ever visit Mecca. They promise the highest climax of experience in Islam, while there are 1.4 billion Muslims on this planet. Now I ask you, if only 10 percent go, what hope is there of heaven?
Ergun: From an historical perspective I would encourage you again to look at the comparison between Catholicism, what Muhammad saw historically at the crossroads of this trade route. You have in Islam, the teaching of the Kalema, which is the creed, the reciting of the creed. And you would have the chanting of the monks as they would go about saying the Nicene Creed, the Apostles Creed. You have the tithing, which of course has a Christian component as well. You have the fasting during Ramadan, you have Lent.
You have hadj. And here is what I find interesting. The hadj pilgrimage mirrors the Catholic pilgrimages that they would make to the Holy Land, where you would have to walk the 12 stations of the cross, where you would have to give.
What Muhammad wanted was an absolutely pure realization of Islamic brotherhood. All tribes united under one aegis, being we have one common enemy, that is the Jew or the Christian; we have one common goal, that is to purify the land; we have one common forefather, who is Ishmael. So what you have is this building up, this uniting of the Arabs, a uniting of the tribes, a uniting of what he would call the sons of Ishmael. And what he did was he built out of whole cloth this system that is geopolitical as much as it is theological.
Emir: And it’s a great way to witness. I’ve had a young Afghan girl, teenager I believe, call me. And she said, “Can I speak to you about Islam and Christianity?” And I said, “Of course.” And she said, “I just believe we are just more devout than you.” And I said, “Well, tell me why?” And she said, “We follow the five pillars, we are devout, dogmatically devout and devoted.” I said, “Would you mind going through these five pillars with me?” And she said “Sure.” And I said, “Well, let’s begin with prayer, it’s the lifeline of Islam.” And she said, “That’s correct.” And I said, “Well, how much do you pray?” She said, “I am called to pray five times daily.” I said, “Well, my Bible says to ‘pray without ceasing’.” And we started to walk through, and she started to openly recognize that a Christian is called to a higher standard than a Muslim.
And then she comes to a statement, “I believe what you say is true, but….” Intellectually she understood that the Gospel is true, that what Jesus said is true. But ultimately she couldn’t accept it because she said to me, “I cannot lose my father; I cannot lose my brothers; I cannot lose my mother; I cannot lose my life.” And that is the last I spoke to her. But when Muslims see that relationship deserves and calls for a higher standard than a ritual – a ritual is a mere façade, a relation cannot be done without devout sincerity and utter allegiance.
Ankerberg: Ergun, wrap this up. You wrote a book on the clash of cultures. And you’ve talked about the many religions that are out there that people can get into; Islam being one of them, Buddhism being another and Baha’i, and you name it, okay? For people that are there, that would like to come into Christianity, that would like to know, what is it that is required? What is the Good News? You guys talk about this Good News stuff, what is the Good News that they don’t have?
Ergun: Christianity offers something that no other system in the world has: an intimacy with the Father that you will be inhabited by because you are loved by God. You cannot do anything to make God love you any less. You cannot do anything to make Him love you more. That love is personified by the cross; was personified by God paying the debt for man who could not find a way, even if his works were perfect.
The only perfect man that ever walked the planet was crucified. He arose, He ascended, He presented His blood at Heaven’s temple. And then Jesus did an amazing thing. According to Hebrews: He sat down. He sat down, not because He was tired and not because it was somehow a regent move; He sat down because He was finished. Atonement had been offered. He sat down so that I could rest. I’m liberated because He paid the debt. And it was once and for all delivered.
Ankerberg: Great stuff. Next week I want you to tell the stories of what people have gone through and faced to place their faith in Jesus Christ. You know a little bit from your own personal experience, but other people have even suffered more. And what you are talking about is if you’ve got to leave your mother, your father, your children, your job, you might get killed for converting into Christianity, it still is possible; God is still talking to people and bringing them out. And I want you to tell that. And I hope that you will join us next week.

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