Sunday, November 16, 2008

Three Messiahs

As most of us know, the fundamental belief of Christianity is that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, the Son of God, sent to the earth to save mankind from their sin. Many people are surprised though to find that other religions have their messiah figures as well. Christianity, Judaism, and Islam all share a belief in a messiah type individual as part of their eschatology, or beliefs of the end of the world. It also goes without saying, that one thing in common with each of these three religions is that each is watching and waiting for the appearance of this messiah in the very near future.

There is, however, a very large difference in what Christianity believes about it's messiah, and what Judaism and Islam believe about theirs. You see, we as Christians believe in the deity of Jesus; He was the Son of God. Judaism and Islam share the same idea that their coming leader will simply be a man. In Judaism, they believe their coming messiah is simply a human descended from the line of King David, and he will be annointed King of Israel to rule much the same as the ancient kings of Israel did. He will be a righteous king, be a strong political and military leader, and he will cause the temple to be rebuilt. But most of all he will be human, not a divine or god-like individual.

In Islam, many of the faithful are looking for the appearance of a person they call the Mahdi, or Guided One. Depending on their interpretation of prophecy, he will appear on earth for a period of 7 years before the advent of what they call the Day of Resurrection. There is a lot of disagreement within Islam concerning the particulars surrounding this individual, but it is safe to say they believe he is going to appear on the scene very soon. The president of Iran has been very vocal in his belief that he feels it is his duty to prepare the way for the appearing of the Mahdi, and there are other leaders in that part of the world who share that belief. So the situation we have here is this; Christians are looking for the return of their Messiah to take them to Heaven in an event called the rapture, and two other world religions are looking for a powerful charismatic leader who will solve the world's problems, bring peace and stability, and be universally accepted as someone worthy to follow.

Isn't it interesting to see how accurately the Bible has predicted the situation that would exist on this world during the period of time called the tribulation? A question many have asked over the years is how could one man, referring to the antichrist, broker or enforce a peace between Israel and it's enemies? This would somehow indicate that he would have to be either very strong militarily, or extremely persuasive politically. There is, however, an alternate scenario here that could also be considered. What if both Israel and Islam believed this person to be the fulfillment of their religious eschatology? What if this individual is smart enough to figure out a way to present himself as exactly that, and be acceptable to both religions?

The answer to that question might be partially answered by the New York Times which reported recently that reaction in the Middle East to the election of Barack Obama was, in their words, euphoric. If that is truly the case, it demonstrates that it is entirely possible for one person to generate support across a very diverse population in a part of the world that is known mostly for it's disagreements. Now am I trying to identify the antichrist here? No, but I think it's very curious to see that the situation that the Bible describes as existing at the time of the end can be seen in the events taking place in the world today. As I've said before, we as believers are commanded to watch, and given a list of things to watch for. What we need to make sure of is that we don't become so focused on individual events that we lose perspective on the "times".

God in His infinite wisdom has given us a very detailed picture of what the situation on this earth will be as we approach the time of the end. Let's not forget the big picture as we watch for the signs. Remember that in Matthew 16:3 Jesus rebukes the religious leaders for not recognizing "signs of the times". If we look, it would appear the world is even now looking for that one individual who will not only solve the problems that exist, but will somehow be acceptable and followed by all.