Is Jesus ONLY for the Jews?
Godwin answers a Muslim’s questions on who Jesus came for first? (Matt 15:21-28)
How much was Muhammad influenced by Satan?
Hatun and Abbas discuss how much Muhammad was influenced by Satan? The Hadith states we he was the victim of black magic. They also discuss the satanic verses.
Narrated Aisha: Once the Prophet was bewitched so that he began to imagine that he had done a thing which in fact he had not done. (Bukhari 3175)
Narrated Aisha: Magic was worked on Allah’s Messenger so that he used to think that he had sexual relations with his wives while he actually had not (Sufyan said: That is the hardest kind of magic as it has such an effect). Bukhari 5675
Muhammad had terrifying visions of hell and was worried about ending up there himself.
33 At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 34 And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).[a]
35 When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.”
36 Someone ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said.
37 With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.
38 The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. 39 And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died,[b] he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”
Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
James White and Adnan Rashid had a debate recently on whether or not the Cross is necessary for salvation. In my last post, I analysed the main points raised; in this post, I will hold Adnan Rashid accountable for what he said about Islam.
I will take four of Adnan Rashid’s statements to which I offer my own suggested rapid-fire responses. Each statement could be a debate topic in its own right, and there are deeper theological answers to all of them. But my experience at Speaker’s Corner tells me that more debates are won through a good come-back than through detailed theological explanation. Muslims use this tactic all the time, whether or not their come-backs have any theological support (they often don’t.) A good come-back sticks in the mind of the person watching; it’s the hook that leads them to dig deeper and is something all Christian debaters (myself included) can learn to practice more. Although (needless to say), for the sake of Christ and his truth, as well as our own personal integrity as ambassadors for the Gospel, our come-backs must also be well-grounded theologically.
I’ll try and keep the responses relative to the debate topic for the sake of brevity – for example with the first one, you could go on and on…
Is Islam consistent with Genesis 3:21, where the Lord makes ‘garments of skin’ for Adam and Eve, i.e. animal sacrifice, even before the institution of the Mosaic law? Why does the Qur’an omit this detail? Why, according to the Qur’an, are Adam and Eve expelled from the garden at all, when the Qur’an says Adam received forgiveness from his Lord (Sura 2:37)? The Bible doesn’t say Adam and Eve were forgiven, it says they were cursed – in clear contradiction to the Qur’an. Genesis 3 also says that Eve’s offspring would one day crush the head of Satan. No mere human offspring can crush the head of Satan, so it must refer to a god-man – Jesus. That God can become a man is anathema in Islam.
In Exodus, Moses sprinkles blood on his chosen people as confirmation of God’s covenant with them(Exodus 24:8). The Qur’an mentions that Allah made a covenant with the Israelites as God’s people, but it is a covenant based on works, not on blood:
And certainly Allah made a covenant with the children of Israel, and We raised up among them twelve chieftains; and Allah said: Surely I am with you; if you keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate and believe in My apostles and assist them and offer to Allah a goodly gift, I will most certainly cover your evil deeds, and I will most certainly cause you to enter into gardens beneath which rivers flow, but whoever disbelieves from among you after that, he indeed shall lose the right way. S. 5:12
The Qur’an even says explicitly that vicarious blood sacrifice does not make a difference to Allah. Sura 22:37
“It is neither their meat nor their blood that reaches Allah, but it is piety from you that reaches him.”
This stands in direct contradiction to the whole sacrificial system. On the Day of Atonement, the High Priest made atonement for himself and the people through the sprinkling blood before the mercy seat of YHWH. In Leviticus 17:11, YHWH forbids the eating of blood because “it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.” If this system was abrogated by Allah, then how can he disregard his own law without being inconsistent? If he fulfils it, then how? These questions are not answered according to the ‘clear’, ‘detailed’, ‘well explained’ Qur’an (Sura 12:111). Same goes for the role of the High Priest and the priesthood.
The OT repeatedly mentions that YHWH will come Himself to earth to rescue and redeem his people (Gen 3:15, Jeremiah 23:5-6, Job 19:25, Isaiah 9:6). Again – where is the evidence that Allah is a saviour, a redeemer? Why is it not one of his 99 names, when the theme of YHWH redeeming his people is such a consistent thread running throughout the OT? According to Islam it is impossible for Allah, a monad, to come to earth.
Islam is not consistent with the Old Testament.
2. “Islam teaches just do the law and you will be forgiven.”
What law exactly does Islam teach? Do you mean the Mosaic law, which the Qur’an says is revealed by Allah (Sura 3:3-4, S29:46, S5:47-8) or sharia law, which doesn’t come directly from the Qur’an but is a man-made extrapolation of Islamic teaching? If you mean the Mosaic law – which you say is consistent with Islam – why are you not still sacrificing animals, keeping the Sabbath, putting to death anyone who curses their father and mother etc? If you mean sharia, please support your statement from Islamic sources that this guarantees forgiveness? And what do you mean exactly by ‘doing’ the law? Do you have to ‘do’ all of it? Will Allah forgive you if you keep only some, not all of it?
3. “Simply repent and Allah will forgive you.”
But wait, I thought you said ‘do the law’ and you will be forgiven? Now it’s ‘simply repent’? Which is it, and if you meant ‘repent’, where does the Qur’an say this exactly? The Qur’an even states there are circumstances where ‘simple repentance’ is not accepted, i.e. on your deathbed. Sura 4:18
“And of no effect is the repentance of those who continue to do evil deeds until death faces one of them and he says: “now I repent;” nor of those who die while they are disbelievers. For them we have prepared a painful torment.”
4. “We have been promised forgiveness as long as we die as Muslims.”
Now it gets even more confusing. How do you get saved exactly -through repentance, obeying the law (which law?) or dying as Muslims? According to the verse I just quoted, if you do evil deeds your repentance will not be accepted on your death bed. Presumably it’s possible to do evil deeds and still call yourself a Muslim?
In fact, there is a sahih Hadith that supports this statement, despite contradicting the Qur’an. Bukhari 7:72:717:
Narrated Abu Dharr:
I came to the Prophet while he was wearing white clothes and sleeping. Then I went back to him again after he had got up from his sleep. He said, “Nobody says: ‘None has the right to be worshipped but Allah’ and then later on he dies while believing in that, except that he will enter Paradise.’ I said, “Even It he had committed illegal sexual intercourse and theft.” I said. “Even if he had committed illegal sexual intercourse and theft? He said. ‘Even If he had committed illegal sexual intercourse and theft,” I said, ‘Even it he had committed illegal sexual intercourse and thefts.’ He said, “Even If he had committed Illegal sexual intercourse and theft, inspite of the Abu Dharrs dislikeness. Abu ‘Abdullah said, “This is at the time of death or before it if one repents and regrets and says “None has the right to be worshipped but Allah. He will be forgiven his sins.”
So we see that despite Adnan Rashid’s attempts to make it sound simple and straightforward, every one of his statements about Islam is highly problematic. Islam doesn’t confirm the OT, but in fact either contradicts or denies it, while offering no clear means of salvation whatsoever as an alternative. This is hardly surprising, given Muhammad himself wasn’t sure of his eternal destiny. Sura 46:9 states:
“Say, (O Muhammad): “I am not a new thing among the messengers, nor do I know what will be done with me or with you. I only follow that which is revealed to me, and I am but a plain Warner.”
Compare this to how Jesus fulfils the OT, as summarised so beautifully in Hebrews 9:11-14 while simultaneously demonstrating the necessity of the Cross:
But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here,[a] he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. 12 He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Placeonce for all by his own blood, thus obtaining[b] eternal redemption. 13 The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. 14 How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death,[c] so that we may serve the living God!
We continue to pray and implore Muslims to see Jesus as He really is.
Thank you to Sam Shamoun for helping me understand this topic better. He has done his own rebuttal to Adnan Rashid here.
The recent encounter between James White and Adnan Rashid on “Is the Cross necessary for salvation?” was predictable enough. Dr White did OK on the apologetics, and preached the Gospel beautifully at the end to his credit. But this was not a debate. Everything was so terribly polite, with lots of rather pointed comments about how respectful everything was (subtext: not like nasty Speaker’s Corner!) The cross examination was more like a polite exchange of views – hardly worthy of the name. An hour in (trying not to nod off) I was still waiting for things to get a bit more feisty, more passionate, more real. You can respect someone and still be confrontational, right? They seem to manage it at the House of Commons and Channel 4 News well enough – even at Speaker’s Corner, that’s always our aim. Vigorous debate is much more honest and engaging, and my own experience of debating Adnan Rashid is that he can certainly handle it.
James White’s first objective was to “demonstrate the centrality of the Cross in divine revelation…beginning with the writings of the Apostles.” I wasn’t sure why he didn’t start with Jesus himself – the many times He predicts His death, Jesus statement in Mark that He would give His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45), the Last Supper. He dwelt on the fact (Acts 2:36) of the crucifixion rather than its necessity (Acts 4:12) . JW elaborated on Paul’s teaching on the power of the Cross (1 Cor 1:17) to reconcile mankind to God (Ephesians 2,Colossians 1:19-20) and how the suffering of the Messiah is prophesied in the Old Testament (Psalm 22, Isaiah 53) as stated by Jesus himself (Luke 24:44). This seemed to be slightly off-topic, as the central issue is atonement, not the suffering of the Messiah or his identity – the Qur’an states Jesus is the Messiah, so that shouldn’t be an issue for Muslims (although it does open for them a big can of worms.) There was no mention about the necessity of blood sacrifice in the Mosaic law, fulfilled in Christ and explained at length in the book Hebrews. Although he made some strong points about Jesus’ identity, it felt like he missed the main meat of the argument, which was a shame.
Adnan Rashid argued that only Paul taught salvation by faith in the Cross of Christ, but that the OT doesn’t teach the necessity of blood sacrifice. It does! Exodus 24:3, Leviticus 17:11 and Hebrews 9:22:
In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.
Instead his argument relied heavily upon cherry-picked, de-contextualised verses and appeals to scholarship. He tried to turn every reference from the Gospels into either an authorship issue or a textual criticism issue, for example asking why does Luke omit Mark 10:45? (As Lydia McGrew argues in her excellent lecture, “sometimes a variant is just a variant,” and an ‘omission’ presupposes the author’s intention, when they just might have remembered things differently.) The Mosaic law, the Last Supper, Hebrews etc were all,again, conspicuous by their absence. His most interesting argument was whether or not the Book of James teaches salvation by works, therefore contradicting the letters of Paul?
James White should have recognised this for the clever tactic it was, rather than allow for side-tracking with his ‘just-read-my-book’ answer. This rather pompous response doesn’t work in a debate situation; a failure to give a simple answer comes across like you have something to hide. But there is a reasonable, simple answer to the Paul vs James objection, which John Piper summarises very well:
When Paul teaches in Romans 4:5 that we are justified by faith alone, he means that the only thing that unites us to Christ for righteousness is dependence on Christ. When James says in James 2:24that we are not justified by faith alone he means that the faith which justifies does not remain alone. These two positions are not contradictory. Faith alone unites us to Christ for righteousness, and the faith that unites us to Christ for righteousness does not remain alone. It bears the fruit of love. It must do so or it is dead, demon, useless faith and does not justify.
This was James White’s response, but not very succinctly put. It was unfortunate the rebuttal and cross-examination time were unnecessarily dominated by this issue.
Otherwise, while James White did correct some of Adnan’s misapplication of verses quite skilfully, he bypassed others. For example he didn’t refute Adnan’s claim that Psalm 91 “says the Messiah will be saved.” This is the Psalm quoted by Satan during Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness in Matthew 4: 5-7:
Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6 “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:
“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
and they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’[a]”
How does Jesus respond? By rebuking Satan for misquoting scripture!
Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’[b]”
Why is Adnan using an argument from Satan on which to base his objection?
In conclusion the debate (still not the right word for it) was fine, neither a triumph nor a disaster from an apologetics perspective; but the real disappointment was how very one-sided it was. The Islamic perspective was mentioned only occasionally, let alone challenged. Statements like “Islam is consistent with the Old Testament”; “Islam teaches the law and you will be forgiven”; “simply repent and Allah will forgive you”; “we have been promised forgiveness as long as we die as Muslims” all slipped by unchecked. But check it we will – in our next post.
In the last two articles we looked at salvation in Christianity; how it is won for us by Jesus on the Cross and how it is accessed by repentance and faith in Him. Now we turn our attention to Islam. Is obtaining paradise the same thing as salvation? How do you even get to paradise? Is it guaranteed?
I am hesitant to call the Islamic equivalent of salvation ‘salvation’. Why? Because Allah doesn’t save anyone. Among his 99 names are the Benificent and the Merciful, but not the Rescuer. Allah creates and reveals his will, but Allah doesn’t personally go out of his way for mankind in any way – except for Muhammad whom he grants special rights and privileges, for example when Muhammad is allowed an unlimited number of wives, (Surah 33:50) whereas his followers have to make do with “two or three or four” (Surah 4:3).
When asked the question “how do you get to paradise?” Muslims will usually answer along the lines of “as long as your good deeds outweigh your bad deeds, you’ll be fine.” The Qur’an also seems to say so on first reading:
“And give glad tidings (O Muhammad) unto those who believe and do good works; that theirs are Gardens underneath which rivers flow; as often as they are regaled with food of the fruit thereof, they say: this is what was given us aforetime; and it is given to them in resemblance. There for them are pure companions; there for ever they abide.” (Surah 2:25,-see also Surah 2:81-2 and Surah 33:55)
But is it as simple as that? Is paradise guaranteed if you clock up enough good deeds? Not according to the hadith which says the opposite – that good deeds are NOT your ticket to paradise:
Narrated Abu Huraira:
I heard Allah’s Apostle saying, “The good deeds of any person will not make him enter Paradise.” (i.e., None can enter Paradise through his good deeds.) They (the Prophet’s companions) said, “Not even you, O Allah’s Apostle?” He said, “Not even myself, unless Allah bestows His favor and mercy on me.” So be moderate in your religious deeds and do the deeds that are within your ability: and none of you should wish for death, for if he is a good doer, he may increase his good deeds, and if he is an evil doer, he may repent to Allah.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 7, Book 70, Number 577)
Hence most Muslims will qualify their answer to the question with insh’allah – if Allah wills. Does repentance guarantee his mercy? Allah in the Qur’an takes a dim view of deathbed repentance and says you must renounce evil deeds :
Repentance with Allah is only for those who do evil in ignorance, then turn (to Allah) soon, so these it is to whom Allah turns (mercifully), and Allah is ever Knowing, Wise. And repentance is not for those who go on doing evil deeds, until when death comes to one of them, he says: Surely now I repent; nor (for) those who die while they are unbelievers. These are they for whom We have prepared a painful chastisement. (Surah 4:17-18)
But Muhammad also says renouncing evil deeds aren’t that important, as deathbed repentance is acceptable as long as the person recites the shahada. Bukhari 7:72:717
“…Nobody says: ‘None has the right to be worshipped but Allah’ and then later on he dies while believing in that, except that he will enter Paradise.” I said, “Even if he had committed illegal sexual intercourse and theft? He said. “Even If he had committed illegal sexual intercourse and theft….Abu ‘Abdullah said, “This is at the time of death or before it if one repents and regrets and says ‘None has the right to be worshipped but Allah’, he will be forgiven his sins.”
In short, the way to Islamic paradise is very confusing. Good deeds? Allah’s mercy? Repentance? The Shahada? Or is it all pre-destinated anyway? After all “many are the Jinns and men we have made for Hell” (7:179). You can live a life full of great deeds, but they won’t help you if Allah has made you for hell.
A common Muslim objection to Christianity is that Jesus didn’t need to die for our sins – why should the innocent die for the guilty? The Qur’an also states that no person will bear the burden of another (Surah 35:18). But again, this is contradicted by Muhammad in the hadith:
“Abu Burda reported on the authority of his father that Allah’s Apostle (may peace be upon him) said: No Muslim would die but Allah would admit IN HIS STEAD a Jew or a Christian in Hell-Fire.” Sahih Muslim 37:6666
Jews and Christians are substitutes for Muslims in hell? So much for Allah being consistent, let alone just.
There is one route to Paradise that is exalted in over 100 verses in the Quran – jihad. Here’s one example:
“So let those fight in the cause of Allah who sell the life of this world for the Hereafter. And he who fights in the cause of Allah and is killed or achieves victory – we will bestow upon him a great reward.” (Surah 4:74)
And while the Qur’an doesn’t use the word “guarantee”, the hadith does:
Narrated Abu Huraira:
I heard Allah’s Messenger saying, “The example of a Mujahid in Allah’s Cause– and Allah knows better who really strives in His Cause—-is like a person who fasts and prays continuously. Allah guarantees that He will admit the Mujahid in His Cause into Paradise if he is killed, otherwise He will return him to his home safely with rewards and war booty.” (Bukhari 2787)
This time last year Mahmoud Shafiq Mohammed killed 29 people and injured 47 others at St. Peter and St. Paul’s Church in Cairo. His note to his accomplice read “thank you for the good hospitality and I will meet you in Paradise.” When will our governments and media stop pretending these attacks aren’t theologically motivated?
The saddest thing of all is that Muslims are trusting in a man who himself had no idea about his eternal destiny:
“Say,(O Muhammad) I am not sending something original among the messengers, nor do I know what will be done with me or with you. I only follow that which is revealed to me, and I am not but a clear Warner.” (Surah 46:9)
Compare this with Jesus, who was never in any doubt about his identity or purpose, and knew exactly where he came from and where he was going:
“No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven – the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.” (John 3:13)
Happy Advent everyone.
by Lizzie Schofield
I said in part 1 that I would write about salvation in Islam in part 2, but there are a few thoughts I wanted to add on the Christian side before moving on. Apologies, and watch out for part 3.
In part 1, I asserted that salvation in Christianity starts from the basis of belief in Jesus, in his death on the Cross for our sins. But belief doesn’t simply mean unqualified theoretical assent: after all, even the devil believes in God. James 2:19:
“You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder.”
Belief that leads to salvation isn’t simply a matter of intellectually affirming that something is true, but is something we act upon: I get on the plane because I believe the pilot can fly it. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t get on the plane. So if we say we believe in Jesus, but allow Him to have no impact on our lives, we don’t really believe Him. When Jesus announces the start of his public ministry, he couples belief with repentance: “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15) If we say we are Christians, and have not taken our sin seriously enough to repent, we need to examine ourselves to see if we are really in the faith, just as Paul meant in 2 Cor:13-5-6.
Repentance is the bit we like to skate over because we feel awkward about the sin part. Let’s skip to the good bit, the assurance of eternal life. Thank you Jesus! Why dwell on the negative? But this is dangerous. By glossing over how catastrophic sin is, we gloss over God’s drastic, radical, uncompromising, torturous solution to it is – the Cross – and how it is the only cure to a deadly sickness that affects us all. Let’s not pretend that just because we’ve never punched anyone and always submitted our tax return on time that our sin isn’t that bad – the Cross says it is. Let’s not pretend that the unarticulated bitterness towards a family member doesn’t matter because it stays in our head – the Cross says it does. We might have been a Christian for years, but find some sins just too comforting to give up. The Cross says “I gave up my comfort for you.” And then this one (James 4:17): “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.” Anyone else starting to feel a bit uneasy?
It is unfashionable to talk about sin these days, even in church. When not completely ignored, it is hastily brushed under the carpet, The emphasis of church these days is inclusion. People need to understand how inclusive Jesus was. This did the rounds on Facebook recently, as an example of the “best’ church welcome notice ever (courtesy of All Saints Lutheran, Aurora, Colorado):
“We extend a special welcome to those who are single, married, divorced, gay, filthy rich, black and proud, y no habla Ingles.
We extend a special welcome to those who are new-borns, poor as dirt, skinny as a rail, got a hitch in their git-along, or just plain can’t sing. You’re welcome here if you’re “just browsing,” just woke up, or just got out of jail. We don’t care if you’re more Lutheran than Luther, or more Catholic than the Pope, or haven’t been in church since little Maria’s confirmation.
We extend a special welcome to those who are over 40 but not grown up yet, and to teenagers who are growing up too fast. We welcome soccer moms, NASCAR dads, starving artists, tree-huggers, latte-sippers, vegetarians, junk-food eaters, and people who stay up too late at night. If you’re having problems, or you’re down in the dumps, or you don’t like “organized religion,” we’ve been there too. If you blew all your offering money at Black Hawk, you’re welcome here.”
This church wants to welcome everyone because Jesus meets us where we’re at! Grace for all, right? Because Jesus died once for all this means I can believe and then 5 minutes later carry on sinning as much as I like, right? (This objection is frequently raised by Muslims.). Hebrews 9:26 says no, you can’t:
“If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgement and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.”
A church that is faithful to Christ welcomes people as they are, but should never expect them to stay that way. A Biblical church doesn’t water down or ignore Jesus’ call to repentance. God isn’t a heavenly waiter who hovers ready to meet our spiritual demands. If we say we believe him, but carry on in our sins, it’s like saying you love your wife while having an affair with the neighbour and wondering why she might have a problem with that. Our sins cost Jesus His life; hence we should own up to them, and deal with them actively, ruthlessly. Who do you need to apologise to? What habits do you need to confront? (Personally, I can think of at least one in each category.)
And yet it is also true that Jesus died “once for all” (Hebrews 10:26). When we repent and believe in Christ, his sacrifice is enough for the sins of tomorrow as well as those of today. The fact I will (no doubt) sin tomorrow doesn’t change my salvation: but will I acknowledge my need of Christ to cleanse me on a daily basis in order to please him? Wilberforce used to keep a list of character flaws which he would pray through and monitor on a weekly basis.
The 19th century preacher, Charles Spurgeon put it this way:
“Too many think lightly of sin, and therefore think lightly of the Saviour. He who has stood before his God, convicted and condemned, with the rope about his neck, is the man to weep for joy when he is pardoned, to hate the evil which has been forgiven him, and to live to the honour of the Redeemer by whose blood he has been cleansed….A spiritual experience which is thoroughly flavoured with a deep and bitter sense of sin is of great value to him that has it. It is terrible in the drinking, but it is most wholesome to the bowels, and in the whole of the after life.” Spurgeon, c.1890, autobiography.
The fact that God cares so passionately about sin is good news. He hates the anger, greed, lust, slander and malice that ruin His world and there will be no sin in heaven because Jesus has dealt with all of it. He wants us to hate it too. Allah on the other hand, is not bothered by sin. As the South London Imam told the audience during a discussion on the topic last week, sin to Allah is in fact “not really a big deal.” So what exactly are Muslims saved from? How is sin dealt with? And what are the implications for Islamic paradise?
More in Part 3.
The point of any religion is to make sense of life’s big questions: why does the universe exist and what is it for? Does God exist and if so, what is He like? Do we all just get one short, eternally meaningless life before being eaten by worms? Christians and Muslims share similar starting points: we believe in God and in life after death, ultimately in heaven or hell as determined by God our supreme Ruler and Judge. The sticking point is what YHWH/Allah’s criteria are for where we end up. Let’s start with what the Bible teaches on salvation.
YHWH of the Bible is a God with a rescue plan. He rescues his people from slavery in Egypt, he rescues His people from the Midianites and the Philistines (and other tribes), he rescues his people from exile in Babylon. But these rescues are just a foreshadow of his ultimate rescue, which is predicted at the very beginning. After the fall of man, when sin comes into the world and all our problems begin, the LORD God speaks to the serpent (Satan) in Genesis 3:15:
“I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head and you will strike his heel.”
In other words, a male offspring of a woman (he), will one day come and crush the head of Satan. Is a mere human creature powerful enough to crush the head of Satan? This must be referring to a He who is both human and divine! Who does it sound like? Hint -it can’t be Muhammad, who bent over backwards to stress his humanity: “I am only a mortal like you” (S18:110), “Am I anything but a man, a messenger?” (S17:93)
In contrast, notice what the New Testament says about Jesus Christ:
“The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work” (1 John 3:8)
“Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death – that is, the devil – and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” (Hebrews 2:14-15).
We fear death. But YHWH God doesn’t want us to be slaves to the fear of death! That’s why he sent Jesus, Hebrews continues, “in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.” If God himself has paid for our sins, how should we respond? Hebrews again, and note the repetition of belief:
“See to it brothers, that none of us has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God” (Hebrews 3:12)
The Lord Jesus says it Himself:
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not die, but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world but to save the world through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the Name of God’s one and only Son.” (John 3:16-17)
How will we respond to what Jesus has done for us, with belief or with scepticism? Will we believe he really died for our sins? If we do, Jesus tells us, we will have eternal life. If we don’t, we stand condemned. Prayer,fasting, helping the homeless, volunteering at the food bank, paying the right amount of tax: none of this makes a difference to our eternal destiny. YHWH God teaches your eternal destiny is not affected by what you do, but by whether or not you believe Jesus died to save you. Paul agrees:
“But now a righteousness from God apart from the law, has been made known, to which the law and the prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.” (Romans 3:22) On the other hand, God
“will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the Gospel of the Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and the majesty of his power, on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marvelled at among all those who have believed.” (2 Thessalonians 1:8-10.)
No one today likes hearing about condemnation, hell and judgement, and they didn’t like it in the first century either. But that didn’t stop Jesus talking about it, not because he enjoyed scaring people, but to show them that by believing him, they have a clear, guaranteed way of escaping it. It is His kindness and mercy that makes Him so black-and-white. If you’re reading this and you’re not a Christian, why not respond to Jesus now in your heart? Don’t leave it too late.
We’ll look at salvation in Islam in Part 2.