Lutherans have historically had an Amillennial perspective of eschatology. In other words, their view of end times is that “a thousand years” (millennium) is Biblically figurative, so there is no absolute “thousand years” involved. Consequently they believe the Bible predicts a continuous parallel growth of good and evil in the world until the second coming of Christ.
This reliance on a more symbolic/figurative view of scripture has not served Amillennialists well in the evangelizing department. This article on “Why Lutherans Can’t Evangelize” does a great job in explaining how not only strict amillennialism, but also the historic Lutheran version of it cripples any sense of urgency to convert.
So what does all this have to do with Islam and the Anti-Christ? Well, it has to do with what in history is deemed most worthy to be called “Anti-Christ.” Changes on the world scene over centuries create new revelation, new and clearer understanding. Islam is the new “rising star” worthy of that mark.
Most other versions of end times doctrine, like Pre-millennialism, interpret Scripture much more literally. For example, Pre-millers readily convert the old place names of the Bible, like Cush and Rosh to their current names, the areas around and including today’s Saudi Arabia to Iraq, and Russia. This literalism enables the Bible interpreter to relate hundreds of prophetic Biblical passages to what is going on in the world today.
Amillers tend to interpret things much more figuratively. Consequently they have had a more difficult time getting folks interested in the urgency associated with end times discussion because the dots not only remain unconnected, but are not even identified.
Except for Lutherans.
Lutherans apparently got stuck on the notion that Pope Leo was the Anti-Christ. It has only been over the last several decades that this focus has changed – initially to an “eschatology really doesn’t matter – we don’t want to talk about end times” position, perhaps out of embarrassment of their Pope-Leo as Anti-Christ fixation - and more recently to a position that faces the dual reality of:
- The need to impose a greater sense of urgency in evangelizing, and a more literal, but updated view of how what is going on in the world fits scripture, and
- The fact that what is going on in the world today is really fitting the end times descriptions of Scripture.
In “A Report of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations of The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod” the denomination addresses the term “Anti-Christ”. It agrees with most other views that there are two different uses of the term in Scripture:
- Biblical references to the fact that there will be many anti-Christs, both opposers and false-Christs, which there have been throughout history.
- A final and ultimate individual who is THE Anti-Christ.
“ The term Antichrist is found in John's epistles (1 John 2:18, 22; 4:3; 2 John 7) and signifies both a substitute Christ (Greek anti means "in place of") and an opponent of Christ.Various folks throughout the previous centuries were declared to be THE Anti-Christ. Besides Pope Leo, there has been Napoleon, Hitler, the United Nations, and now Obama. A conservative denomination of Lutheranism still declares the Papacy as the Anti-Christ.
The New Testament predicts that the church throughout its history will witness many antichrists (Matt. 24:5, 23-24; Mark 13:6, 21-22; Luke: 21:8; 1 John 2:18, 22; 4:3; 2 John 7). All false teachers who teach contrary to Christ's Word are opponents of Christ and, insofar as they do so, are anti-Christ.
However, the Scriptures also teach that there is one climactic "Antichrist" (Dan. 7:8, 11, 20-21, 24-25; 11:36-45; 2 Thessalonians 2; 1 John 2:18; 4:3; Revelation 17-18).
However, in view of evolving world events since the time of Martin Luther in the 1500’s and especially in the most recent decades let’s look with fresh eyes at what or who might qualify as The Anti-Christ.
According to the Report cited above:
The Scriptures reveal the following distinguishing marks of the Antichrist:
1. Just as Antiochus Epiphanes profaned the temple, so the Antichrist takes his seat in the "temple of God," that is, in the Christian church (cf. 2 Thess. 2:4; 2 Cor. 6:16; Eph. 2:21; 1 Tim. 3:15).
2. He is not Satan himself but operates "by the activity of Satan" (2 Thess. 2:9).
3. He ascribes to himself truly divine power and exhibits himself as God (Dan. 7:25; 11:36; 2 Thess. 2:4).
4. He is a pseudo-Christ, a satanic perversion of Christ. He has a "coming" to imitate the "coming" of Christ (2 Thess. 2:8-9). He performs "signs and wonders" (2 Thess. 2:9) to imitate the Christ who was "attested. . .by God with mighty works and wonders and signs" (Acts 2:22). He represents a "mystery of lawlessness" (2 Thess. 2:7) to imitate the "mystery of Christ" (Eph. 3:4; Col. 4:3) and brings a "wicked deception," strong delusion," and "what is false" to imitate and oppose the truth of the Gospel (2 Thess. 2:10-12). Thus, he denies Christ and persecutes Christians (1 John 2:22; 4:3; 2 John 7; Dan. 7:25).
Let’s look at how Islam fits this criteria, even the criteria cited by one of the most eschatologically-challenged denominations:
5. He remains until Judgment Day when Christ will slay him (Dan. 7:13-14, 26; 2 Thess. 2:8).
1. Profaning the Church: Throughout the world, and especially in formerly Christian Europe Islam is transforming centuries old churches into mosques. In the prior millenium, Muslim overran the Christian Middle East, including Jerusalem. Not a church was left standing. Today North Africa and the Middle East are dominated by Islam with populations of these nations ranging from 95% to 99,9% Muslim. Churches are prohibited in many, burned down in others, and persecuted in the rest.
2. Operates by the activity of Satan: Islamic doctrine distorts both the Old and New Testaments. Islam denies the deity of Christ. Islam denies God had a son. The nature of Allah differs from the Christian God in many substantial and significant ways. The morality of Islam is opposite that of Christianity in many ways. Books have recently been written that demonstrate that Islams Mahdi is Christianity’s Anti-Christ, and Jesus Christ is Islam’s Anti-Mahdi.
3. Ascribes himself as God: Islam declares Allah is the “one God.” Allah is a pagan moon god. Allah does not have the attributes of God of the Bible. The Islamic Mahdi will assume this role. The Mahdi is called “the Messiah promised to Islam.”
4. Imitator of Christ; mystery of lawlessness; wicked deception; opposes the truth of the Gospel; denies Christ; persecutes Christians: Well, this is a mouthful. Where to begin. The Christ of Islam is merely a prophet – an imitator of Christ without the substance. The Islamic Mahdi is an imitator of Christ - a false Messiah. Islamic nations are hotbeds of lawlessness. Islam desires to spread its evil lawlessness around the world via its Sharia – i.e. “Islamic Law” which mandates morality contrary to the laws established based on Biblical morality. The Islamic doctrine of taqiyya (lying to defend Islam) certainly promotes "wicked deception" and “strong delusion." Islam denies the real Christ and declare “God had no Son.” Islam persecutes Christians throughout the world.
5. Christ will slay the Anti-Christ at Judgment Day: This is the same day that Islam declares the Mahdi will slay the Christ.
The evidence is strong that Islam has a better fit with the Lutheran standards for Anti-Christ than the Papacy does.
The Lutheran Report continues:
Taken in its totality, the Scriptural teaching on eschatology will prevent Christians from succumbing to two opposite extremes which from apostolic times have been a recurrent threat to faith--feverish preoccupation with the "signs of the times," and spiritual laxity based on the mistaken notion that Christ's coming is no longer imminent. The church ought not therefore engage itself in uncertain speculations regarding the signs of the times. Rather, Christians must devote themselves to the clear proclamation of Law and Gospel, that people may, come to faith in Jesus Christ, and through daily repentance prepare for His coming.I choose to believe that the “signs of the times” are rather important. Christians devoting themselves to the clear proclamation of Law and Gospel, whatever that means, is all well and good. But there is little stimulation for coming to faith in Jesus Christ and daily repentance preparing for His coming if there is no relevant sense of urgency. The Lutheran Church was engaged in uncertain speculations from their very beginning: Pope Leo, indeed. Now they are stuck in a rut; paralyzed with “the fear of speculating” that keeps them from addressing reality – current world events – that may actually portend the Anti-Christ.
The Bible and Jesus Christ himself made a great case for a sense of urgency. Lutherans appear to be watering down that sense of urgency by their mandated discounting of relevant current events. I can understand their reticence to be totally preoccupied with pop end times theological speculation. But when new current events begin to overshadow the churches own early speculations (like Pope Leo being THE Anti-Christ) it is time to readdress reality.
Many eschatologists deny Islam or the coming Islamic Mahdi fits their mold of the end times scenario based on their chosen interpretations of various prophesies of Scripture. But evidence is growing. And despite my own misgivings about the Islam-pandering doctrines of the Catholic Church as headed by the Papacy, the evidence for an Islam-related anti-Christ is today much more believable than the 500 year old alternative.
With Islam representing the gates of hell in the Middle East, and now Europe, along with their institutionalized doctrines promoting Satan-inspired deception, we need to wake up. Identifying the Anti-Christ as related in some way to Islam is no less demonstrable today as identifying Pope Leo was in the 1500’s. With the terror and mayhem and persecutions and church burnings promoted by Islam around the world today, I cannot understand why the Church Universal, Lutherans included, can’t at least entertain the possibility of an updated rendition of who THE Anti-Christ might very well be.