In part 1, we learned that some would have us dialogue with Muslims on the basis of sharing a common love for God. This proposal is problematic because the God of the Bible is not the god of Islam. There is also the challenge posed by Islam’s historic and continued commitment to Jihad. But it may just be that Jihad does, in fact, provide us with an inroad to engage Muslims, not because we have a common God or share the same love for God, but because we agree that God is right to be angry. We both agree with the doctrine of divine wrath.
Islam and the Wrath of God
Because Islam is a theocracy, Muslim nation states are understood to be expressions of God’s will. Sharia law and Jihad are expressions of God’s will. When the ghazi (warrior) fights in Jihad, the wrath of God is given expression in religious battle. That such war is religiously significant is seen in that the ghazi who dies in battle immediately merits entrance into the Garden of Paradise, the Islamic “heaven,” which is filled with all manner of sensual delights and pleasures. Salvation is thus obtained through the supreme good work of martyrdom in Jihad, because, to be angry for God is the epitome of piety and to vent the wrath of Allah is Islam’s supreme virtue.
That Allah’s wrath is to be vented in Holy War is explicit in the Koran. Surah 4:76 Those who believe fight in the way of Allah, and those who disbelieve fight in the way of the Shaitan. Fight therefore against the friends of the Shaitan; surely the strategy of the Shaitan is weak. It is a war which uses military weapons in political and national conflict, but it is essentially a religious war. Surah 9:5 Slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them captives and besiege them and lie in wait for them in every ambush, then if they repent and keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate, leave their way free to them; surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. As the Islamic warrior fires his weapons in battle, as he commits suicide and kills innocent bystanders, as he infiltrates the realm of dar al-harb to gain ascendency demographically, economically, judicially, politically and, once embedded, to open the gates of his host city to the attacking ghazi, he is earning his salvation. However he can, he advances Allah’s wrath and hastens the arrival of the eschatological hope of a global Islamic theocracy. Where do we see the wrath of God in Islam? In Jihad.
Islam, borrowing from Judaism and Christianity, does teach the doctrine of eternal hell. The Islamic hell is depicted as an eternal fire, fueled by the bodies of men who are obligated to drink liquid pus, while continuously being stung by scorpions.
Christianity and the Wrath of God
The God of the Bible is a God of wrath. John the Baptist urged men to flee from the wrath to come (Luke 3:7). Jesus taught about God’s wrath more than any other Biblical Prophet. In Mark 9:44 He taught that hell is an unquenchable fire, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched. Paul calls the coming day of judgment the day of wrath (Romans 2:5). John describes hell and those in it in Revelation 21:8, But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death. It is evident that the Christian God is the God of wrath and that the Bible teaches the doctrine of eternal hell.
But, unlike the Muslim, the Biblical Christian knows that the expression of God’s wrath in this present age is not found in the military conflicts of so-called theocratic nations. I know, America can be indicted for unjust atrocities and “war-crimes.” But, contrary to Islamic conventional wisdom, “America” and “Christianity” are not synonyms. America has been influenced by some Christian people and some Christian principles, but America is not a Christian theocracy. The will of the Biblical God is not equivalent to American political policy, nor is the Christian God’s wrath expressed by American military actions. If we are to locate the venting of God’s wrath in this present age, we find it being poured out upon a Man, hanging on a cross, just outside Jerusalem, some 2,000 years ago.
The Bible’s interpretation of the cross of Jesus Christ is that it is a propitiating sacrifice that placates divine wrath and atones for sin by assuming our legal guilt and satisfying our just punishment. This term propitiation has come under attack by deniers of divine wrath who distort God’s holiness and destroy God’s gospel. God’s holy wrath and the need for propitiatory sacrifice explain the Old Covenant sacrificial system which prefigured and was fulfilled in the cross of Christ. On the cross, Jesus bore the punishment inherent in the holy, just wrath of God. Paul tells us of the redemption which is in Christ Jesus whom God displayed as a propitiation in His blood (Romans 3:25). On the Cross, as Jesus shed His blood in sacrificial atonement for sin, He died bearing our sins in His body on the cross (1 Peter 2:24). He was separated from His Father under the weight of the sin that was imputed to Him in an act of divine wrath. He made Him who knew no sin, to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21). Like the scape goat on the Day of Atonement, Jesus had our sin imputed to Him to expiate our sin. Like the sacrificed goat on the Day of Atonement, Jesus shed His blood to propitiate the just wrath of God. Robert Reymond explains: “God’s wrath is simply His instinctive holy indignation and the settled opposition of His holiness to sin, which, because He is righteous, expresses itself in judicial punishment… God’s instinctive and vehement revulsion to sin demands, if sinners are ever to be forgiven, that their sins be punished. Accordingly, above everything else, it was this demand in God Himself – that His offended holiness (which when confronted with sin must react against it in the wrathful outpouring of divine judgment) must be ‘satisfied’ – that necessitated the cross work of Christ.” (Systematic Theology, p.639,40)
Biblical Christianity identifies two places where God’s wrath is satisfactorily vented: hell and the cross of Jesus. As sinners, we all face God’s wrath. God’s wrath must be satisfied against us. As sinners we all must either go to the cross of Christ or go to hell. Only in the cross or in hell is God’s wrath propitiated to the satisfaction of His divine holiness and justice.
Sin and the Savior
Rather than finding commonality in a supposed shared love for God and neighbor, let me suggest that a better point of commonality upon which we could dialogue with Muslims is our agreed conviction that God is a God of wrath. Having agreed that God is just to be angry, it must be shown why that is.
The Muslim needs to understand that it is human sin that warrants divine wrath. The requirements of God’s Law must be explored. The Islamic view of sin is quite inadequate. The Ten Commandments are meagerly represented in Islamic ethics which affirm the sins of idolatry, murder, a false charge of adultery, wasting the provisions of orphans, taking interest on money, desertion from Jihad and disobedience to parents. Some would add drinking alcohol, witchcraft and perjury. Pharisaic legalism with its characteristic heartlessness is endemic to Islam. Jesus’ teachings on the spiritual nature of the Law which measures the morality of motive as well as actions need to be pressed upon the Islamic conscience. The Muslim needs to understand that he, personally, is a guilty sinner who stands condemned in God’s courtroom and is liable to be sentenced to eternal hell.
The person and work of Jesus needs to be explained to the Muslim. Although Muslims agree that Jesus was miraculously born of the Virgin Mary, they do not believe that He was the incarnate Son of God. They believe that He performed miracles, but do not understand them as displays of His deity. They do not set Jesus’ person and ministry in the context of Old Testament typology and prophecy. Interestingly, the Koran records no miracles performed by Mohammed. The Hadith claims some miracles for Mohammed but many of them are quite magical and juvenile. Muslims believe that Jesus was not crucified but that He was later taken to heaven and that He will return at the last day to kill the Antichrist, kill all pigs, and remove the poll-tax (jizyah) from the dhimmi (the subjugated conquered peoples living in submission to then the universal Sharia). After Jesus returns, He will reign as a king for forty-five years then marry and have children. He will then die and be buried near Mohammed in Medina. This mythology must be displaced by the truth of the Biblical Jesus.
Muslims must be told that God’s wrath has been satisfied in Christ’s sacrifice and that He has been vindicated in His resurrection from the dead. Mohammed died and is still dead. Jesus rose from the dead because His death paid the demands of God’s Law and His sinless life exonerated in His resurrection into the life of the age to come. Our sinless, sacrificial Savior needs to be profiled in His triumphant resurrection glory before the eyes of our Muslim friends and then Jesus, by His sheer supremacy, will displace Mohammed’s claims just as the light displaces the darkness.
Repentance for forgiveness of sin and faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord must be urged upon the Muslim, as upon all men outside of Christ. Repentance for forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all the nations (Luke 24:47) for there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12). For whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved (Romans 10:13).
God’s Wrath and God’s Love
The Muslim must be taught from the Scriptures to see that only the love of God is sufficient to satisfy the wrath of God. If God is truly holy, and if His wrath is in fact the wrath of the infinite, omnipotent God, then surely the meager measly anger of men is an inadequate vehicle for the outpouring of divine wrath. Only God can satisfy His own divine wrath. The gospel announces precisely that: God, in His love, provides the propitiating sacrifice of His own Son who appeases divine wrath by satisfying all the legal demands of God’s violated law against us. That God is angry against us in our sin is something perhaps the Muslim can comprehend. That He so loves us that He sent His Son to bear the wrath that we deserve is what we must declare to the Muslim in the hope that the Spirit will open blind eyes, and unstop deaf ears and give new life resulting in true repentance and faith in Jesus. 1 John 4:9,10 By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. This is divine love: the divine Son of God bearing divine wrath in our behalf on the cross. This is the good news of the gospel: the wrath of God is propitiated by the death of Jesus, the divine Messiah. The love of God conquers death, sin and Satan in the resurrection of Jesus. In love, God gives us His Son to bear the wrath that we deserve. The good news is that all who believe in Jesus are given the legal righteousness of His sinless life, forgiveness of sin by His sacrificial death, and victory over death and hell in His resurrection.
If we are going to speak with Muslims about love and God, we must tell them of God’s love revealed in Jesus. We must tell them about God’s wrath that was propitiated by Jesus’ death on the cross. We must tell them of Jesus’ resurrection, ascension, exaltation and imminent return. Only when they receive God’s love in Christ Jesus, will we be able to dialogue about loving God and loving neighbor.Alan Dunn, Pastor Grace Covenant Baptist Church Flemington, NJ Islam, Christianity, and the Wrath of God – Part 1