Expectations of the Mahdi


Steven LeBlanc

Nearly 1.5 billion Muslims eagerly anticipate the return of the Mahdi—the believed to be future Islamic “savior”.

While Christians await the return of Jesus Christ to rule over the nations and establish the Kingdom of God on earth, Muslims await the appearance of the Mahdi to establish the caliphate—(Islamic empire) that will rule the nations. The coming of the Mahdi is an established doctrine for both Sunni and Shi’a Muslims (though there is a small number of Sunnis who reject his future appearance).

As we study end-time prophecy it is important to appreciate what God tells us will actually take place in the Middle East. The Mahdi is a false savior—a great deception, a hope that will disappoint; yet the Bible does speak about a charismatic Islamic leader who will inspire millions…could scripture reference such a man? This may be the case.

There is a strong end-time leader, whom Daniel the prophet calls “the king of the South” (successor to the ancient Greek rulers of Egypt), who will rise up and provoke a Middle East war. This Islamic figure will attack or “push” at a dictator the Bible refers to as “the king of the North” (successor to the ancient Greek rulers of Syria). We believe this dictator from the “North” is a European leader who will then advance into the Middle East with lightning speed, overthrowing many nations (Daniel 11:40-44), attacking this King of the south (possible Mahdi).

This is what the scripture tells us:

And at the time of the end shall the king of the south (Islamic leader) push at him: and the king of the north (European tyrant) shall come against him (Islamic leader) like a whirlwind, with chariots, and with horsemen, and with many ships; and he (European dictator) shall enter into the countries, and shall overflow and pass over. He shall enter also into the glorious land, and many countries shall be overthrown: but these shall escape out of his hand, even Edom, and Moab, and the chief of the children of Ammon.

He (European Dictator) shall stretch forth his hand also upon the countries: and the land of Egypt shall not escape. But he shall have power over the treasures of gold and of silver, and over all the precious things of Egypt: and the Libyans and the Ethiopians shall be at his steps.

This King of the South may possibly be looked upon by many in the Islamic world, as a type of Mahdi or Savior—a Caliph who promises to establish the Islamic Empire! History tells us that various Islamic saviors have stirred up the Muslim world in the past.

Over the span of nearly 1400 years of Islamic history, uprising (intifadas) have been led by self-proclaimed mahdis. One movement of particular note took place in the later 1800s. In 1881, Muhammad Ahmad in Sudan proclaimed himself the Mahdi and launched a jihad against the country’s rulers—Egyptian forces commanded by British officers. Convinced of his own appointment as Mahdi by a series of dreams and visions, Muhammad Ahmad led his followers to conquer Khartoum and defeat the Turkish and Egyptian forces under the command of a British general, Charles “Chinese” Gordon. Muhammad Ahmad’s caliphate lasted until the Sudan was retaken in 1898 by British forces.

A movie was made abut this self-proclaimed Mahdi. Khartoum is a 1966 film starring Charlton Heston as British General Gordon, Laurence Oliver plays the Mahdi. It is based upon the defense of the Sudanese city of Kartoum, which was attacked by the Mahdi army—it is worth viewing. It will give you a sense of the reverence given to Muslim leaders.

As recently as 1979, a Mahdist movement attempted to overthrow the Saudi ruling family. Juhayman al-‘Utaybi and several hundred of his followers seized the Great Mosque in Mecca and occupied it for nearly two weeks, until they were forced out by Saudi security forces. The surviving attackers were executed. The militants called for severing of relations with the West; overthrowing the Saudi royal family and redistributing its wealth to the poor; and expelling all foreigners from Arabia.

It is believed that the Mahdi will reappear with Jesus Christ at his side, killing Jews and all the infidels while establishing the flag of Islam in all four corners of the earth. The description of the Mahdi that emerges from these various Islamic sources (Shi’a & Sunni) can be summarized as follows:

• Islamic tradition pictures the Mahdi as joining the army of Muslim warriors carrying black flags. The Mahdi will lead this army to Israel and re-conquer it for Islam. — Islam waves two flags. One is white and one is black. Written across both flags in Arabic are the words, “There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his Messenger.”
• He will be a descendant of Muhammad and will bear Muhammad’s name (Muhammad bin Abdullah).
• Have a distinct forehead (receding hairline) and prominent nose
• Arise in Arabia and be urged by popular acclamation in Mecca to lead the Muslims
• He will make a seven-year peace treaty with a Jew of priestly lineage (Levite).
• He will conquer Israel for Islam and lead the “faithful Muslims” in a final slaughter/battle against Jews.
• The Mahdi and the Muslim Jesus will kill as many Jews as possible, until only a small number of Jews are left hiding behind rocks and trees.
• The Mahdi and the Muslim Jesus will use the practice of beheading for executions.
• Be extremely generous and altruistic to those who embrace Islam.
• He will establish the new Islamic world headquarters from Jerusalem.
• He will rule for seven years (possibly as much as eight or nine).
• He will cause Islam to be the only religion practiced on the earth.
• He will appear riding a white horse (possibly symbolic).
• He will discover some previously undiscovered biblical manuscripts that he will use to argue with the Jews and cause some Jews to convert to Islam.
• Jesus Christ (called ‘Isa in Arabic). According to Islamic tradition Jesus will be in the midst of wars fought by al-Mahdi. Jesus will descend dressed in yellow robes—his head anointed. He will say prayer behind al-Mahdi then join him in his war against the Dajjal (antichrist). He will worship Allah, and teach unbelievers about Muhammad. This is obviously a counterfeit Jesus—the real Jesus Christ will abolish manmade religions such as Islam. All nations, including Arab nations, will be required to send representatives to Jerusalem to worship the real Jesus Christ as King of Kings (Zechariah 14:16-19). Those nations who do not worship Christ will experience national drought.

Shiite version of the Mahdi

Shiites, whose clerics rule Iran with an iron fist traditionally believe that the “12th Imam” (Mahdi), born in 868 A.D., was placed by God into hiding (known as occultation) until the day of judgment. According to the traditions the twelfth of these Imams, a boy of five years old, disappeared under mysterious and disputed circumstances in the year 874 –this mysterious figure encouraged his followers with prophecies regarding his eventual reappearance.

The Doctrine of Occultation is simply the belief that God hid Muhammad al-Mahdi away from the eyes of men in order to preserve his life. God has miraculously kept him alive since the day he was hidden in 874 AD — eventually God will reveal al-Mahdi to the world and he will return to instruct all men… The Shi’ites began to teach that the Twelfth Imam would return at a time when the Muslims were oppressed as never before, and suffering worse than ever. Many believe he will appear very soon.

The Imam, in the company of Jesus (re-imagined, as in Sunni Islam, as a Muslim prophet), would finally end the horrific persecution of the true believers, taking up arms against their enemies and conquering and Islamizing the world. Shi’ite tradition requires that the earth be “filled with tyranny and violence” before the Twelfth Imam can return.

You can see how it will require the return of Jesus Christ to chastise the nations of the world to bring about world peace. Islamic nations will come to see there is no Islamic savior. Jesus Christ is the only true savior. Zechariah 14 tells us more details of where Christ will defeat the armies of this world—that will include millions of Islamic soldiers. “Behold, the day of the Lord is coming, and your spoil will be divided in your midst. For I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem… Then the L ord will go forth and fight against those nations, as He fights in the day of battle” (verses 1-3).

The Prophet Joel indicates the specific location within Jerusalem. Notice: “I will also gather all nations, and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; and I will enter into judgment with them there on account of My people, My heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations; they have also divided up My land” (Joel 3:2).

So it is in Jerusalem that the battle of the great day of God Almighty is fought. The steep valley that is today called Kidron, between the Old City of Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives, will be the battle location. Christ will descend with a spirit army and tread the winepress of His wrath (Revelation 19). Revelation 14:20 reveals the blood from the fighting will run several feet deep. This great battle will usher in the Kingdom of God. Only then, after a terrible war, will the nations of the world begin to yield to the leadership of Jesus Christ! All false religion, including Islam will be eradicated from the earth.

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