2. The establishment of the State of Israel

2. THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE STATE OF ISRAEL

The most important prophetic event of the last 1,000 years was the establishment of the State of Israel in the year 1948. At that moment the American scholar William W. Orr named it “the greatest piece of prophetic news”1212 of the modern times, and this idea remained unchanged ever since. It was further confirmed through the conquest of Jerusalem in June 1967, which, according to John Walvoord, was “one of the most remarkable fulfillments of biblical prophecy since the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.”1213

The Old Testament often speaks about the banishment of the Israelite people and its regathering in the Promised Land. But the Israelites (the Jews) have been enslaved and liberated several times until the present day. So, it is unclear if the prophecies refer to random future events or to the beginning of the Messianic Age. In the Book of Genesis God promised Abraham that his descendants would have their own country between Egypt and Euphrates (Genesis 15:18). The same promise was made to Jacob, whose descendants would have Israel as their country, they would be spread across the entire world, they would influence the world and they would be regathered in the Promised Land (Genesis 28:10-15). Around 1400 BC Moses warned the Israelites that they would have to leave the country, they would be scattered and they would be killed (Deuteronomy 4:25-30; 28:36-37, 49-52, 64; 29:23). Then, around 750-686 BC the prophet Micah prophesied that the Jews would be hit by calamities (Micah 3:12). Between 520 and 518

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4.3.2. Jesus Christ and the Mahdi

4.3.2. Jesus Christ and the Mahdi

Unlike Christian eschatology, which is populated by a single messianic figure in the person of Jesus Christ, in the Islamic one there are two messianic figures with similar roles: Isa (Jesus, the son of Mary) and the Mahdi.

The first, Isa, was an important prophet, but his mission and teachings only foreshadowed – and at the moment they complement – the true teachings received by Muhammad. According to lots of hadiths, at a moment known only by Allah, Isa will return in a physical and visible way, concurrently with the advent of the eschatological entity the Mahdi and shortly after the rise of al-Dajjal. Jesus will descend to the earth from the clouds of heaven, will guide the righteous through the power of Allah, will kill al-Dajjal, will put an end to all wars and will establish an era of peace and prosperity. Jesus will perform the role of the Messiah (mahdi), but only as an apostle of God.

The second, the Mahdi (or Mehdi – the “Guided One”), is a controversial messianic entity. The Sunni doctrine still debates if the idea of the Mahdi is an invention with political tint or he is indeed Muhammad’s successor who is yet to come.40 The concept is not explicitly mentioned in the Quran and in the Sunni hadiths such as the famous Sahih Al-Bukhari; these

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4.3.1. Al-Dajjal (the Antichrist)

4.3. THE SIGNS OF THE END

4.3.1. Al-Dajjal (the Antichrist)

Muslims also expect the advent of the Antichrist, whom they name the “Great Deceiver” or the “Impostor Messiah” (Romanized Arabic: Al-Masikh al-Dajjal). The (Romanized) Arabic word dajjal means “to deceive” and it is used in religious contexts to designate false prophets or messiahs. Muhammad said that there will be around 30 dajjals ("antichrists") (Sahih Al-Bukhari 9:237). But Al-Masikh al-Dajjal, written with definite article and capital letter, refers to the “Imposter,” the Antichrist, a unique cunning entity, who will be the last and most powerful of antichrists. He will appear toward the end of civilization, before Judgment Day, will defy God and will make a deceiving interpretation of the scriptures. He will speak beautifully and will fool the world to follow his teachings, saying that Hell is Heaven and vice versa (Sahih Al-Bukhari 4:554). He will appear pretending he is the Jewish messiah and the returned Jesus Christ, but the real Jesus will descend from heaven and will kill him (Sahih Muslim 7023).

Al-Dajjal is believed to appear somewhere between Syria and Iraq, approximately at the same time with the return of Isa (Jesus) on the clouds of heaven and the coming of the Mahdi. Al-Dajjal will travel the entire world preaching his false teachings, but Allah will forbid him to enter Mecca and Medina (Sahih Al-Bukhari 3:105). The hadiths offer details regarding the look and the actions of al-Dajjal, so that he can be identified by believers:

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3.3.2. Babylon the Great

3.3.2. Babylon the Great

Babylon the Great, or the Whore of Babylon, is an allegorical figure of evil mentioned in chapters 17 and 18 of the Book of Revelation. Babylon the Great stirs the interest of the exegetes because it is in close relationship with the Antichrist (the beast from the sea) and it is one of the apocalyptic entities most clearly depicted. First, Babylon the Great undoubtedly refers to a city, a kingdom, or both; not only is Babylon the Great called the “great city” in Revelation 14 and 18, but there are also many textual similarities between the apocalyptic Babylon and the historical Babylon from the Old Testament (Isaiah 13:19; 21:9 or Jeremiah 25:12-17). Second, Babylon the Great will have a global influence: “that hath made all the nations to drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication” (Revelation 14:8). And third, Revelation offers a very important geographical indication regarding Babylon the Great: “Here is the mind that hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth” (Revelation 17:9).

The image of the apocalyptic Babylon has been assigned to several cities and kingdoms throughout history, on more or less religious grounds, but the best-known

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3.3.1. The Antichrist

3.3.1. The Antichrist

According to the dominant Christian view, toward the end of time mankind will undergo a process of decadent evolution marked by sufferings, pain, wars, earthquakes, floods, fire, diseases, famine, corruption and ultimately the apogee of all evils in the person of the Antichrist, the supreme tyrant. The advent of the Antichrist signifies the culmination of the moral degradation, a mundane state in which the sin will be so strongly rooted in human society that divine intervention will be necessary for the reestablishment of order and the salvation of the world from obliteration.

The Antichrist is a fascinating entity. His tremendous power, his dreadful darkness and the major role he will have in history have inflamed the imagination of the Christian theologians and fueled endless speculations. The Antichrist is probably the most debated apocalyptic entity, for three reasons: his advent in the world precedes the Second Coming of Christ, the fate of the Antichrist is to be defeated by Christ, and the Book of Revelation

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3.3. The signs of the end

3.3. THE SIGNS OF THE END

The Revelation of John, or the Apocalypse of John, is the last and the only entirely prophetic book of the New Testament. Its main theme is the end of the world. Revelation was most likely written around the year 95 AD, when Christianity was heavily persecuted by Roman authorities. The scribe of Revelation is traditionally identified with John the Apostle, while the author of Revelation is undoubtedly Jesus Christ: “What thou seest, write in a book ... I am the first and the last, and the Living one; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive for evermore” (Revelation 1:11, 17-18).

The word “apocalypse” comes from the (Romanized) Greek apokalypsis (apo – “far”; kalyptein – “revelation”), usually translated as “discovery” or “revelation.”25 Thus, the name of the final biblical book denotes its main theme and the purpose of its writing: the mystical description of the future of the Church of Christ and of the entire world (Revelation 1:1). However, in modern culture the word “apocalypse” is synonymous with “catastrophe” or with the end of the world. This is due to the fact that,

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