For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before.
And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
-2 Thessalonians 2:8-12
These passages constitute some of the most serious warnings about the end times in the Bible. They indicate a time of such deceit and confusion comingled with persecution with the result that the path of virtue will lead to martyrdom. Only those who truly value truth, who sacrifice themselves to it, will be able to find and keep hold of Christ in the cloud of deceit. There have been many false messiahs in history already and there are a number in the world today. These range from people claiming to be Jesus of Nazareth, such as a man who holds court on a mountain in Siberia, to those pretending to be the saviour figures of other religions, such as men who claimed to be the Mahdi of Islam.
We have also seen false prophets, figures who have amassed followings and given messages and predictions that turned out not to be from God. These people, as with the messiah claimants, have appeared within Christianity and without, often forming their own separate religions.
In these times, syncretism and compromise are among the most prominent forms of religious deceit. A blurring of religions poses a threat to the naïve and rebellious, because salvation in biblical terms is based on exclusive loyalty to YHWH. Those who worshipped other gods were apostates, whether they called themselves that or not. This is important for the modern reader, not an idle excursion into history, because the apostates of ancient Israel did not usually claim to have rejected YHWH. They often worshipped him alongside other gods of the Canaanite and neighbouring pantheons. On one famous potsherd, the inscription says “YHWH and His Asherah” and there are pictures of two humanoid figures. The prophets mention Israelites making cakes for the “Queen of Heaven”, and the Elijah saga tells of Baal worship.
Today there is a persistent claim made by both Muslims and Christians that they worship the same god. One Cathedral in England permitted a Muslim call to prayer to be made within the sanctuary. The answer to the question of whether Muslims and Christians worship the same god or not is important, particularly in the current political climate. If they do not worship the same god, then attempts at syncretism are really apostasy and idolatry and will result in perdition, unless the worshipper repents sincerely before death – and that repentance ought to be as public as possible.
YHWH and Allah are not the same god. Although Allah is cognate with El and Elohim, this word only communicates what God is – a spirit – not who God is – His character. YHWH, by contrast, and Jesus, which name contains the word YHWH, tells us who this spirit is. This Spirit is existence itself, the Creator, whose existence is necessary, but on whose existence all others are contingent. Jesus indicates that YHWH is the Saviour, and the New Testament tells us that He effected salvation for us by death on the cross, and that He is the only Saviour.
The fact that Islam claims to worship the Creator is not sufficient to show that Muslims and Christians worship the same god, because Islam makes claims about what Allah is not or has not or has not done. These claims contradict claims made by Christianity, so both cannot be true. Furthermore, because Islam makes claims about what Allah is like or has done or will do and many of these claims are also in contradiction to Christianity, from a Christian perspective they constitute blasphemy. Making claims about God that present Him as evil constitute blasphemy.
There is a kind of gradation. Being fallen creatures, trying to learn more about God through relationship with Him, it is the case that most, if not all, Christians will have mistaken ideas about Him. The nature of the idea is important, however. People who hold to Trinitarian theology and believe that Jesus is the only way to the Father are still Christians, even if they are not disagree about the role of works and faith in salvation. But people who deny the Trinity are dealing with deeper claims about God’s nature and His character: they are calling God a liar. Such people, and Muslims fall into this category, do not worship YHWH. The figure they worship is someone else. Is there an actual spirit involved? That must be the subject of another post.