Category: World Religions


What is Islamism?

Islamism is different from Islam. Islam is a religion with several branches, while Islamism is a religious and political movement within Islam, based on certain literal interpretations of the Quran. In particular, Islamism seeks to conform society to Sharia, the moral and religious system of law that comes from the Quran. Sharia defines a strict moral code for almost every aspect of societal and personal life—everything from trade regulations to personal hygiene—and it interprets the word islam (which means “submission”) quite literally, requiring that every person either submit to Sharia or die.

Not every Muslim is an Islamist, in the same way that not every Christian is a member of the Westboro Baptist Church. Islamism is largely political in nature—Islamists are interested in conquering. Some Islamists believe that the best way to do this is by revolution or invasion, conforming the world to Islamism through terror and state power. Others believe it is better to achieve their goals through reformation of society from the ground up.

Because of the terrorism that Islamism has spawned, there is a great deal of fear directed toward Muslims. Some of this fear is deserved. Conversion or death is a very real and terrifying aspect of Islamism. But Christians should try to remember that, while every Islamist is a Muslim, not every Muslim is an Islamist. In fact, many Muslim people are persecuted by Islamists because they do not want to conform to Sharia law or because they come from the wrong sect of Islam or live in the wrong community.

What is a biblical response to Islamism? Believers in Jesus Christ should think of their enemies as people who are lost and facing a Christless eternity. Islamists are trapped by a dark and desperate religion, doing Satan’s will while they think they’re doing God’s will. Jesus foretold of people like the Islamists: “The time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God” (John 16:2).

Christians should take comfort in the fact that this world is not our ultimate home. Whether or not we “win” the war against terrorism and Islamism is not the Christian’s ultimate concern. Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place” (John 18:36). When faced with death at the hand of His enemies, Jesus reminded everyone that His people are not here as conquerors but as rescuers—we are ambassadors of Christ’s love and forgiveness (2 Corinthians 5:20).

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:43–45). The Islamists, following the Quran literally, are filled with hatred and ruthlessness toward those who do not submit to Sharia; they know nothing of the love and forgiveness of God. We must pray for those trapped in Islamism, that they would see the truth about Jesus Christ. It was while Paul “was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples” (Acts 9:1) that he encountered the Lord and was born again. May the same happen to the leaders of Islamism.

I am curious if there are Muslims who can answer this one simple question; “Where in the Qur’an does it say Allah loves me unconditionally?”

In spite of my current religious world view where in the Qur’an does it say “Allah loves me”? In the Qur’an where Allah specifically says “I Love You just as you are (unconditionally) .”

In Islam, what is the greatest act of love Allah has ever accomplished? I asked this question of several Muslims, and I got similar answers: he forgave us of our sins, he gave us families and provisions, he showed us mercy, he gave us the Qur’an. The answers didn’t vary much beyond these responses. I found them lacking.

Most Muslims believe that the Bible is not trustworthy, it has been corrupted, the Injeel (gospel) of Jesus has been lost, and the Qur’an restores God’s truth to mankind. But, that is another subject to be debated.

In John 15:13, Jesus said, “Greater love has no man than this, that he lay his life down for his friend.” I have the Nestle Aland Greek New Testament with the textual apparatus included in it. The textual apparatus is the complete listing (per verse) of any textual variants that occur in any of the ancient New Testament manuscripts. Therefore, it is a very easy thing to go to John 15:13 and look at the textual evidence to see if there are any manuscripts at all–anywhere that have any variation on that verse. There are none. In other words, there is not a single manuscript of the more than 25,000 manuscripts of the NT that have a different translation on that verse. Every single one of them says the exact same thing. I will, therefore, conclude that it is an authentic and reliable saying of Jesus.

Again, Jesus said, “Greater love has no man than this, that he lay his life down for his friend.” According to Jesus, the greatest act of love is to sacrifice one’s life for another. This means that giving one’s life for another is a greater act of love than providing food for him, giving him a family, being nice to him or being honest, helpful, or whatever. Self-sacrifice, to the point of death, is the very greatest act of love.

Has Allah performed the greatest act of love? The answer is no. Allah has not sacrificed himself at all. Allah has not died for another. Allah has not loved us to the point of death. In Christianity, Jesus, who is God in flesh (John 1:1, 14), laid His life down for us. Jesus performed the greatest act of love.

If Islam is true . . .

If Islam is true and Allah is the true God, then Jesus, a creation (according to Islam) has performed a greater act of love than Allah (according to the Bible). A mere man has outdone Allah in love and sacrifice. But, of course, Islam denies that Jesus ever died. They then say that Jesus has not done the greatest act of love. Their denial does not change the fact that Jesus died on the cross as is amply attested to by the eyewitnesses who wrote the gospel. Besides, whether or not the Muslim believes Jesus died on the cross does not change the fact that Jesus told us what the greatest act of love was–and Allah has not done it. Yet, according to Christianity He has. Since Muslims want Christians to adopt Islam, they are asking Christians to give up their Lord who has performed the greatest act of love on their behalf. Why would they want to do that?

If Christianity is true, then God has performed the greatest act of love. If Islam is true, then God hasn’t. Which “god” then is more loving: the one who speaks of love or the one who acts out love?

I have found nowhere in the Qur’an where it says that Allah is love. The Qur’an says that Allah loves people, but it never says that Allah is love. By contrast, the Bible clearly tells us that God is love.  “And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him,” (1 John 4:16).

Who does God love?

Does God love all? In Islam, the answer is no. In Christianity, the answer is yes. Consider the following verses from the Qur’an.

  • “Whoever is an enemy to Allah and His angels and messengers, to Gabriel and Michael,- Lo! Allah is an enemy to those who reject Faith,” (2:98, Trans. Yusuf Ali)
  • “Say: Obey Allah and the Messenger; but if they turn back, then surely Allah does not love the unbelievers,” 3:32, Trans. Shakir).

Consider the following verses from the Bible

  • “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life,” (John 3:16).
  • “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.’ 44 “But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you 45 in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 “For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax-gatherers do the same? 47 “And if you greet your brothers only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect,” (Matt. 5:43-48).

We can easily see the huge difference between the God of Islam and the God of the Bible. In Islam, God does not love all people. In the Bible, God does love all people. In Islam, Allah did not die for the sins of those who were not his. In the Bible, God did do that. In Islam, Allah has not performed the greatest act of love. In the Bible, God did exactly that.

My question to the Muslims is: “What makes you think that I want to give up my Lord, who loves me so much that He would die for me and did die for me, for a god who has not and cannot perform the greatest act of love?

 

 

The Christian Identity Movement is a name that applies to a variety of different religious cults all identified by racist, anti-Semitic principles. These cults are typically found among radically anti-government, extremist, right-wing groups and “survival groups.” Christian Identity cults are connected by various unbiblical theological similarities, mostly centered on a white supremacist mindset that seeks to replace national Israel with British or American whites as the chosen people of God. This racist theology is followed by over 50,000 people in the United States. The largest Christian Identity Movement group is the infamous Ku Klux Klan.

There are other groups with similar theology to the Christian Identity Movement, including British Israelism (the milder philosophy that gave rise to the Christian Identity theology) and Kinism, but Christian Identity is more virulently racist, and there are other differences. Christian Identity followers believe that the end of the world is going to be preceded by a cleansing war, during which all non-whites will be exterminated. This dangerous and scary mindset has given rise to terrorism and other nefarious behavior from Christian Identity followers. The history and activities of the Christian Identity Movement are extensive, but there are two main perversions of Christian doctrine that have led Christian Identity followers to some very wrong conclusions about the world and about God.

First, the Christian Identity Movement is famous for the idea that the British (and by extension Americans, Canadians, and others) are the spiritual and literal descendants of the 10 lost tribes of ancient Israel. They believe that the white race now represents God’s chosen people, a belief founded in some creative interpretations of migratory history, but not based on fact. The Bible tells us that God will restore Israel, as a nation, to fellowship with Him after protecting them from the many nations that will come against them in the end times. Contrary to the beliefs of the Christian Identity movement, it is clear from the Bible that the nation of Israel will be made of the same ethnic people group that was responsible for Christ’s death, namely, the Jews (Zechariah 12:10).

The second main unbiblical belief held by Christian Identity followers is that the end times and the return of Christ must be “ushered in” by a genocidal war. Interestingly, this belief fits more closely with the teachings of Islam than of Christianity. The Bible teaches that Christ will return to set up His kingdom without the aid of mankind. The aforementioned passage in Zechariah makes this clear, and it is supported in numerous other passages. Revelation 1:7 says that “all tribes” will witness His coming. Titus 2:13 was written by a Jewish man (Paul) to a Jewish church, as they were all joyfully anticipating Jesus’ appearance. There is mention that “wars and rumors of wars” would occur before the end (Matthew 24:6), but there is no indication in Scripture that the Jewish nation would have to first migrate to northern Europe.

Furthermore, there is no biblical reason to believe that non-white races will ever be eliminated by the hand of God or by His true followers. In fact, the New Jerusalem in heaven will house all nations, and the kings of the earth will bring the glory and honor of the nations into it (Revelation 21:22-27).

The Lord has always protected the sojourner and the foreigner (Deuteronomy 27:19; Isaiah 56:1-8) and though He commanded Israel not to marry the daughters of foreigners, and so be tempted to worship their idols, He has always drawn, and will continue to draw, converts from other nations, tribes and tongues (Ruth 1:16-17; Revelation 7:9). What distinguishes these converts from those who reject God is not their skin color, but their acceptance of His offer of forgiveness through the shed blood of Christ on the cross. Favor with God is a matter of the heart, not a matter of race or nationality (Galatians 3:28-29).

Armstongism refers to the teachings of Herbert W. Armstrong, which became the teaching of the Worldwide Church of God. These teachings were often at odds with traditional Christian beliefs and at times were explicitly in contradiction to the Bible. The most well-known of Armstrong’s teachings is that of Anglo-Israelism. This is the belief that modern-day Jews are not the true physical descendants of Israel. Armstrong believed the lost tribes of Israel had migrated to Western Europe and that the present day British and Americans were actually the heirs to God’s covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Armstrong believed that this knowledge was the key factor in understanding the prophetic passages of Scripture and that it was his mission to proclaim this message in preparation for the end times.

These beliefs of the Worldwide Church of God were not new and were rooted in an anti-Semitic misinterpretation of Scripture. The Bible is clear that God has not replaced Israel with any other nation and that His plans for Israel are right on schedule and will come to pass after “the fullness of the Gentiles” have come into the Kingdom (Romans 11:25). We can be sure that all God has said is true and will take place, because of His character and consistency (Romans 3:3–4). To attempt to revise God’s plans for both Israel and the Church is to call into question His nature, His sovereignty, His omniscience, and His faithfulness.

In addition, Armstrong taught that at death one is in a sleep-like state until Jesus returns to earth. There would then be three resurrections. The first would be of the faithful Christians. Second would be the bulk of the population who would have a second chance to accept the gospel and be saved, despite the clear teaching of Scripture that there is no “second chance” for salvation after death (Hebrews 9:27). Third would be those that had acted in such a way as to be ineligible for the second chance. They, along with the group from the second resurrection that rejected the gospel, would then be punished. The Worldwide Church of God did not believe in eternal punishment in hell, but rather a complete destruction through fire, i.e., annihilationism. The Bible, however, is clear that there are two resurrections, one to eternal life in heaven for believers and one to eternal damnation for unbelievers (Revelation 20:4–14). Here again, the theories of Armstrongism and the Worldwide Church of God directly contradicted the Word of God.

Armstrong also taught that followers of Christ should remain true to all of the teachings in the Old Testament. Thus, he held the Sabbath to be holy, and in Jewish tradition the Sabbath was observed from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. He further believed that the Old Testament festivals such as Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles must be celebrated. The Worldwide Church of God taught that modern Christians should follow the dietary laws and tithe (up to 30 percent). Armstrongism was only one of many salvation-by-works philosophies that look to the keeping of the Old Testament laws as a means of salvation. But the Bible is clear that the opposite is true. Salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone, because the Law saves no one. “A man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified” (Galatians 2:16). Clearly, the philosophies of Armstrongism and the Worldwide Church of God were just that—worldly philosophies that seek to deny the only means of salvation, the exchange at the cross of our sin for the righteousness of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), and replace it with the Old Testament Law, which Jesus came to fulfill because we could not.

Thankfully, Hebert W. Armstrong rejected many of these beliefs and came back to a more orthodox understanding of the Christian faith before his death. Thankfully, the Worldwide Church of God has, for the most part, followed Armstrong’s final example. Armstrong’s successors, Joseph Tkach, Sr., and Joseph Tkach, Jr., have led the Worldwide Church of God in a much more orthodox direction. The organization/denomination now refers to itself as Grace Communion International. A brief history of the transition from Armstrongism to Grace Communion can be found at www.gci.org/aboutus/history. There are some former Worldwide Church of God churches/members who still espouse the unbiblical doctrines of Armstrongism, but, predominantly, Grace Communion International churches are solidly orthodox.

When people refer to the “lost tribes of Israel,” they usually have in mind the ten tribes of the Northern Kingdom that fell to Assyria about 722 BC. These tribes are Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, and Joseph (whose tribe was divided into the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh). Most of the people of the Northern Kingdom were deported to ancient Assyria (2 Kings 17:6). Many of the Jews who remained in the land intermarried with people from Cutha, Ava, Hamath, and Sepharvaim who had been sent by the Assyrian king to inhabit Samaria (2 Kings 17:24; Ezra 4:2–11). Thus, the story goes, the ten northern tribes of Israel were “lost” to history and either wiped out or assimilated into other people groups. This narrative, however, is based on inference and assumption rather than on direct biblical teaching.

There are many mysteries, legends, and traditions as to what happened to the ten “lost” tribes of Israel. One legend says that the ten tribes migrated to Europe (the Danube River, they say, got its name from the tribe of Dan). Another legend says the tribes migrated all the way to England and that all Anglo-Saxons today are actually Jews—this is a teaching of the heretical British Israelism. A surprising number of groups around the world claim to have descended from the “lost” tribes: there are people in India, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and North America who all claim such ancestry. Other theories equate the Japanese or the American Indians with the ten “lost” tribes of Israel.

The truth is that the “lost tribes of Israel” were never really lost. Many of the Jews who remained in the land after the Assyrian conquest re-united with Judah in the south (2 Chronicles 34:6–9). Assyria was later conquered by Babylon, who went on to invade the Southern Kingdom of Israel, deporting the two remaining tribes: Judah and Benjamin (2 Kings 25:21). Remnants of the northern tribes would have thus been part of the Babylonian deportations. Seventy years later, when King Cyrus allowed the Israelites to return to Israel (Ezra 1), many (from all twelve tribes) returned to Israel to rebuild their homeland.

The idea that ten tribes of Israel were “lost” is false. God knows where all twelve tribes are, and, as the Bible itself proves, they are all accounted for. In the end times, God will call out witnesses from each of the twelve tribes (Revelation 7:4–8). So, obviously, God has been keeping track of who belongs to what tribe.

In the Gospels, the prophetess Anna (Luke 2:36) was from the tribe of Asher (one of the ten supposedly lost tribes). Anna wasn’t lost at all. Both Zechariah and Elisabeth—and therefore John the Baptist—are from the tribe of Levi (Luke 1:5). Jesus promises the disciples that they will “sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Luke 22:30). Paul, who knows he is from the tribe of Benjamin (Romans 11:1), speaks of “the promise our twelve tribes are hoping to see fulfilled as they earnestly serve God day and night” (Acts 26:7)—note the present tense. James addresses his epistle “to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations” (James 1:1). In short, there is ample evidence in Scripture that all twelve tribes of Israel are still in existence and will be in the Messianic kingdom. None of them are lost.

Throughout their history in the Promised Land, the children of Israel struggled with conflict among the tribes. The disunity went back all the way to the patriarch Jacob, who presided over a house divided. The sons of Leah and the sons of Rachel had their share of contention even in Jacob’s lifetime (Genesis 37:1-11).

The enmity among the half-brothers continued in the time of the judges. Benjamin (one of Rachel’s tribes) took up arms against the other tribes (Judges 20). Israel’s first king, Saul, was of the tribe of Benjamin. When David was crowned king—David was from the tribe of Judah (one of Leah’s tribes)—the Benjamites rebelled (2 Samuel 2–3). After a long war (2 Samuel 3:1), David succeeded in uniting all twelve tribes (5:1-5).

The frailty of the union was exposed, however, when David’s son Absalom promoted himself as the new king and drew many Israelites away from their allegiance to David (2 Samuel 15). Significantly, Absalom set up his throne in Hebron, the site of the former capital (v. 10). A later revolt was led by a man named Sheba against David and the tribe of Judah (20:1-2).

The reign of David’s son Solomon saw more unrest when one of the king’s servants, Jeroboam, rebelled. Jeroboam was on the king’s errand when he met the prophet Ahijah, who told him that God was going to give him authority over ten of the twelve tribes of Israel. God’s reason for the division of the kingdom was definitive: “Because they have forsaken me . . . and have not walked in my ways.” However, God promised that David’s dynasty would continue, albeit over a much smaller kingdom, for the sake of God’s covenant with David and for the sake of Jerusalem, God’s chosen city. When Solomon learned of the prophecy, he sought to kill Jeroboam, who fled to Egypt for sanctuary (1 Kings 11:26-40).

After Solomon’s death, his son Rehoboam was set to become the next king. Jeroboam returned from Egypt and led a group of people to confront Rehoboam with a demand for a lighter tax burden. When Rehoboam refused the demand, ten of the tribes rejected Rehoboam and David’s dynasty (1 Kings 12:16), and Ahijah’s prophecy was fulfilled. Only Judah and Benjamin remained loyal to King Rehoboam. The northern tribes crowned Jeroboam as their king. Rehoboam made plans to mount an assault on the rebel tribes, but the Lord prevented him from taking that action (vv. 21-24). Meanwhile, Jeroboam further consolidated his power by instituting a form of calf worship unique to his kingdom and declaring that pilgrimages to Jerusalem were unnecessary. Thus, the people of the northern tribes would have no contact with the tribes of Judah and Benjamin.

“So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day” (1 Kings 12:19). The northern kingdom is called “Israel” (or sometimes “Ephraim”) in Scripture, and the southern kingdom is called “Judah.” From the divine viewpoint, the division was a judgment on not keeping God’s commands, specifically the commands prohibiting idolatry. From a human viewpoint, the division was the result of tribal discord and political unrest. The principle is that sin brings division (1 Corinthians 1:13, 11:18; James 4:1).

The good news is that God, in His mercy, has promised a reuniting of the northern and southern kingdoms. “He will raise a banner for the nations / and gather the exiles of Israel; / he will assemble the scattered people of Judah / from the four quarters of the earth. / Ephraim’s jealousy will vanish, / and Judah’s enemies will be destroyed; / Ephraim will not be jealous of Judah, / nor Judah hostile toward Ephraim” (Isaiah 11:12-13). When the Prince of Peace—Jesus Christ—reigns in His millennial kingdom, all hostility, jealousy, and conflict among the tribes will be put to rest.

The Hebrews are peoples descended from Abraham. The origin of the word Hebrew is thought to come from the proper name “Eber,” listed in Genesis 10:24 as the great-grandson of Shem and an ancestor of Abraham. Another etymology traces the original root word back to the phrase “from the other side”—in that case, Hebrew would be a word designating an “immigrant,” which Abraham certainly was (Genesis 12:1, 4–5).

From Shem, through Arpachshad and Shelah, came Eber, the eponymous ancestor of the Hebrews; and Eber’s descendant, through Peleg, Reu, Sereg, and Nahor, was Terah, the father of Abram and his brothers Nahor and Haran. It becomes clear that, if “Hebrews” are “descendants of Eber,” then others besides those of Abraham’s line could possibly be included (see Genesis 11:10–26).

Today, a “Hebrew” is usually thought of as any member of a group of ancient people who traced their lineage from Abraham though Isaac and Jacob. And that is how the Bible uses the term. In fact, Abraham is the first person called a “Hebrew” in the Bible (Genesis 14:13). After 400 years in Egypt, the Hebrews were recognizable as a distinct people group (Exodus 1:19). The Philistines in Canaan used the term “Hebrews” (2 Samuel 29:3); Jonah identified himself as “a Hebrew” (Jonah 1:9); and, hundreds of years later, Paul was still using the same identification (Philippians 3:5).

Abraham’s grandson Jacob’s name was changed to “Israel” (Genesis 35:10), so Jacob and his descendants could be called the first “Israelites.” Jacob’s fourth son was named “Judah,” and his descendants were called “Judahites” or “Judeans.” Later, the name “Judean” was shortened to “Jew.”

Technically, Jews are Israelite Hebrews from the region of Judea—they come from Abraham (a Hebrew) and Jacob (an Israelite), through Judah (a Jew); thus, strictly speaking, all Israelite Hebrews are not Jews. After Solomon’s death, the nation of Israel split into two kingdoms: in the Northern Kingdom were the “non-Jewish” Hebrew Israelites (descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob through ten of his sons); and in the Southern Kingdom were the “Jewish” Hebrew Israelites (descendants of Jacob’s other two sons who lived in Judea). This represents a very narrow definition of terms, however. In common usage, Jews, Israelites, and Hebrews are all words referring to God’s chosen people, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

The Israelites are the physical descendants of Abraham through Isaac and Jacob. God changed Jacob’s name to Israel in Genesis 32:28. From then on, his sons and other descendants were called “sons of Israel” or “Israelites.”

Jacob (or Israel) had twelve sons, the progenitors of the twelve tribes of Israelites. Most properly, any member of one of the tribes of Israel was called an “Israelite.” We see this usage of Israelite often in the Old Testament (e.g., Exodus 5:19; Leviticus 24:10; Nehemiah 9:2). The word Israelite is found several more times in the New Testament: Jesus calls Nathanael an “Israelite” in John 1:47, and Paul calls himself an “Israelite” in Romans 11:1.

The word Israelite is often used synonymously with the terms Hebrew and Jew. There are some technical differences separating these words, but, for the most part, such interchanging of terms is acceptable. We sometimes refer to the Israelites or Jews as “God’s chosen people.” This appellation is directly tied to the covenant God made with Abraham in Genesis 12:1–3.

The Israelites were also the recipients of other covenants with God: the Mosaic Covenant (Exodus 19—24), the Palestinian (or Land) Covenant (Deuteronomy 29:1–29), the Davidic Covenant (1 Chronicles 17:11–14), and the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31, 33). The New Covenant was extended, by the grace of God, to include anyone—Jew and Gentile alike—who has faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 10:12).

In the New Testament, the word Israelite takes on another connotation that has to do with one’s spiritual condition. Jesus called Nathanael an Israelite “indeed” (John 1:47). Years later, Jesus met with Zacchaeus, who was an Israelite by birth, and said about him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham” (Luke 19:9). We combine this with Paul’s teaching that “those who have faith are children of Abraham” (Galatians 3:7) to conclude that salvation is not based on physical lineage but on faith in the Messiah. There is a difference between an Israelite by birth (without faith) and an Israelite “indeed” (possessing the faith of Abraham). Nicodemus, an Israelite leader, had to be born again (John 3:3).

God promised to bless the Israelites as they kept the Law of Moses. Through the years, God has used the Israelites in amazing ways, as Paul summarizes, “They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen” (Romans 9:4–5, ESV). God also promised that all mankind would be blessed through Abraham’s lineage (Genesis 12:3). Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of this universal blessing.

God’s Word affirms that the Jews are God’s chosen people: “You are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession” (Deuteronomy 7:6). From eternity past God knew that He would need to be born into the human race in order to save us from the spiritually dead condition that we were in (Ephesians 1—2; Genesis 3). God had planned from the beginning to be born into a very small nation or race of people called the Jews. The Old Testament tells the story of how God set about creating, distinguishing, and preserving that race.

The ultimate goal of God’s choice of the Jews as His chosen people was to produce the Messiah, Jesus Christ, who would be the Savior of the world. Jesus had to come from some nation or people, and God chose Israel. God first promised the Savior/Messiah after Adam and Eve sinned (Genesis 3). Later, God specified that the Messiah would come from the line of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Genesis 12). Later still, He narrowed the Messiah’s ancestry to the line of David (2 Samuel 7). Throughout their history, the people of Israel were aware of their “chosen” status before God (see 1 Kings 3:8; 8:53; Psalm 105:43; Isaiah 43:4; 65:9; and Amos 3:2). The fact that God has an eternal future for Israel is evident in that five sixths of the Bible bears directly or indirectly upon them—Jesus being the central figure who brought the Jews and Gentiles together (Ephesians 2:14).

The fact that the Jews are God’s chosen people means that they have been held to a high standard. From those who are given much, much is required (Luke 12:48), or as God said through one prophet, “You only have I chosen of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your sins” (Amos 3:2).

Israel’s responsibilities have included keeping and preserving the Law (Joshua 22:5); being “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6); and bringing “renown and praise and honor” to the Lord (Jeremiah 13:11). Their high calling is straight from the God who chose them out of all the nations of the earth.

To put it bluntly, Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda is a heretic. He is a false messiah who claims to be the second coming of Jesus Christ. He refers to himself as “Jesus Christ Man.” He is a native Puerto Rican who claims that, in 1973, through a vision he received, Jesus Christ “integrated with him.” In 1998, he claimed that he was the reincarnation of the Apostle Paul. In 2005, he officially claimed he was Christ.

Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda’s following has all of the classic signs of a cult. There is the claim to extra-biblical authority by way of the vision of Christ “integrating” with him. There is the fact that Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda is the sole, undisputed leader of his movement, and as such he exerts total authority over his church and ministry. There is the teaching of exclusive doctrine such as the non-existence of the devil, hell and sin, the futility of prayer, and the irrelevancy of God’s moral code (i.e., the Ten Commandments). He exploits his people financially, living a lavish lifestyle well beyond his reported means based on the generosity of his followers. Finally, there is a defective Christology. He claims he is greater than Jesus Christ and that his teachings supersede those of Christ. He even refers to himself as the Antichrist and sports a “666” tattoo on his forearm, claiming that since He is Christ, worship of Jesus Christ is invalid. His followers are now also receiving 666 tattoos to declare their allegiance to him.

The Bible predicts that there will be people coming in the last days claiming to be Christ. In Matthew 24:5, Jesus tells His disciples, “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray.” One of the signs that the end times are indeed approaching is the rise of false messiahs—people claiming to be the second coming of Jesus Christ.

Yet how did Jesus Himself describe His return to earth? Again in Matthew 24, Jesus describes very specific signs that need to occur before His return. In vv. 3-14, Jesus describes the “birth pains”—signs that will indicate that His return is near. He uses the imagery of a woman giving birth. Right before delivering the child, the woman will experience labor pains, which begin slow and mild and become more rapid and more painful as the time of birth approaches. The “birth pains” Jesus describes are these: 1) the rise of false messiahs; 2) wars and rumors of wars; 3) famines and natural disasters; 4) increased persecution of the true church of Jesus Christ; 5) general apostasy as people turn from true Christianity to false religions being peddled by false prophets; 6) finally, increased lawlessness. While these things are already happening, when the end is approaching, these things will increase both in intensity and frequency as never before.

The next thing that happens will be the desecration of the temple in Jerusalem (Matthew 24:15). Once the temple is desecrated, there will be “great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be” (Matthew 24:21). Theologians call this the period of the Great Tribulation where God will pour His wrath on unrepentant mankind. It will also mark the rise of the final Antichrist, the man of lawlessness spoken of in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4.

Now mark this, Jesus says, “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (Matthew 24:29-30). The return of Jesus to this earth will be preceded by great and terrible cosmic activity, and then His arrival will be witnessed by all. This will be no “stealth return” to earth. Jesus says it again when He says, “For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man” (Matthew 24:27), thereby attesting to the fact that no one will mistake His return to earth.

Does the biblical description of the Second Coming have anything in common with Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda? If Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda is truly the return of Christ to this earth, when did all of these cosmic events take place? When was the temple in Jerusalem rebuilt so that it could be desecrated? Where is this return of Jesus on the “clouds of heaven”? According to the biblical account, Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda is simply one more, among many, false messiahs.

Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda’s doctrines include the following: He claims there is no sin and that the law is irrelevant. He gets this teaching from misinterpreting passages such as Romans 6:2, Romans 7:6 and Romans 8:2. Yet these passages don’t teach that there is no sin and that the law is irrelevant. Rather, they teach that the power of the law and the power of sin were broken when Jesus Christ died on the cross and that by placing our faith in Him (the true Jesus), we are set free from the penalty of the law. The Apostle John said that “if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). Romans 7:15-24 is a testament that even the Apostle Paul (whose teachings Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda believes are the only ones which ought to be taught) struggled with sin in his life.

Furthermore, the law, far from being irrelevant, is a necessary part of God’s moral code. Paul says in Romans 7:7 that he would have not known what coveting was had not the law said, “You shall not covet.” The law points out our sin and leads us to Christ. True, the law is powerless when it comes to obtaining righteousness before God, but it is not irrelevant.

Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda also claims there is no hell. Yet Jesus taught more about hell than He did heaven. The reality of hell is taught throughout the New Testament. Miranda claims there is no devil, yet Peter—after the resurrection of Jesus—says that Satan goes about like a “roaring lion” (1 Peter 5:8). Finally, regarding Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda’s view of the futility of prayer, how can we regard prayer as futile when Jesus not only taught about it (Matthew 6:9-15; Luke 11:1-13; 18:1-8), but practiced it all throughout His ministry. Similarly, the Apostle Paul opens every one of his letters with prayer and thanksgiving, and frequently asks for his readers to pray for him. Far from being futile, prayer is vital to the Christian life.

Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda is a false messiah and a heretic. He claims to be the second coming of Jesus Christ despite the biblical evidence that belies his claim of divinity. His teachings, far from leading people into a life of greater holiness and righteousness, are likely to lead people to a life of licentiousness and debauchery (no sin + no law + no hell = no consequences for my actions). Finally, look at the life of the man. He lives well beyond his means off of the “generosity” of his followers. Would Jesus do that? Jesus lived the life of a peasant with “no place to lay His head” (Matthew 8:20)—He took advantage of no one. The Bible tells us to “beware of false prophets.” Concerning them, we “will recognize them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:15-16). Judge Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda by his fruit, and it becomes abundantly clear that he is not “Jesus Christ Man.”

With that in mind, the next question arises—is Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda the Antichrist? While it is possible that Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda is the Antichrist predicted in Scripture—and the recent “666” tattoo lends credence to this possibility—it is unlikely. The Antichrist will be a world leader, a satanically-empowered dictator, a man that enraptures people with his very presence. Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda is not such a man—at least not yet. Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda is nothing more than a charismatic cult leader, a charlatan, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and simply yet another in a long line of false prophets and false messiahs. He is an antichrist, not THE Antichrist.