Salam Dear Brother,
Thank you for your question and for contacting Ask About Islam.
In responding to any serious question about Armageddon and the end times, we must urge people to avoid sensationalism and exaggeration.
It is often easier to look for fantastical happenings in the distant future, rather than to go on living our lives in the present moment.
And the present moment is all we have – tomorrow is promised to no-one.
So let us discuss this question about Armageddon with a sense of reality and a healthy eye on what is required of us here and now.
Short History of Christian View of End Times
There is a considerable difference of emphasis in what the different Christian Churches believe.
Dealing with Christianity first, then, it has been the considered teaching of the Christian Church since the first century that Jesus Christ, having ascended into Heaven after his death, would return to earth at the end of time.
The Church originally thought that this Second Coming of Jesus was about to happen at any time and that this world as we know it was consequently about to end.
As a result, many Christian writers, Saint Paul among them, taught that people should focus on the afterlife rather than the things of this world because this would soon end and it was pointless focusing on purely worldly concerns.
The early Church Fathers promulgated the Nicene Creed in the year 325 A.D., in which they declared the fundamentals of Christian belief, including the belief that Jesus would “come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end.”
The idea of Jesus’ return to Earth is found throughout the New Testament: Matthew 24:27, Acts 10:42, Romans 2:5-16; 14:10, 1 Corinthians 4:5; 2 Corinthians 5:10; 2 Timothy 4:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:5; James 5:7.
There is only one reference, however, in the whole of the Greek New Testament to a place called Armageddon, where there will be a battle at the end of time “for the war of the great day of God, the Almighty.”
Various Church Teachings on Armageddon, Then and Now
This reference comes in the very last book of the Bible, the Book of Revelation or Apocalypse (16:16).
One reference, compared to multiple other references about Jesus’ return, should place the idea in context.
We do not have time here to discuss the nature of apocalyptic literature and we run the risk of over-simplifying something that is very complex.
But, it is enough for us to say that such literature is highly stylized and uses fantastic imagery to talk about its central theme: good will eventually triumph over evil and that Christ will one day reign supreme.
A little knowledge is here a very dangerous thing and apocalyptic literature is not to be selectively quoted from by the casual reader.
Whilst some of the smaller Evangelical Protestant Churches do take such references literally, most Christians would not do so, and would see them as allegorical.
Nor should we confuse the Christian belief about the end times with the beliefs of such groups as Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses.
These groups both have elaborate beliefs regarding this and consequently have done much to encourage the more sensational views of the end times popularly depicted in films and action movies.
Since these groups are not recognized as being Christian by the major Christian churches, their doctrines do not fall into our discussion of what both Christianity and Islam teach.
The majority of the world’s Christians, then, including Roman Catholics, the Orthodox and Anglicans, would emphasize that Jesus will return at the Last day and that good will ultimately triumph over evil.
His return will be preceded by “wars and rumours of wars,” but in their day to day belief they would not put too much emphasis on the allegorical battle that would achieve his triumph over evil, nor seek to locate it in a particular place.
Islam’s Teachings on the Armageddon
Muslims, too, believe that Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him) will return at the end of time. Allah says:
And he (Jesus) shall be a Sign (for the coming of) the Hour (of Judgment): therefore have no doubt about the (Hour), but follow ye Me (Follow the guidance and instruction of Allah): this is a Straight Way. (Quran 43:61)
Jesus will slay the Antichrist and then all Jews and Christians will believe in him. Thus, there will then be one community, that of Islam. Good will triumph. (Sahih Muslim 41:7023)
According to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him),
The Hour will not be established until the son of Mary (Mariam) (i.e. Jesus) descends amongst you as a just ruler, he will break the cross, kill the pig, and abolish the Jizya tax. Money will be in abundance so that nobody will accept it (as charitable gifts). (Sahih al-Bukhari 3:43:656)
The death of the Mahdi will be followed by a period of peace and justice, interrupted by the appearance of Gog and Magog whom God will kill.
Muslims will then perform the Salat al-Janazah (funeral prayer) for him and bury him in the city of Madinah in a grave left vacant beside Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
But When Will It Happen? No One Knows
It is not for individuals, though, to announce when the end of time will be. Only Allah knows when this will happen.
And as a final thought, let us end by bringing ourselves quite firmly back to the present. In their Scriptures, Christians read:
This is the day that the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalms 118:24)
Muslims read in the very first verse of the Quran:
All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of the worlds. (Quran 1:1)
Also, in Chapter 6:102:
And He creates everything and He has knowledge of all things.
The end times will one day come.
With hungry mouths to feed and injustice and oppression to combat, though, there is enough happening in our world today to keep us busy doing well and striving to live good lives without fretting over a future we may never see.
With one eye on what will be, we should remain firmly immersed in what is.
I hope this helps answer your question.
Salam and please keep in touch.
(From Ask About Islam archives)