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Don Stewart :: What Does Islam Believe about Resurrection, Judgment, and the Afterlife?

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What Does Islam Believe about Resurrection, Judgment, and the Afterlife? (Heaven and Hell)

Islam – Question 15

Like Christians, Muslims believe in the afterlife. They have a concept of a final judgment, heaven for true believes as well as hell for unbelievers. However, unlike Christians, they see these things differently. We can make the following observations.

The Islamic View of the Afterlife

The Islamic doctrine of the afterlife can be summarized as follows.

1. There Will Be a Final Judgment

According to Islam, there will be a final judgment of all of humanity. This is a major emphasis in Islam. The Quran says,

And when the stars darken, And when the mountains are made to pass away, And when the camels are left untended, And when the wild animals are made to go forth, And when the seas are set on fire, And when souls are united, And when the female infant buried alive is asked For what sin she was killed. And when the books are spread, And when the heaven has its covering removed, And when the hell is kindled up, And when the garden is brought nigh, Every soul shall (then) know what it has prepared. (Surah 81:2-14)

Every human being will participate in this judgment. There will be no exceptions.

2. The Islamic View of Heaven

Islam’s view of heaven emphasizes sensual pleasures. The Quran says,

Other faces on that day shall be happy, Well-pleased because of their striving, in a lofty garden, wherein you shall not hear vain talk. Therein is a fountain flowing, therein are thrones raised high, and drinking-cups ready placed, and cushions set in a row, and carpets spread out. (Surah 88:8-16)

The stress is on the pleasures humans receive in the next life, not in this one. This is a major emphasis in Islam.

3. The Islamic View of Hell

Islam teaches there is a place of judgment for those who do not accept the true faith. It is a place of fiery punishment. We read the following in the Quran.

And what will make you realize what hell is? It leaves naught nor does it spare aught. It scorches the mortal. (Surah 74:27-29)

Hell is seen as a place of fiery torment.

This summarizes some of the basic beliefs that Islam holds about the afterlife.

What Will Happen to People of Other Faiths?

As is true with many things in Islamic teaching, there is vagueness as to exactly what it is saying about the afterlife. For example, it is not apparent what will have to those who belong to other faiths. The eternal destiny of Jews and Christians is not clearly stated. While the Quran says that Jews and Christians are enemies of Islam because they deny Muhammad is a prophet, some believe the Quran to teach that anyone whose good deeds outweigh their bad deeds will be allowed into heaven. This means Jews, Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, etc. will be heaven bound if their good works outweigh the bad. Uncertainty among Muslims remains on this issue.

The Christian Response to Islamic Belief

Christianity also has its own teachings on the afterlife. The Christian response to the Islamic view of judgments, heaven and hell is as follows.

1. Jesus Christ Will Return to the Earth

The Bible says that Jesus will return to the earth and set up His eternal kingdom. After Jesus ascended into heaven, two angels said the following words to His disciples who were watching what had transpired.

And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:10-11 ESV)

The New Testament makes it clear that Jesus will return in the same manner as He left this world as well as at the same place, the Mount of Olives.

Jesus Christ has promised to return. The Book of Revelation says He will return in the following manner.

Look! He is coming with the clouds; every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail. So it is to be. Amen. (Revelation 1:7 NRSV)

There will be no doubt about His return. Every eye will see Him.

2. The World Will Be Judged by Jesus

There will be a judgment of humanity by Jesus Christ, not Allah. In a parable by Jesus about the end times, He had the king saying the following to those who were evil.

“Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels...’” (Matthew 25:41 RSV)

Jesus Christ will return to the world to judge the nations. He will separate the believers from the unbelievers. The evil ones, the cursed, will be sent away into everlasting punishment.

3. The Christian View of Heaven

The biblical view of heaven does not emphasize the sensual pleasures that are found in Islam. Heaven consists of worship of the true and living God. There is no emphasis of the sensual pleasures as found in the Quran. The emphasis is that we will be with the living God. He will be our focus. The Bible says,

“Don’t be troubled. Believe in God, and believe in me. My Father’s house has many rooms. If that were not true, would I have told you that I’m going to prepare a place for you? If I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again. Then I will bring you into my presence so that you will be where I am.” (John 14:1-3 God’s Word)

This is what heaven is all about, being with Jesus Christ. Paul wrote of believers being with Christ forevermore.

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the call of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, all the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and remain with him forever. So comfort and encourage each other with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 NLT)

The promise of heaven is the promise of being with Jesus.

4. The Christian View of Hell

The Christian view of hell, or final judgment, is different from that of Islam. The people that go to hell, or the lake of fire, are those who have rejected Jesus Christ, not Allah.

Jesus said to the religious leaders of His day that they would die in their sins if they did not accept Him for whom He claimed to be.

“Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” (John 8:24 NKJV)

It is the rejection of Him that will cause their eternal suffering.

The Bible speaks of this final judgment as follows.

Then the Devil, who betrayed them, was thrown into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur, joining the beast and the false prophet. There they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. And I saw a great white throne, and I saw the one who was sitting on it. The earth and sky fled from his presence, but they found no place to hide. I saw the dead, both great and small, standing before God’s throne. And the books were opened, including the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to the things written in the books, according to what they had done. The sea gave up the dead in it, and death and the grave gave up the dead in them. They were all judged according to their deeds. And death and the grave were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death—the lake of fire. And anyone whose name was not found recorded in the Book of Life was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:10-15 NLT)

This passage explains the destiny of those who reject Jesus Christ as their Savior. It is a terrible fate which awaits them but it is a fate of their own doing, their own choice.

Thus according to the Bible, hell is for those who reject the God of the Bible, not the God of Islam. In addition, the Bible does not dwell on the nature of the torments of those suffering in hell as we find in Islam. It merely says that those in hell, or the lake of fire, will be punished.

5. There Is No Doubt as to the Fate of Those Who Reject Jesus

While Islam has no clear teaching about what will happen to those of other religions in the next world the same does not hold true for Christianity. What a person does with Jesus Christ will decide their eternal destiny. Good works have nothing to do with it. Belief, or non-belief, in Jesus Christ will determine where they will spend eternity. There is no ambiguity here.

Again, we find numerous differences between Christianity and Islam with respect to the afterlife. It is impossible for both of them to be true at the same time. Somebody has to have the wrong idea of what awaits us after death.

Summary – Question 15
What Does Islam Believe about Resurrection, Judgment, and the Afterlife? (Heaven and Hell)

Islam, like Christianity, has a view of final judgment, heaven and hell. However, it is quite unlike the Christian view. Indeed, there are a number of obvious differences.

In Islam, judgment will occur on “the last day.” The works of all humans will be put on a balance scale. The ones whose good works outweigh the bad will be allowed into heaven.

Heaven in Islam consists of sensual pleasures. The emphasis is what human beings, particularly males, can benefit. On the other hand, hell is a place of fiery torment for those whose good works do not match their evil works. It is based upon ones performance.

Islam is unclear as to what will happen to those of other religions. The Quran is vague on this issue. Some feel it teaches that all Jews and Christians will go to hell because of their rejection of Muhammad as the prophet, while others contend all good people will end up in heaven. The matter has not been resolved.

In Christianity, there is no such problem. Judgment will be based upon how one views the Person of Jesus Christ. Upon His return, Jesus will judge the nations. Those who have believed in Him will go to heaven, while those who reject His message will go to hell. Our good works have nothing to do with our final destiny. It is belief or unbelief in Him that will determine our destiny. Nothing else matters.

Heaven is described as being with Christ. It is in His presence where the believer finds his or her reward. Hell is described as a place of conscious punishment where unbelievers are separated from God. It is a place of everlasting conscious suffering, an awful place to be.

Therefore, a close examination of the views of Islam and Christianity, with respect to the afterlife, shows a wide difference between them. As is true with all of the other major beliefs, both of them cannot be true at the same time. Either Islam or Christianity is wrong.

Is the God of Islam Personally Knowable? ← Prior Section
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