In 2009, when Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi walked away from a United States detention camp in Iraq, he warned his former captors: “I’ll see you guys in New York.”
Just five years later, in 2014, this same man became the leader of ISIS.
After Tuesday’s terror attack in New York City, the deadliest in NYC since 9/11, al-Baghdadi’s words seem more ominous – and relevant.
This week, CNN noted the resilience of New Yorkers. Yet, we deceive ourselves if we go on with our lives and dismiss Tuesday’s attack as another senseless atrocity carried out by a “lone wolf.” (After all, the alleged attacker wanted to display the ISIS flag in the hospital while he recovered, and the militant group claimed him as a “soldier of the caliphate.”)
What motivates ISIS to commit such carnage? Radical jihadists such as al-Baghdadi are more than psychopaths perverting Islam. ISIS wants to usher in the apocalypse.
Here are four things you need to know about ISIS from the research of Jim Denison, author of Radical Islam: What You Need to Know.
1) ISIS believes the West has been attacking the Muslim world since the Crusades. In their minds, Western troops on Saudi soil during the first Gulf War and later in Iraq and Afghanistan constituted aggression against Islam.
2) According to these jihadists, the Jews are not God’s chosen people. They claim Abraham offered Ishmael, instead of Isaac, to God. They also believe, when Israel became a nation in 1948, the Jews stole land from the rightful Palestinian owners. They view American support for Israel as an act of violence against the Muslim world.
3) ISIS believes there are no innocent victims in the West. To them, 9/11 was not an unprovoked attack on innocent Americans. Instead, they view the events of September 11, 2001, as a defense of Islam required by the Qur’an. To them, killing any Westerner or American is an act that defends Islam and obeys the Qur’an.
4) Regarding their apocalyptic theology, here are some highlights: the Mahdi will appear, uncover the Ark of the Covenant, and evangelize the Jews. An anti-Messiah known as al-Masih ad-Dajjal will arise. Jesus will return to earth, kill the ad-Dajjal, and lead them to victory.
Ultimately, ISIS leaders believe their violent actions will bring about global conquest.
So, how should Christians respond?
— Now is the time to invest our lives in what matters to God. While on earth, Jesus made a remarkable statement that applies to terrorism: “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28 ESV). Jesus meant we should be more concerned about the condition of our soul, which lives forever, than our earthly body. When we devote our lives to God, He is pleased and will reward us (Matthew 16:24-27).
— Now is not the time to drift from faith. The Bible warns us in 2 Timothy 3 that, in the last days, difficult times will come. People will be “heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous …” (2 Timothy 3:3). Further, “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse … (2 Timothy 3:13). However, Scripture urges us to remain clear-headed, endure suffering, and fulfill our ministry (2 Timothy 4:5).
— Now is also the time to pray. Pray for the families victimized by ISIS. Pray for world leaders and intelligence officials to stop the plans of ISIS. Pray for Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and his followers in ISIS to see visions of Jesus because we must never forget how the gospel can change lives; the Apostle Paul serves as proof that terrorists can indeed convert to faith in Jesus Christ.
About the Author:
Laura Lacey Johnson is a blogger, speaker, and Bible study leader who writes regularly for ChristianHeadlines.com. Subscribe to her updates at www.lauralaceyjohnson.com and follow her on Twitter @thelaurajohnson.
Photo credit: WGNO-ABC