Nine years ago, then president of Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stated in an interview that he experienced a supernatural experience during a speech he gave at the United Nations the previous year. Ahmadinejad claimed that he was bathed in a light from heaven at the outset of his talk, with the light remaining on him for the full length of the speech.
Ahmadinejad made a number of references during that U.N. speech to the "mighty Lord" who will hasten the emergence of "the promised one," the one who "will fill this world with justice and peace."  Exactly who was Ahmadinejad referring to? According to another speech he gave that same year, he saw his main mission to "pave the path for the glorious reappearance of Imam Mahdi, may Allah hasten his reappearance." 
CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen points out that ISIS has similar hopes based on their belief in Islamic prophecy. Believing that their actions hasten a supposed final battle at a small, obscure Syrian town named Dabiq between "Rome" and Islam (where the forces of true Islam triumph), Bergan notes: "ISIS members devoutly believe that they are fighting in a cosmic war in which they are on the side of good, which allows them to kill anyone they perceive to be standing in their way with no compunction. This is, of course, a serious delusion, but serious it is." 
A recent article by Graeme Wood in The Atlantic
echoes Bergen's conclusions on ISIS' prophetically driven ideology and puts forward the idea that no threat will deter their current course of action: "That the Islamic State holds the imminent fulfillment of prophecy as a matter of dogma at least tells us the mettle of our opponent. It is ready to cheer its own near-obliteration, and to remain confident, even when surrounded, that it will receive divine succor if it stays true to the Prophetic model." 
What exactly does Islamic eschatology (the study of the end times) teach and how does it drive its adherents to commit atrocities like those carried out by ISIS?
Postmillennial Eschatology — Islam Style
The teaching that Christians must prepare the world for Christ before He comes and begins His earthly reign (called postmillennialism
) is all but dead in Christianity. But that same mindset is very well alive in Islam.
For example, in 2006, Ahmadinejad urged his countrymen to prepare for the coming of the Mahdi (discussed in more detail below) by turning the country into a mighty and advanced Islamic society and by avoiding the corruption and excesses of the West. While sounding innocent, it is important to understand that part of the preparation has to do with the elimination of Islam's enemies and those who stand in the way of the Mahdi's return. Topping the list is the United States, and the chief enemy of Islam, Israel.
Islam's End of Days Countdown
Because Islam's end time prophecies are spread throughout the various Hadith traditions and not in the Koran itself, it can be difficult to accurately put together an event timetable for the Islamic end time portrayal. What follows is a broad overview of the Islamic eschatological timeline. 
Because Islam's teachings sometimes take their cues from the Bible, it is not surprising to find that a series of minor and major signs herald the end of the world. Common scriptural signs found in Islamic teaching include an increase in apostasy (conversion to Christianity) and false prophets, a rise in natural calamities, numerous wars and political corruption, and increased immorality.
As with Christianity, Islam has an antichrist figure, mentioned only in the Hadiths, called the Dajjal
. Islam's evil one is a Jew with only one eye, with some traditions stating that he has "infidel" written across his forehead.
The Dajjal's purpose is to be deified, worshipped, and to reign (sound familiar?) Using a seemingly small army of 70,000 Jews, who are pictured as his main followers, coupled with 70,000 Tartars, the Dajjal conquers all the world except Mecca and Medina, with his rule lasting only forty days (although each day will be like a year) before it is cut short by the return of Jesus.
The Second Coming
Jesus (or Isa
), who Islam says was not crucified, did not die, and was not resurrected (Sura 4:156-159), returns to end the Dajjal's reign. Jesus heads to Damascus where he confronts and kills the Dajjal, with the side benefit of the battle to the Muslims being the complete eradication of the Jewish people.
It should be noted that the above tradition is what Sunni Muslims believe will happen, while the Shiites instead hold that the Dajjal will fall at the hands of the Mahdi, who they say is the 12th Imam, empowered to work miracles, and their promised savior from the Dajjal.
After the Dajjal is disposed of by either Jesus or the Mahdi, it is at this point the invasion of Gog and Magog, who are presented as two nations having a vast army, occurs. Chronicled in the Koran (Sura 18 and 21) and Hadiths, they invade Israel and confront Jesus and his followers. The Islamic Jesus cries out in fear to Allah who defeats the large army with deadly insects, which are reminiscent of the locusts in Revelation 9.
After this event, Jesus will proclaim Islam to be the true religion and all disbelievers will convert. Jesus then begins a theocratic rule that lasts for forty years during which he marries and has children. At the end of the forty years, Jesus dies and his buried beside Muhammad where he, like everyone else, awaits the day of resurrection. It is interesting to note that when Jesus dies, all believers also die.
The Eternal State
After the death of Jesus and Islam's followers, a variety of events then begin to unfold. First a "Beast" that is produced from the earth appears calling on the world to acknowledge Allah. Those rejecting the Beast's message will have "infidel" scrawled across their foreheads.
A great cloud of smoke envelops the earth, large landslides occur, the sun rises in the West, and a worldwide fire breaks out that drives all living things to the place of final assembly before the resurrection. Three trumpet blasts then occur, with the first being a blast of terror and the second sounding killing everything on earth as well as in Heaven, with the exception of Allah himself. The third trumpet (only heard by Allah) is then sounded that signals the beginning of the resurrection.
There is only one resurrection in Islam with the inhabitants of Heaven being resurrected along with those who lived on earth. The just and the unjust are resurrected together, with each person being completely naked. Muhammad is the first to be resurrected, although Abraham is the first to be clothed by Allah. Muhammad is then clothed by Allah and seated at his right hand (taking the place of Christ in the Bible).
An interval occurs between resurrection and final judgment — termed the "Day of Reckoning" — where a type of purging happens to all except very devout believers and prophets of God. Great suffering occurs to all non-believers as well as average Muslims, with no real reason being given for it.
After this process, Allah descends from Heaven to conduct the final judgment of all humans and jinns (genies or spirit beings created from smoke). Humans are judged based on their belief in Allah and moral conduct, with the good deeds being weighed by Allah against the bad — what Islam calls "the Scale". All jinns appear to be condemned. No specific mention is made of the judgment of Satan, or as he is referred to in Islam, Iblis
Once the judgment of all is complete, every person must cross a bridge that stretches out over Hell, with Muhammad being the first to cross. Those spared by Allah will successfully cross over, while those condemned fall into everlasting punishment. The faithful who make it across the bridge then gather at a pool where they drink and satisfy the intense thirst that was caused by the Day of Reckoning.
However, the faithful are not home-free yet. Is at this point that Muhammad begins to make intercession for Muslim believers with Allah so that they may enter Paradise. At the same time, a second intercession begins on behalf of those condemned to Hell.
The prophets, martyrs, and faithful ask Allah to show mercy to any condemned who have an "atom of faith" in their hearts, and Allah mercifully responds by rescuing a large number of people from Hell. Unlike Christianity, Islam grants a second chance to those condemned by God.
With the ultimate separation of the approved and disapproved complete, each enters into their eternal abode. Islam's Heaven is constructed of seven heavens underneath God's heaven. Various Old Testament personalities are spread among the different layers (Adam's is above Jesus'), with normal Muslims residing in "the Garden," which is a perfect environment that caters to all the desires of the faithful.
Believers are richly adorned and live in mansions, with men receiving perpetual virgins (the exact count of which varies by whether a Muslim died as a martyr or not) who become a virgin again after each instance of sex. In his book on Islamic eschatology, Dr. Samuel Shahid gives strong evidence that the images of Paradise in Islam were borrowed from Zoroastrianism.
Like Heaven, Hell is compartmentalized into seven regions, with specific levels being designed for Christians and Jews. Punishment is eternal with the disapproved of Allah being tortured by demons. Many of Hell's residents, according to one Hadith passage, are women (SaHeeH Bukhari: 29).
Contrasting End Times Actions and Motivations
It goes without saying that not all Muslims think like ISIS and believe that committing acts of terror will speed up the end of the world as we know it. It is terribly sad to see young men and women brainwashed by Islamic militants into believing that if they murder "infidels", even dying in the process, they will automatically be rewarded by Allah and be granted entry into Paradise where they can fulfill their desires to the highest degree.
By contrast, in describing the end times in his second epistle, Peter instructs Christians in the following way: "But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells. So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him" (2 Peter 3: 13-14).
1. Joseph Farah; "Iran Leader's Messianic End Times Mission
"; January 6, 2006.
3. Peter Bergen; "Why does ISIS keep making enemies?
; February 18, 2015.
4. Graeme Wood; "What ISIS Really Wants
; March 2015.
5. For a good treatment of Islamic eschatology, see Dr. Samuel Shahid's The Last Trumpet: A Comparative Study in Christian-Islamic Eschatology