I believe the Bible teaches that there will be a worldwide persecution against the Church shortly before the return of Christ, led by a world ruler whom I believe is the “man of lawlessness” of 2 Thessalonians 2. You may read about this further in the links at the end of this study. Here, I want to explore the idea that that world ruler will be someone who comes through the line of Ishmael. This is not something the Bible necessarily teaches, but I do believe that it presents the suggestion or possibility of it.
(All bold and underlining mine)
(Genesis 17:20-21) – 20 As for Ishmael, I have heard you. I will indeed bless him, make him fruitful, and give him a multitude of descendants. He will become the father of twelve princes; I will make him into a great nation. 21 But I will establish my covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you at this set time next year.” (NET)
(Genesis 21:8-10) – 8 The child grew and was weaned. Abraham prepared a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned. 9 But Sarah noticed the son of Hagar the Egyptian—the son whom Hagar had borne to Abraham—mocking. 10 So she said to Abraham, “Banish that slave woman and her son, for the son of that slave woman will not be an heir along with my son Isaac!” (NET)
(Genesis 21:9-13) – 9 But Sarah noticed the son of Hagar the Egyptian—the son whom Hagar had borne to Abraham—mocking. 10 So she said to Abraham, “Banish that slave woman and her son, for the son of that slave woman will not be an heir along with my son Isaac!” 11 Sarah’s demand displeased Abraham greatly because Ishmael was his son. 12 But God said to Abraham, “Do not be upset about the boy or your slave wife. Do all that Sarah is telling you because through Isaac your descendants will be counted. 13 But I will also make the son of the slave wife into a great nation, for he is your descendant too.” (NET)
(Genesis 16:11-12) – 11 Then the angel of the Lord said to her, “You are now pregnant and are about to give birth to a son. You are to name him Ishmael, for the Lord has heard your painful groans. 12 He will be a wild donkey of a man. He will be hostile to everyone, and everyone will be hostile to him. He will live away from his brothers.”(Genesis 25:17-18) – 17 Ishmael lived a total of 137 years. He breathed his last and died; then he joined his ancestors. 18 His descendants settled from Havilah to Shur, which runs next to Egypt all the way to Asshur. They settled away from all their relatives. (NET)
NIV – (vs. 18) “And they lived in hostility toward all the tribes related to them.”
NET Notes (vs. 18): “tn Heb “upon the face of all his brothers.” This last expression, obviously alluding to the earlier oracle about Ishmael (Gen 16:12), could mean that the descendants of Ishmael lived in hostility to others or that they lived in a territory that was opposite the lands of their relatives. While there is some ambiguity about the meaning, the line probably does give a hint of the Ishmaelite-Israelite conflicts to come.
(Galatians 4:22-31) – 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. 23 But one, the son by the slave woman, was born by natural descent, while the other, the son by the free woman, was born through the promise. 24 These things may be treated as an allegory, for these women represent two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai bearing children for slavery; this is Hagar. 25 Now Hagar represents Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. 27 For it is written: “Rejoice, O barren woman who does not bear children; break forth and shout, you who have no birth pains, because the children of the desolate woman are more numerous than those of the woman who has a husband.” 28 But you, brothers and sisters, are children of the promise like Isaac. 29 But just as at that time the one born by natural descent persecuted the one born according to the Spirit, so it is now. 30 But what does the scripture say? “Throw out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman will not share the inheritance with the son” of the free woman. 31 Therefore, brothers and sisters, we are not children of the slave woman but of the free woman. (NET)
(Romans 9:6-8) – 6 It is not as though the word of God had failed. For not all those who are descended from Israel are truly Israel, 7 nor are all the children Abraham’s true descendants; rather “through Isaac will your descendants be counted.” 8 This means it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God; rather, the children of promise are counted as descendants. (NET)
“The descendants of Ishmael became known as Arabs, which basically means “nomads.” From the beginning, the descendants of Ishmael were a warlike people, as “they lived in hostility toward all the tribes related to them” (Genesis 25:18). This fulfilled God’s earlier word that Ishmael would be “a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers” (Genesis 16:12).”
We can safely assume Satan incited Sarah (Sarai) – just as he did Eve – to give her husband Abraham (Abram) to Hagar, to have a child through her, which resulted in the birth of Ishmael (Ge 16:1-6), which resulted in a war-like people, who are Arab Muslims today. From the very beginning there was hostility between Hagar and Sarah (Ge 21:10), and between the people of Ishmael and the people of Isaac (Ge 25:18). Some of the most fierce enemies of Christians today are among Muslims, who persecute Christians in their own country. Christians in many Muslim countries around the world are being beat, tortured and killed for their faith in Christ—and many of these Muslims likely come through the line of Ishmael. I would imagine that Satan is quite proud of how things turned out. It could very well be that Satan will again incite the descendents of Ishmael against the people of Isaac – that is, Christians, who are his spiritual offspring through faith in Christ – to lead the way in the worldwide assault against the Church that will come shortly before Jesus returns.
Satan tried to ruin God’s plan for His people through Hagar. Through the same people, he may again try to ruin the final part of God’s plan for His people, which will be led by a world ruler that will arise shortly before Jesus comes back. As I mentioned in the beginning, I believe this man is the “man of lawlessness” (“man of sin”) of 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12. That this man will be a descendant of Ishmael is not something we can be sure about, but it certainly makes sense, considering the fact that up to this very day we see much of the persecution of Christians coming from Arab Muslims, many of whom may be direct descendents of Ishmael.
As Paul describes in Galatians 4:22-31, there’s a division between the the “slave” people of Ishmael and the “free” people of Isaac through Christ, the “children of promise,” (Ro 9;8; Ga 4:28). These two represent the two types of people in the world—those who are without Christ (Ismael) and those who have Christ (Isaac), those who are in slavery to sin, and those who have been freed from sin. Furthermore, Hagar and her children (through Ishmael) are associated with the earthly “present Jerusalem” of Israel (Ga 4:25), while Sarah and her children (through Isaac, Christ) are associated with the “Jerusalem above” (Ga 4:26), which is the “heavenly Jerusalem” (He 12:22), the “New Jerusalem” of the “new heaven and new earth” (Rev 3:12; Rev 21:2).
While all of this depicts the two classes of people in the world, when we consider the federal headship (“two covenants” – Ga 4:24) of each one (Hagar/Ishmael and Sarah/Isaac), it would make sense that the physical descendents of Ishmael (Arab muslims) would spearhead the worldwide “rebellion” (2 Th 2:3) against the physical Descendent of Isaac (who is Christ) and Isaac’s spiritual descendents (members of the Church) that is coming to the world just prior to the return of Christ (Rev 11:7-13; Rev 20:7-10) — for one final conflict, which I discuss in my commentary on Revelation (see links below).
No one can say for sure if this is the way it’s going to play out before Jesus returns, but I do think the biblical suggestion is there for such a possibility. Something to think about!
For further reading: