Armageddon and the Apocalypse
What do these words mean and how will it affect us?
Both Armageddon and the Apocalypse are Biblical words that have passed into common usage with a corresponding loss of meaning. Nowadays, every war is a potential Armageddon and every disaster a potential Apocalypse, yet the true Biblical meanings are much more specific and of course closely woven into God's plan for the world.
The literal meaning of Armageddon is "The Hill of Megiddo" and is an actual physical site where several Old Testament battles were fought.
An "apocalypse" is not an event as modern usage would suggest, but a "revelation" that is recorded in written form. The Book of Revelation is also known as the Apocalypse.
Thus, the two words are connected only by the fact that Revelation is the only place in the Bible where the word Armageddon appears in this form:
And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon
The Book of Revelation is written in highly symbolic language and there are good, detailed explanations that run into several volumes, therefore it is not the intention to give a full explanation here, but rather, give an overview suitable as an introduction to the subject. It is also worth noting that Revelation is not the only Apocalyptic writing in the Bible and it has close Links with other writings, such as passages from Ezekiel, Daniel etc. and we will look briefly at some of these.
If we start at Revelation 16, we can begin to see the nature of Armageddon. However, it is worth noting at this stage that although the various events that go to make up the Last Days are clearly described, opinions vary as to the exact sequence of events. Therefore, what follows will be a suggested sequence of events, rather than a definitive version.
13 And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet.
14 For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.
Looking through the symbolic language, we can see that three influences, the "Dragon", the "Beast" and the "False Prophet" have caused the Nations of the world to unite in battle.
In Daniel 7, the Empires of Man are represented by creatures, the last of them, Rome, being represented by a dragon. So it is generally accepted that the Dragon represents civil or political power.
The "Beast" is described in detail in chapter 13 of Revelation. It gets its power from the Dragon (verse 4), it utters blasphemies (verses 1, 5, & 6) and it persecutes true Bible believers (verse 7). From these clues, it has been deduced that the Beast represents apostate Christianity. Some have narrowed this down to the Catholic Church and this opinion has in its favour that the Dragon in Daniel represents the Roman Empire and the Catholic Church arose from the Empire.
However, if we look in Revelation 17, we find a description of a harlot that sits on the Beast. We are also told in verse 9 that the harlot sits on seven hills and it is said that Rome is built on seven hills. Therefore it is likely that the Beast represents apostate Christianity in general and the harlot represents the Catholic Church. In many ways the two seem interchangeable and both are associated with scarlet, which as well as representing blood (specifically the blood of the saints) is also a colour associated with the Catholic Church (for instance the Cardinals' robes).
The chapter also shows the close relationship between Church and State (Rev 17:1), their opposition to Christ, (verse 12), the fact that the kings will eventually turn against the Harlot (verse 16) and the fact that the woman rules over the kings of the earth (verse 18). It has often been noted that the Vatican exerts considerable influence over many Nations of the world.
This leaves the "False Prophet". If we look for a "false" religion, based around a Prophet, which influences the World Nations against God's People, then this leads many to identify the False Prophet with Islam. In Revelation 19, verse 20, it says that the False Prophet performed miraculous signs on behalf of the Beast which, if interpreted literally would preclude this identification at this time, but who knows what "un-holy alliance" might arise in the near future? If it does not represent Islam then it would require the identification of a "Prophet" associated with but separate from the Apostate Church. Perhaps this person has yet to come to world prominence.
If we return to Revelation chapter 16, the rest of the chapter describes the punishments that God will mete out on the nations. The reason for this is that they will unite in opposition to Him and attack Jerusalem. Now as I say previously, the exact sequence of events is not laid out from us in scripture, but we have the pieces of the jigsaw namely; the Signs of the Times (Matthew 24), the Abomination that Causes Desolation (Matt. 24v15, Daniel 11v21), the Nations uniting to attack Israel, the Return of Christ, the Battle of Armageddon and the establishment of the Kingdom.
The Signs of the Times (wars, famines, earthquakes etc) are a study in themselves, but just as with the plagues of Egypt, the significance (and the evidence of God's Hand at work) is not in the events themselves but the fact that they are all happening together. We are living in such times.
If we look in the Apocalyptic writings of Ezekiel, chapter 38, we find much information that will fill out our picture of events. Again, it talks of Nations gathering together, but here we can see clearly that the target is Israel. Israel has been ringed by hostile Nations ever since the state was (re)established in 1948 but this is different.
In verse Ezekiel 38v8 it states that the Nations
" will be called to arms. In future years you will invade a land that has recovered from war, whose people were gathered from many nations to the mountains of Israel, which had long been desolate. They had been brought out from the nations, and now all of them live in safety".
Israel have been gathered from many nations and returned to the land in direct fulfilment of prophecy. However, it certainly could not be said that Israel is living in peace! Since 1948, they have been constantly at war with the Palestinians and/or one or more of the surrounding Nations. A further description in verse 11 states , the Israel would be "a land of unwalled villages" and "a peaceful and unsuspecting people-all of them living without walls and without gates and bars". This is not the Israel of today and not any Israel likely to come out of the present situation. What could happen to bring this about? If we look at our list of "jigsaw" pieces, the only one that fits is the Return of Christ.
Isaiah 2:3 states:
"Many peoples will come and say, "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord , to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths." The law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. "
This prophecy is associated with the return of Jesus and the setting up of God's Kingdom on Earth and shows that Jerusalem will be the capital and the Law and Word would "go out" from there. From this we can infer that there will be a time when Christ has returned and set up his capital in Jerusalem, on the throne of David in accordance with prophecy; many people are going up to the mountain of the Lord, but the whole earth is not yet under the total control of Jesus.
This could well be the Israel that will be attacked by the nations whose influence and hold over their people would be weakened and lost by the return of Jesus. Those nations would be egged on by those other powers with most to lose by the return of Jesus and the setting up of the Kingdom; apostate Christianity and false religion. The Jews were persecuted by the Catholic Church for many centuries and the attitude of the present Islamic nations towards Israel is well-known.
Russia has long been identified as the "King of the North" of Daniel 11 and with the prince of Rosh,[Russia] Meshech [Moscow], and Tubal [Tobolsk], from Ezekiel 38. It lies directly north of Israel and has long been pro-Arab. With the disintegration of the USSR, many of the former Soviet States (Azerbezian, Kazakstan, Uzbekistan, Tadzhikistan, Kirghistan, and Turkmenistan) are Islamic in nature. Other nations are mentioned in Ezekiel 38 and some of them can be easily identified; Persia (Iran), Ethiopia (Sudan) and Libya being militantly Islamic and anti-Israeli. Josephus, In Book I, Chapter VI of his work stated that the Scythians were called Magogites by the Greeks and the Scythians populated the southern part of Russia. Gomer and Togarmah are harder to identify, but are associated by some with the Celtic tribes that came to be France and Germany.
Where are the other major Nations? Do they appear in this picture? The King of the South in the Book of Daniel has been associated with the United States and certainly they have long been in opposition to the King of the North (Russia) both globally and locally in the Middle East (Russia supporting the Arabs and the USA supporting Israel), but they both seem to be attacking Israel in Daniel 11:40 -
"And at the end of time the king of the South will collide with him, and the king of the North will storm against him with chariots, with horsemen, and with many ships; and he will enter countries, overflow them, and pass through. "
So it is more likely that the King of the South is the Arab nations such as Sudan, Egypt and Lybia that generally lie to the south.
In Ezekiel 38:13 we read
"Sheba, Dedan, the merchants of Tarshish, and all their young lions will say to you, "Have you come to take plunder? Have you gathered your army to take booty, to carry away silver and gold, to take away livestock and goods, to take great plunder?""
This would indicate that there will be nations standing to one side, questioning the motives of the alliance against Israel but neither joining them nor opposing them. Some associate Tarshish with the United Kingdom and its young lions will be its colonies and former colonies, including the United States, but the arguments are tenuous and if one were not looking for the UK and the USA in the picture, I doubt if these identifications would spring to mind! It may well be that as the UK is largely descended from Celtic and Germanic tribes that it is part of the Biblical Gomer.
Let us leave our conjecture and return to the real issue - the attack on Israel. If, as is likely, the attack on Israel follows the return of Jesus to set up God's Kingdom, why would this come about? We know that when Jesus first preached, both the political and religious leaders of the time were opposed to him, whether it was Pilate, the Herods, the Scribes, the Pharisees or a combination, they were all in opposition to Jesus, because he upset the status quo. They refused to see the signs that he was the Messiah because to admit to who he was would mean relinquishing their own power to him. Human nature has not changed, so why should things be any different when Jesus returns?
We can imagine the British Prime Minister being interviewed about recent developments in Israel. "Well the reports we are getting are very confused and make little sense. It seems that a charismatic religious leader, claiming to be the Messiah, has taken political and religious control of the country without a shot being fired. But that is followed by frankly unbelievable accounts of wide-scale healing and the dead being raised. What we can confirm is that the regular army has been disbanded and the military hardware is being melted down for use as farm implements. This reckless naivety has left the country wide open to attack from its enemies, yet despite that, millions of people are flocking to Israel including many from this country".
Although imaginary, I hope that the above illustration shows clearly the very human reasons for that attack on Israel - fear of the unknown and refusal to acknowledge a power greater and purer than their own!
The Battle of Armageddon is the result of this human pride and mistrust (steered of course by the guiding Hand of God as depicted by the rings in the noses of Ezekiel 38) that will quell all opposition to Christ's rule and establish God's Kingdom, the first phase of which will last one thousand years.
In case we think that Christ's followers will be involved in this great battle, let us look at the scriptures. Ezekiel 38 talks of earthquakes (verse 19) being used, and hailstones to destroy the armies of Gog and Magog and their allies not human forces.(Verse 22) "Every man's sword will be against his brother (friendly fire!).
"I will execute judgment upon him with plague and bloodshed; I will pour down torrents of rain, hailstones and burning sulfur on him and on his troops and on the many nations with him. "
Jesus says that he will take his followers away to a place of safety while this battle is going on. (1 Thess 4:17). The nations will be utterly defeated and their armies destroyed, but even then, their pride and stubbornness will not be extinguished as we can see from the apocalyptic book of Zechariah, chapter 14
9 And the LORD shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one LORD, and his name one.
12 And this shall be the plague wherewith the LORD will smite all the people that have fought against Jerusalem; Their flesh shall consume away while they stand upon their feet, and their eyes shall consume away in their holes, and their tongue shall consume away in their mouth.
13 And it shall come to pass in that day, that a great tumult from the LORD shall be among them; and they shall lay hold every one on the hand of his neighbour, and his hand shall rise up against the hand of his neighbour.
16 And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles.
17 And it shall be, that whoso will not come up of all the families of the earth unto Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, even upon them shall be no rain.
18 And if the family of Egypt go not up, and come not, that have no rain; there shall be the plague, wherewith the LORD will smite the heathen that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles.
19 This shall be the punishment of Egypt, and the punishment of all nations that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles.
These verses show that God will certainly use elemental forces to overcome the opposition of the Nations. Once the Nations have been subdued, the work of rebuilding can commence, the Day of Judgement will take place and the righteous will be granted eternal life. Jesus will then reign for one thousand years before handing all things over to his Father - but that must be the subject of other studies.
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