The Climax of World History
E. J. Strange, Bridgwater
IN our last paper we noted the intensification of the judgments of God upon a blaspheming world. The closing scene of this terrible period of world history is to be enacted in a place known in our English Bibles as " Armageddon."
The spirits of demons, working signs, 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 (Rev. 16. 14). Whilst the significance of the passage lies in the meaning of the name, ' the Mountain of a Great Multitude,' or ' the Mountain of Slaughter,' the name has geographic reality. In Smith's Bible Dictionary we read, " Whatever its full symbolical import may he, the image rests on a geographical basis : and the locality implied in the Hebrew term here employed is the great battleground of the Old Testament, where the chief contests took place between the Israelites and the enemies of God's people."
The purpose of this vast gathering of the armies of the world is clearly stated to be to make war against the returning Christ and His armies (Rev. 19. 19). The coming of the Son of Man is described by the Lord Himself in the following words, " For as the lightning cometh out of the east and shineth even unto the west, so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be " (Matt. 24. 27). In view, therefore, of the sudden and startling nature of His return we may well ask why the armies of the world are prepared. What premonition will they have had ? No decided answer can be given, but Matt. 24. 30 may provide a clue : " Then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven." The sign of the Son of Man is distinct from the coming of the Son of Man and would, therefore, be some clear indication to all the world that lie was ready and on the point of returning. The tribes of the earth mourn but they make ready, and the returning Lord of Life and Glory is met by a hostile array. In the rejection and crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth, in the spurning of the Gospel of God's grace, and in this great act of hostility, unregenerate mankind has sent and will send to God the message, " We will not have this man to reign over us."— " Not this man, but Barabbas !"—Not this man, but Antichrist!
The details of this great climax in the world's history are told in Rev. 19, and from that passage we shall consider the description of the returning Son of Man, the description of His retinue, and the final overthrow of His enemies.
The returning Son of Man. The last that the world saw of the Son of Man was His dying in unspeakable agony on a cross at Calvary, " numbered with the transgressors." What a contrast it will be when " every eye shall see Him " ! " So shall He startle many nations ; kings shall shut their mouths because of Him " (Isa. 52. 15, R.V., margin). To John, the lonely exile on Patmos, is given a vision of his returning and triumphant Lord, seated upon a white horse, the emblem of victory. In a few short sentences, giving us His titles, John describes the glories of the Revealed One. He is called " Faithful and True " (v. 11), for that is essentially His character. A name is His that He alone then knows—a name associated with His triumph and hidden from all, one of the secret things that belong to God. He is called the Word of God (v. 13). " The Word was God . . . The Word became flesh . . ." This name, peculiar to John's writings, is ever a reminder that Jesus is the Incarnate One—" God manifest in flesh." " On His vesture and on His thigh a name is written, King of kings, and Lord of lords," telling us of His supremacy, won by Hun as the Son of Man in His obedient life and suffering unto the death of the Cross. " Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him."
In addition to the titles here ascribed to Him, we note other details. " His eyes were as a flame of fire " (v. 12). Whilst every eye shall see Him, it is also true that nothing shall escape the scorching eyes of Eternal Wisdom and Purity. " On His head were many diadems " (v. 12). Men crowned Him in mockery with thorns. At His manifestation God will show His estimate of the despised and rejected One, that He, and He alone, is worthy of universal dominion.
" The head that once was crowned with thorns,
Is crowned with glory now ;
A royal diadem adorns
The mighty Victor's brow."
He is " clothed in a vesture dipped in blood " (v. 13). Is there here a reference to Isaiah 63 where the victor returns, his garments dyed with the treading of the winepress of God's wrath ? It is usually concluded so, but we must notice that in Revelation He is going out to execute judgment, while in Isaiah He has returned from the carrying out of God's vengeance. May it not rather be that the vesture dipped in blood is a visible reminder to all that He is Victor by virtue of His own sacrifice and shed blood ? Finally, in this description of the returning Son of Man we are told that " out of His mouth goeth a sharp sword." The imagery is unmistakable. In Ephesians 6 we are told that the sword of the Spirit is the Word of God, and in Hebrews 4, " the Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword." It is by " the breath of His mouth " that the Lord will consume the wicked one (2 Thess. 2. 8, R.V.).