The storm is gathering and threatening on God’s prophetic horizon. Already the prophesied apostasy of the end times of the church age is gathering strength. Anti-Christian attitudes and rejection of moral restraints are evident from governments, down through the social institutions of Western nations. Humanism, atheism, false religions, and idolatry are accepted while the Christian faith is increasingly rejected. Escalating social and spiritual darkness is evidence that we are in the end times and the rapture of the church is imminent. The storm we speak of is that time of universal divine judgement and retributive wrath against an apostate Israel and satanically deceived anti-God Gentile world powers, described by the Lord in Matt. 24. 21 as ‘great tribulation’, and which follows the removal of the church.
The Tribulation is prophetically Daniel’s 70th week of years, Dan. 9. 27, a time period of seven years. A seven year firm covenant is established between apostate Israel and the head of the revived ancient Roman empire ‘the Prince (Ruler) that shall come’ who is Antichrist. This covenant will be abrogated by the Prince halfway through the covenant week. He will then turn and instigate an intense persecution for the last three-and-a-half years against the Jewish nation. This is the period described as the Great Tribulation. The climactic events of this Tribulation period are the battle of Armageddon and the public second advent of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The passage dealing with the description of this subject is Revelation chapter 16 verses 12-16, and the outpouring of the sixth judgement vial upon the great river Euphrates. Armageddon, v. 16, or, in Hebrew, Har-Magedon (Mountain of Megiddo), was a city about 40 km south-west of the southern tip of the Sea of Galilee, on the western end of the Valley of Jezreel. Famous in Old Testament history, this valley has been the site of many battles over the centuries. Barak defeated the Canaanites there, Judg. 4, and Gideon the Midianites, Judg. 6, and it was here the Philistines slew King Saul.
It is this valley, twelve miles wide by fourteen miles long, where ‘the kings of the earth and of the whole world’, Rev. 16. 14, will assemble for the final drive to destroy Jerusalem, defeat the Messiah, and wipe out the Jewish nation (see Psalm 2). No battle will actually be fought at Armageddon; it is the central assembling point for the kings that come from the east or sun-rising to meet with the western armies under Antichrist, for the last great ‘battle of that great day of God Almighty’, v. 14.
The ‘kings of the east’, v. 12, for whom the drying-up of the Euphrates at the outpouring of the sixth vial will make it easier for them to rendezvous with allied Antichrist forces in the west, have been identified with the 200 million army of Revelation chapter 9 verse 16. Some have taken this vast force to be the oriental hordes of China, together with Japan and India. However, plain comparisons with other sections of Revelation will not allow for this. The ‘two hundred million’ of Revelation chapter 9 belong to the earlier trumpet judgements, whereas ‘the kings of the east’ are in the vial judgements period. Then again, the 200 million in chapter 9 are seen as denizens of hell, horrific demon-like supernatural creatures and not men. Similarly, the direction ‘east’ in scripture invariably refers to areas immediately east of the river Euphrates – and as Antichrist’s capital is Babylon, would here indicate it is Mesopotamian kings that are in view.
This final conflict, while commonly called ‘the Battle of Armageddon’, is, in reality, not a single battle but rather an extended war campaign. In verse 14 ‘battle’ is the Greek word polemos, and both Robertson and Vincent in their Word Studies translate it as war or campaign. The word used for a single battle or fight is mache (see James chapter 4 verse 1 where both words are used). The command for the Armageddon campaign to commence comes from the unholy and counterfeit trinity of verse 13, the dragon (Satan), the beast (Antichrist), and the false prophet (Antichrist’s executive officer). They are described as ‘the spirits of demons’, v. 14, who work miracles and deceive the nations into war with God Almighty.
The campaign of Armageddon extends the whole length of the land of Israel and further. The armies assemble in the Valley of Jezreel, v. 16; Joel 3. 9-14, then is included the destruction of Babylon under the vial judgements, Rev. 17. 1-2; ch. 18; then Jerusalem is surrounded and partially destroyed, Zech. 14. 1-2; the battle flows south into Edom and Antichrist’s hordes assault Bozrah and are annihilated there, Isa. 63. 1-6. The final drama is then played out again in Jerusalem when the sign of the Son of Man appears in the heavens, Matt. 24. 30, and Messiah comes with power and great glory. He rescues His people, engages the Beast and all his dismayed armies, thundering from the heavens seated upon a white horse and the armies of heaven with Him. There is a terrible slaughter, the Beast and False Prophet are taken and cast alive into the lake of fire, Rev. 19. 11-21. The Messiah has returned victorious to take up the reins of worldwide government and plant His standard in Jerusalem, Ps. 2. 7-8; Ps. 48. 2.
There is a parenthetical statement in verse 15 addressed by God to the remnant of faithful believers living at that time. It is a word of encouragement and hope indicating He will soon return but without warning ‘as a thief’, so let them watch and keep the faith. In verse 16 ‘he’ KJV refers to God who overrules the plans of Antichrist and reveals that it is He who really gathers the nations into this final confrontation to destroy Satan’s power, and all human rebellion and pride once and for all.
The time of this judgement is immediately post-Tribulation and prior to the inauguration of the Messianic Kingdom.
The judgement upon the remnant of Israel surviving after the Tribulation persecution, has already taken place. Ezekiel describes this judgement in his prophecy, 20. 34-38. Jehovah will gather Israel for solemn judgement ‘into the wilderness of the people’ (very probably the Sinai Peninsula on the borders of the land); they have passed under His ‘rod’ and the rebels ‘purged out’ and banished from the land in judgement, who had been traitors and accepted Antichrist. The saved remnant are brought into the ‘bond of the covenant’ and enter Messiah’s kingdom. This is paralleled in Matthew chapter 25 verses 1-30, where again Israel are judged prior to the judgement of the Gentile nations. It is a judgement based on preparedness to welcome the Messiah, v. 11-13; service and responsibility for talents received, v. 23-30 – with final irrevocable eternal judgement in outer darkness for those whose works reveal they are plainly unsaved, v. 30.
Now, verse 31 follows with the judgement on the gathered living Gentile nations when the Son of Man (His millennial title) Himself sits upon the throne of His glory and commences this awesome inquest.
Though the world population will have been decimated by the slaughter and fearsome disasters of the recent Tribulation period, a multitude of Gentiles still survive, and this is the company now gathered for judgement. This judgement is described in two passages of scripture – one in the Old and the other in the New Testament.
Firstly, in Joel chapter 3 verses 1-3 where Joel assigns the time of this judgement to be when the Lord restores Israel to their land, and the place as the valley of Jehoshaphat, ‘For, behold, in those days, and in that time, when I shall bring again the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem, I will also gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat, and will plead with them there for my people and for my heritage Israel’. This valley appears to be, appropriately, the very place where the campaign of Armageddon ended, and the basis for the judgement is the treatment of the Jewish people!
The second passage is Matthew chapter 25 verses 31-46, where also the Lord pleads on behalf of His ‘brethren’, and the basis of judgement is the same, how these Gentile nations treated His ‘brethren’ the Jews during the Tribulation holocaust – whether they were pro- or anti-Semitic. He separates them as ‘sheep’ or ‘goats’. The pro-Semitic sheep on the right hand – the place of honour and approbation – the anti-Semitic goats on the left – the place of dishonour and contempt in this instance.
The outcome of this judgement is their eternal destiny. For those ‘sheep’ Gentiles who fed, clothed, visited and cared for the hated and persecuted Jews during the Tribulation, ‘life eternal’ and ‘inheritance of the kingdom’, v. 34, 46. For the ‘goat’ Gentiles who failed to care for the Jews ‘everlasting punishment and fire’, v. 41, 46. We must see here in the sheep evidence of salvation through accepting by faith the gospel of the kingdom offered them by the fiery Jewish evangelists, the 144,000 sealed from the twelve tribes of Israel in Revelation chapter 7, and whom they cared for after conversion. These sheep Gentiles are called ‘righteous’, v. 37, therefore are clearly saved, and by their works reveal their faith, Jas. 2. 17-18. The goats refused the message proclaimed by the Jews and took part in Antichrist’s continuing persecution and killing spree against them. In so doing they manifest their unbelief and hatred of the Jews and merit the summary execution of judgement against them, v. 41.
The sheep then enter into the messianic kingdom under the headship and priesthood of restored Israel, Deut. 28. 13; Isa. 61. 6. In that day there will be only believers left upon the earth, all unbelievers have been judged and banished. ‘And the Lord shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one Lord, and his name one’, Zech. 14. 9.
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