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22 March 2019

History's Final Battle

In popular readings, the book of Revelation portrays climactic battles and warfare between nations during History’s “last days.” These global conflicts will supposedly culminate in the final Battle of Armageddon in the Middle East prior to the coming of Jesus from Heaven. When he arrives, he will destroy all human and Antichrist forces assembled to destroy national Israel.
Scenes that describe battles between national armies are interpreted as “literally” as possible. In the popular scheme, the world will be rocked as never before as nuclear and other Weapons of Mass Destruction are employed in globe-spanning conflicts. Wars will be launched by the Antichrist as he crushes all nations that resist his drive for world domination.
These End-Time military clashes supposedly will center on the Middle East and especially on the nation of Israel. The Battle of Armageddon will be a final invasion by hostile forces intent on destroying Israel located in its ancestral territory.
Many students of prophecy have been often conditioned to read Revelation one-dimensionally. Each chapter is assumed to be in chronological order after the preceding one.  Thus, for example, battles depicted in Revelation 16:12-16, 19:17-21 and 20:7-10 are understood to refer to different events at different times.
This approach fails to recognize the literary, structural and scriptural links between related passages, Revelation’s symbolism or how it applies Old Testament language. Further, it overlooks verses where Revelation provides interpretations of its own symbols (e.g., the “Two Witnesses” represent two lampstands [11:4]). It also fails to consider two Old Testament passages used repeatedly in verses that describe “war,” specific language and imagery from Daniel 7:21 and the invasion of “Gog and Magog” detailed in Ezekiel chapters 38-39.
Does Revelation picture multiple wars between national armies or the same final “battle” from different perspectives? Is the “war” language literal or metaphorical? Do its symbols portray military forces in combat or the persecution of God’s people? Does the Devil organize earthly armies in a foolish attempt to attack the Risen Christ or does he attack Jesus by launching a final assault against the Church?
The book of Revelation is described as “the prophecy,” singular, a vision received by John to “show God’s servants” events “that must come to pass” (1:1-3). In its entirety, it is addressed to seven churches located in the Roman province of Asia in western Asia Minor.  A frequent refrain is a call to “hear what the Spirit is saying the churches,” plural. Revelation is a message to and for the Church. It includes predictive prophecy but also exhortations to believers to overcome and persevere through all obstacles.
The prophecy is from God, the Spirit and Jesus Christ, the “faithful witness and the firstborn from the dead.” Christ became “the faithful witness” (ho martys ho pistos) in his self-sacrificial death when he bore the ultimate testimony and “overcame” (1:182:83:215:5-6). By his death, he “washed us from our sins in his own blood” (1:55:9-11), and Christ became the ultimate martyr for God.
John identifies himself and his audience as “fellow-participants in the tribulation, kingdom, and perseverance in Jesus” (1:9). In the Greek clause, a single definite article or “the” marks all three nouns as definite. Tribulation, kingdom, and perseverance are all aspects of what it means to be “in Jesus”; kingdom rule does not come apart from tribulation (thlipsis) and perseverance therein (hupomoné).
For example, the church at Smyrna has known “tribulation” and is about to experience even more of the same (2:9-10). The congregation at Ephesus is praised not for its avoidance of suffering but for its “perseverance” for Christ’s name (2:2-3). When the Beast attacks the “saints” then “he who is for captivity, into captivity goes. He who is to be slain with sword, with sword is slain. THIS is the perseverance and the faith of the saints" (13:7-1014:12).
In each case, the Christian response to pressure is not escaping or resistance, but perseverance and testimony. From beginning to end, giving testimony and persevering through persecution are key themes of the book. 
The first vision (1:12-3:22) begins with the Risen Christ walking among seven golden lampstands (1:19-202:13:1).  The “lamp-stands” or luchnia represent seven churches. Jesus is represented as the “Son of Man” figure from Daniel 7:13-14, the one to whom was given “dominion over all peoples, nations and tongues,” and the same one who achieved judgment on behalf of “the saints of the Most High” (Daniel 7:21-22).
In this first vision, Jesus is arrayed as the High-Priest ministering in a Temple, who walks among his churches to “replenish oil” and “trim wicks” where needed.  This priestly ministry is actualized by issuing messages of commendation and correction to the churches of Asia.
The seven messages to the churches include correction, praise, and exhortation intended to enable members to “overcome” to inherit everlasting rewards. Believers are admonished to repent and do the first works, reject deceivers, refuse compromise, resist idolatry, and remain faithful even unto death in persecution (“Be faithful unto death and I will give you the crown of life”).  He who “overcomes” will be seated “in Christ’s throne, just as he overcame to sit down in his Father’s throne” (3:21). Jesus “overcame” through his sacrificial death (5:5-6) and his disciples must tread the same path to victory. Perseverance in tribulation rather than escape from it is Revelation’s call.
When the Fifth Seal is opened, John sees the souls of men and women “underneath the altar” slain on account of their testimony (6:9-11). They must “rest a little while until the number should be made full of their fellow-servants also and their brethren, who were about to be slain as even they.” Their final vindication must wait until the full complement of martyrs has been assembled, a “number” determined by God. Martyrdom is not something contrary to or despite the will of God; it is in accordance with His purposes.
The full complement of martyrs is seen in Revelation 7:9-17, the vision of an “innumerable multitude of men and women from every nation.” This is a multinational formation and not a specific ethnic group. Rather than escape, the multitude is “coming out of the Great Tribulation” to stand in the New Creation before the Throne of the Lamb. The men and women who have successfully overcome did so by “washing their robes and making them white in the blood of the Lamb,” an allusion to martyrdom. They do so by walking the same persevering path as the Lamb (3:215:5-614:1-5).
Following the exaltation of the messianic “son” in Revelation 12:5 (cpPsalm 2:9-10), Satan is cast out of heaven, no longer free to accuse the “brethren” before the Throne of God. His authority is curtailed, though he remains able to inflict harm within allowed limits (12:9-11).  A heavenly voice declares, “Now has come salvation…because the accuser of our brethren has been cast out…And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, by the word of their testimony, and because they loved not their life even unto death.”
The righteous multitude that sings the Song of Moses and the Lamb consists not of men and women who escaped persecution and tribulation, but those who “overcame over the Beast, and his image, and the number of his name” (15:2-4). One “overcomes” not by escaping the Beast’s reign and persecution, but by the refusal to render it homage or take its number. All who do submit to it pay an everlasting price (14:9-1116:219:2020:4).
The saints reign with Christ as “priests for a thousand years.” They are men and women who were beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and the word of God, and such as did not render homage to the Beast or his image, and did not receive its mark” (20:4-6). Suffering and degradation precede exaltation in God’s kingdom. One achieves victory over the Beast by refusing it allegiance and faithfully suffering whatever the consequences.
The book of Revelation is not about Christian escape from persecution, tribulation, and martyrdom, but instead a call for faithful perseverance in tribulation and persecution.
Two prophetic figures are identified as “my Two Witnesses” who give prophetic testimony for “a thousand two hundred and sixty days” (Revelation 11:3).
This is not a “literal” picture of two individual men, as indicated by the description of their carcasses “lying on the broadways of the Great City that spiritually is called ‘Sodom’ and ‘Egypt’.” The use of the term “spiritually” means that “Sodom and Egypt” are not the actual names of this city. Sodom ceased to exist thousands of years ago and Egypt is the name of a nation, not a city. “Sodom” and “Egypt” symbolize something other than their original “literal” referents.
Elsewhere “Great City” refers to “Babylon,” which likewise in Revelation does not refer to the original city in ancient Mesopotamia but to another reality (14:816:1917:1818:10). The description of the city as the place “where also our Lord was crucified” confirms further the picture is not literal.  Jesus did not die in Sodom or Egypt.
The description of their carcasses being seen by “peoples and tribes and tongues and nations” for three days (as well as the “inhabitants of the earth” rejoicing over their deaths), is unrealistic if the Two Witnesses are “literal” individuals. However, it does fit if the two represent the bodies of thousands of Christian martyrs killed throughout the inhabited world.  Elsewhere the “inhabitants of the earth” represent all humanity in opposition to the Lamb (3:106:108:1312:1213:813:12-1414:6, 17:2, 17:8).
In verse 4, the Two Witnesses represent “the two olive trees and two lamp-stands,” an allusion to Zechariah 4:2-14. Since the Two Witnesses symbolize another reality, they are not themselves real or “literal.” Elsewhere in Revelation “lamp-stands” or luchnia symbolize churches (1:202:12:5).  If Revelation’s symbolism is consistent then the “two lampstands” represent churches. 
After completing their mission, the Beast ascends out of the Abyss “to make war with” (poiései met’ polemon) the Two Witnesses (11:7). “To make war with” translates the Greek infinitive poiései (“to make”), the preposition meta (“with”) and the noun polemon (“war, battle”). Here “war” is singular. In this “war” the Beast successfully “overcomes and kills” the Two Witnesses. 
This language is from the Greek Septuagint translation of Daniel 7:21. There a malevolent figure pictured as a little horn “made war with the saints and prevailed against them.” The Septuagint version followed by Revelation uses the same three Greek words with the exception that the verb is in the aorist tense rather than being an infinitive (i.e., “he made war with” rather than “to make war with” [epoisei polemon meta]).
In Daniel, the little horn represents a despotic ruler from one of the Greco-Macedonian kingdoms that evolved from the conquests of Alexander the Great, specifically the Seleucid kingdom in Syria, the “king of the north” (Daniel 7:7-88:911:1-4). The man who became Antiochus IV at his accession (175-164 B.C.) was the eighth ruler of the dynasty. Though not a direct heir, he became king when circumstances removed three potential rivals (“A fourth beast…diverse from the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns….Behold, a little horn came up among them and three of the former horns were uprooted from before it” [Daniel 7:7-87:23-25]).
Antiochus IV was the first pagan king in history who attempted to annihilate the religion of Israel. This included violent persecutions and political machinations, including bribery to recruit leading Jewish citizens into his program to corrupt Israel (Daniel 8:24-25). Antiochus was a man “skillful in dissimulation” and by “his cunning he caused deceit to succeed and destroyed many” in Israel. Judean citizens “who were ready to deal lawlessly with the covenant he made impious by flatteries” (Daniel 11:32. Also 1 Maccabees 1:41-59].
Antiochus IV is an excellent prototype or pattern of the future “Beast” from the Sea that seeks to destroy God’s people through deception, compromise, idolatry, apostasy, and persecution (2 Thessalonians 2:3-10Revelation 13:113:7-1013:11-15).
In the literary sequence of Revelation, the portrayal of the Beast’s final assault against the saints begins with the vision of the Two Witnesses, their prophetic testimony and violent deaths. This first assault is described with language borrowed from Daniel 7:21.
Following the exaltation of the messianic “Son” (12:5Psalm 2:9-10), war breaks out in heaven between Satan and Michael the Archangel (12:6-10). Satan is “the Great Dragon, the Ancient Serpent, the Adversary, and Satan; the one who deceives the whole habitable earth” (12:9). The names employed demonstrate the vision is symbolical; Satan is neither a dragon nor a serpent. This does not mean the conflict is not real, though a deeper reality is revealed by metaphorical language.
The Devil is cast to the earth. Full of wrath and knowing he has only “a short season” left, he attempts to destroy the Woman (12:12). God protects her and Satan’s plot fails. Unable to destroy the Woman, enraged, he next proceeds “to make war with the rest of her seed” (12:17).
Her seed is symbolical, it represents “them who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony (martyriaof Jesus.”  This is the same group referred to in verse 11; the “brethren” who overcome the Dragon “by their testimony (martyriaand they loved not their life even unto death.”
Having the “testimony of Jesus” is characteristic of John, his “fellow participants” in Asia, faithful martyrs, and every man or woman who overcomes by heeding “what the Spirit is saying to the churches” (1:96:919:1020:4).
Moreover, the Beast is not allowed to slay the Two Witnesses until after they complete their “testimony” or martyria (11:7).  A chief goal of Satan in Revelation is to silence the “testimony” of faithful saints.  This he is not allowed to do, though in the process he successfully slays many believers. However, a martyr’s death is the ultimate form of “testimony”; the witness of a saint cannot be stopped by death.
The Greek clause rendered “to make war with” in Revelation 12:17 (poiésai polemon meta) matches the Greek phrase in 11:7 (poiései met’ polemon), as well the one from Daniel 7:21 (epoisei polemon meta). This verse also clearly alludes to Daniel 7:21.
John next sees a Beast with ten horns and seven heads “ascending” from the Sea (Revelation 13:1-7). This borrows from Daniel’s vision of four “beasts” that ascend from the Sea (Daniel 7:1-8).
However, while Daniel saw four individual beasts, John sees only one and it incorporates the characteristics of all four from Daniel (but in reverse order!). John’s single “Beast” is related to Daniel’s four beasts but also in some ways is distinct from them. It is not identical with any of Daniel’s beasts; it is not Daniel’s fourth beast but is an amalgam of all four.
The language demonstrates the same reality is in view as in Revelation 11:7.  The “Beast that ascends from the Sea” in 13:1 (ek tés thalassés thérion anabainon) is identical with “the Beast that ascends from the Abyss” in 11:7 (to thérion to anabainon ek tés abussou). In both verses, the same participle in the present tense is used, “ascending” or anabainon. “Abyss” and “Sea” represent the same reality or at least different aspects of it.
The Beast is not at war with other nations, for the “whole earth wondered after the Beast” and “all the inhabitants of the earth” rendered homage to it. No one is able to wage war with the Beast, for “who is able to make war with it?” It is authorized to reign over “every tribe and people and tongue and nation,” over “everyone whose name has not been written in the Lamb’s book of life” (13:7-8).
In verse 7, “it was given to the Beast to make war with the saints (tōn hagiōn) and to overcome them.”  In the Greek clause the verb, infinitive, and preposition in the clause are the same three used in Revelation 11:712:17 and Daniel 7:21. Moreover, Revelation 13:7 includes the more complete first stanza from Daniel 7:21, the little horn “made war with the saints (tōn hagiōnand overcame them.”
The group labeled the Two Witnesses and the Seed of the woman, and persecuted by the Beast/Dragon, is explicitly identified as “the saints” in Revelation 13:7. The Beast is able to overcome them, not by deception or by causing apostasy, but by imprisonment and death (“if anyone is for captivity, into captivity he goes. If anyone is to be slain with sword, with sword he must be slain”).
The description of how the “saints” are overcome in verse 10 is prefaced with the same admonishment heard at the end of each message in chapters 2-3: “If any man has an ear, let him hear!” The Church has not fallen out of the prophetic picture after chapter 3 but remains at the center of Revelation’s vision.  During the Beast’s despotic reign, the Spirit continues to call the Church to faithful perseverance.
To the Beast and the inhabitants of the earth, the violent death of Christ’s saints is their defeat. But in Revelation’s paradoxical world a martyr’s death means victory over the Beast and Dragon (“this is the perseverance and the faith of the saints”). While no nation or conventional army can wage war against the Beast, the Lamb and his saints gain an ironic victory over the Dragon and his forces through self-sacrificial death. The death of every martyr constitutes another nail in Satan’s coffin. By killing saints, the Devil only succeeds at hastening his own demise.
The Sixth Bowl of wrath is poured out on the Euphrates River to dry it up to prepare for the “the kings of the east” (Revelation 16:12). The Euphrates was the symbolic eastern boundary of the Promised Land (Genesis 15:18, Exodus 23:31, Deuteronomy 1:7, 11:24, Joshua 1:4). Attacking forces from Mesopotamia and points east invaded Israel from beyond the Euphrates River.
The image of a driedup Euphrates River is based on the Old Testament story of the overthrow of Babylon by the Persian king, Cyrus the Great. Isaiah prophesied how Yahweh would command the rivers to “be dry…who says of Cyrus, He is my shepherd and shall perform all my pleasure” (Isaiah 44:24-28). Yahweh had “raised up one from the north who would come from the east” (Isaiah 41:2, 41:45), and through this pagan king God would “disquiet the inhabitants of cause a drought upon her waters that they should be dried up” (Jeremiah 50:38, 51:36).
Yahweh would “open before Cyrus two-leaved gates” (Isaiah 45:1-2), a reference to the gates controlling the flow of the Euphrates River underneath the city of Babylon. In 539 B.C. forces under Cyrus rerouted the Euphrates River, enabling his army to penetrate Babylon’s walls and enter the city along the dry riverbed (cp. Daniel 5:1). Whatever the motivations of Cyrus, a pagan ruler, one result was the liberation of Jewish exiles in Babylon to return to the land of Judea. Yahweh uses the rulers of this age to accomplish His purposes, both on behalf of His people and to punish His enemies.
This history is a fitting background to the picture in the Sixth Bowl of Wrath. End-Time “Babylon” is about to be destroyed when the Seventh Bowl is emptied (16:17-21). The gathering of the kings and their armies assembles them to accomplish God’s plans by destroying “Babylon”; “these shall hate the Whore and make desolate her…for God has put in their hearts to fulfill his will” (17:14-18). By the same token, this assembled force will also be destroyed in the final battle with the Heavenly Rider (19:11-21).
In verses 13-14, demonic spirits cause the “kings of the whole habitable earth to gather together to the war of the great day of God, the Almighty.” This employs language from Ezekiel 38:3-10: “I will gather you and all your army…Be prepared and prepare yourself, you and all your company that is gathered unto you,” Ezekiel’s vision of an invasion by Gog and Magog.
The kings of the east are universalized and reinterpreted as the “kings of the whole habitable earth.” This “battle” involves not just one region of the earth or regional forces, but all of humanity in opposition to God. This war is global in scope and cosmic in effect.
In the Greek phrase, “to gather the kings of the earth unto the war" is sunagagein autous eis ton polemon; “war” is singular and has a definite article or “the.” This indicates a specific and known event. It is not just “a war” but “THE war,” the war of the great day of God the Almighty. This same day is also seen in the opening of the Sixth Seal in Revelation 6:16-17: “the great day of the wrath of Him who sits on the Throne and of the Lamb.”
The Sixth Bowl does not describe a battle between national armies but is THE climactic battle of Satan’s forces against those of God and the Lamb. It is in fulfillment of the messianic prophecy from Psalm 2:1-2: “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together against Yahweh and against his anointed.”
The kings of the earth are gathered at God’s instigation to fulfill His purpose - to destroy “Babylon” (16:19, 17:16-17). Afterward, the kings and their armies are also destroyed, along with the Beast and False Prophet (19:17-21). This echoes the vision of God causing Gog and Magog to invade Israel in order to be destroyed (Ezekiel 38:3-10, 39:1-3).
Revelation inserts the words of Jesus in the middle of this scene: “Behold, I am coming like a thief” (Revelation 3:3, 16:15, Matthew 23:43, 1 Thessalonians 5:1-3, 2 Peter 3:10). This final battle is linked to the coming of Jesus.
The kings of the earth and their armies are gathered to a place called “Armageddon” or “mountain of Megiddo.” This geographical identifier is not literal, as indicated by the reference to the “mountain of Megiddo.” Megiddo is a plain with no mountain and elsewhere is called the “plain of Megiddo” (Zechariah 12:11).
Again, the language of “gathering together” alludes to the Greek Septuagint version of Ezekiel’s battle scene when the army of “Gog and Magog” invades Israel (Ezekiel 38:1-4, 38:7-8, 38:12-13). In Ezekiel the invading force is destroyed on “the mountains of Israel”; in Revelation 16:14-16 its destruction occurs on the “mountain of Megiddo.”
Revelation has adapted material from several Old Testament passages for its own purposes, in this case, to build a picture of a final “battle” between the Beast and its allies arrayed against God and the Lamb. Regardless of their intent or plans, God is ultimately behind the events; they are part of His larger plan to destroy all His enemies. He uses this force first to destroy “Babylon,” then He annihilates all the kings of the earth and their armies, along with the Beast and False Prophet.
(Revelation 17:14) - “These shall make war against the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them, for he is Lord of Lords, and King of Kings; and they also shall overcome that are with him, called and chosen and faithful.”
This verse anticipates the defeat of hostile forces by the Rider from Heaven in Revelation 19:11-21. Both the Lamb (17:14) and the Rider (19:16) are called “Lord of Lords, and King of Kings.” The force arrayed against both the Lamb and the Rider consists of “the kings of the earth” and their armies in alliance with the Beast (17:1217:1819:19).
As in Revelation 11:712:17 and 13:7, the language in verse 14 alludes to Daniel 7:21. But the roles are now reversed.  In Daniel, the “little horn waged war with the saints and overcame them.” It had risen from the ten “horns” of the fourth beast, which represented ten kings (Daniel 7:24). Similarly, in Revelation 17:12-14 the “these” that make war against the Lamb are “ten kings” who give their authority to the Beast. Daniel’s vision promised that the little horn would prevail over the saints “until the ancient of days came and judgment was given for the saints of the Most High” (Daniel 7:22).
Revelation 17:14 anticipates this very victory, though it is an ironical one. The Beast that waged war with and overcame the saints is now overcome by the Lamb. Overcoming saints participate with the Lamb in this victory (“they also shall overcome that are with him”). The verse also answers the question posed in Revelation 13:4, “who is able to make war with the Beast?” 
John sees “heaven opened and a white horse” upon which sits a victorious figure called Faithful, True and the Word of God (Revelation 19:11-16).  He is in righteousness “judging and making war,” unlike his opponents.  His only offensive weapon is “a sharp sword proceeding out of his mouth. With it he smites the nations and “shepherds them with a rod of iron,” another allusion to Psalm 2:9
A great “final” war is described in verses 17-21. Once more language from Ezekiel’s battle of Gog and Magog is used.  Revelation 19:17-21 describes John’s vision in which he saw “an angel standing in the sun, and he cried out with a loud voice saying to all the birds that fly in heaven, Hither! Be gathered together unto the great supper of God that ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them who sit upon them, and the flesh of all, both free and bond, and small and great….And the rest were slain with the sword of him that was sitting upon the horse, which went forth out of his mouth, and all the birds were filled with their flesh.”
Revelation’s source is Ezekiel’s vision of an invasion by Gog and Magog; Ezekiel 39:17-20: “Speak to the birds of every sort and to all beasts of the field, Gather together and come, gather from all sides to the sacrificial feast which I am preparing for you, a great sacrificial feast upon the mountains of Israel, and you shall eat flesh and drink blood. You shall eat the flesh of the mighty, and drink the blood of the princes of the earth, of rams, of lambs, and of goats, of bulls, all of them fatlings of Bashan. And you shall eat fat till you are filled and drink blood till you are drunk, at the sacrificial feast which I am preparing for you. And you shall be filled at my table with horses and riders, with mighty men and all kinds of warriors, says the Lord Yahweh.”
There is a further allusion to Ezekiel 38-39 in Revelation 19:20. The Beast and False Prophet are cast into the Lake of Fire (puros) that burns with brimstone (theiō). Similarly, in Ezekiel 38:21-22 God destroys Gog and his armies when he rains down upon them “fire and brimstone” (pur kai theion – Greek Septuagint).
The description of the Great Supper of God corresponds to the “great day of God the Almighty” from Revelation 16:14. It also is conceptually parallel to “the sacrificial feast which I am preparing for you” in Ezekiel 39:17-20.
In verse 19 the Beast and the kings of the earth with their armies are gathered to make war with (poiésai ton polemon meta) the Lamb and against his army (Note well:  it is “THE war,” not “a war”). In Revelation 11:7 the Beast rose up from the Abyss “to make war with” (poiései met’ polemon) the Two Witnesses.  In 12:17 the Dragon “made war with” (poiésai polemon meta) the seed of the woman.  In 13:7 the Beast “made war with” (poiésai polemon meta) the saints.
Now, in Revelation 19:19, the forces of the Beast gather together “to make war with” the Lamb and his host. The parallel language in all four passages is once more from Daniel 7:21.
This climactic scene employs language from the vision of Gog and Magog, and also from Daniel 7:21, the war with the saints waged by the “little horn” in which for a time it prevailed over them.  The imagery from Ezekiel was also used in the Sixth Bowl of Wrath (Revelation 16:12-16), the so-called Battle of Armageddon.
In Revelation 19:17-21 the armies of the kings of the earth are destroyed, the birds of the air are summoned to feast upon their corpses, and the Beast and False Prophet are cast into the Lake of fire and brimstone.  Likewise, in Ezekiel, the armies of Gog and Magog are destroyed on the mountains of Israel when God rains “fire and brimstone” down from heaven.
This Old Testament background must be borne in mind when interpreting this and related visions in Revelation. But just as important is how Revelation reinterprets, expands and universalizes the original prophecies.  The forces of Gog and Magog are no longer limited to regional enemies surrounding Palestine but consist of all the kings of the earth and their armies. Rather than an invasion of Israel, the attack is global in scope and waged against the Lamb and his “army,” in this case the saints on the earth.
The saints are not passive observers or warriors from heaven, but human believers who overcome on the earth through perseverance, testimony, and martyrdom. It is no coincidence that the Lamb’s one offensive “weapon” is a great sword that represents the “word of God” proceeding from his mouth.
At the end of the thousand years, Satan is released from the Abyss to “to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magogto gather them together for the war, the number of which is as the sand of the sea” (Revelation 20:7-8).
Gog and Magog are explicitly named.  As in earlier war scenes (16:1419:17-21), language is borrowed from Ezekiel 38-39. The Greek rendered “to gather them together for the war” is exactly the same as in Revelation 16:14 (sunagagein autous eis ton polemon). Greek is a highly inflected language and such a precise match is beyond doubt deliberate.  In both it is not “a war” but “THE war,” singular. The use of the definite article indicates a specific and known thing. However, the “thousand-year” period is to be interpreted and fit within Revelation’s chronology, the “battle” in Revelation 20:7-10 is identical with the one in 19:17-21. Both depict the final invasion by Gog and Magog.
Satan and his horde “ascend over the breadth of the earth and surround the camp of the saints.” The Greek rendered “ascend” (anabainō) is the same verb in Revelation 11:7, 13:1, the ascent of the Beast from the Abyss and from the Sea, respectively (also for the Beast from the Abyss in 17:8).
The description to “ascend over the breadth of the earth and surround the camp of the saints” also alludes to Ezekiel 38 (verses 15-16a): “You will come out of your place out of the remote parts of the north, you and many peoples with you…a mighty gathered host, yea, a great army.  Therefore, you will ascend against my people Israel like a cloud covering the land”.
In Revelation, “earth” or  refers to the physical earth, the entire planet inhabited by men, and not to the land of Palestine or any other limited territory.  Rather than invade Palestine from the north, Gog and Magog are now gathered from “the four corners of the earth,” and their number is “as the sand of the sea” (cpRevelation 12:17-13:1). 
Like a cloud of locusts, they swarm over the entire earth and not just over the mountains of Israel. Further, the army of Gog and Magog consists of all nations of the earth, not just a specific nation or group of nations from geographic regions. Interpretations that attempt to find here references to Russia, Persia, Egypt and the like, miss the mark.
The horde ascends against the Camp of the Saints. This brings into view the image of Israel encamped in the Wilderness on its way to the Promised Land. Elsewhere in Revelation “saint” refers to followers of Jesus, whether Jew or Gentile and not to ethnic Jews or national Israel (e.g., 5:8, 8:3, 13:7). 
Once more language is borrowed from Ezekiel. The description of the “fire that comes down out of heaven and devours” the horde of Gog and Magog, is from Ezekiel 38:22 (“fire and brimstone will I rain upon him and upon his hordes and upon the many peoples that are with him”).
The Beloved City refers not to earthly Jerusalem but to the saints. In Revelation, the image of the city of Jerusalem represents the people of God (cpRevelation 3:1221:221:10, 21:14-2322:19).
In several visions that use language from Daniel 7:21 and Ezekiel 38-39, the book of Revelation lays out a picture of a final assault against the Church by Satan and his earthly agents prior to the End of the Age.  Imagery and language of “war” are used metaphorically to portray the Devil’s attacks against the saints by means of deception, social pressure, compromise, persecution and even martyrdom. Revelation is not about Christian escape from but perseverance in tribulation.
Near the end, Satan will come close to achieving the annihilation of the Church, at least from a human perspective. However, this will only be how and when God allows. The Lord will use the Devil’s very forces and efforts to inflict a final irreversible defeat on all His enemies. Christ’s final victory will paradoxical, just as was his triumph on a Roman cross.

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