Thursday, January 13, 2022

Apocalyptic? #39: The Final Battle of History!

Allow me to acknowledge, at the outset of this blogpost, that much of what I write in this specific post is speculative.  I have already accomplished in the previous posts one major goal of this blog series:  I have hammered nails in the coffin of atheism.  Atheists have charged that Jesus and John were false prophets—that their prophecies did not come true during the timeframes in which they promised that they would.  The previous 38 posts considered prediction after prediction and demonstrated that they had been fulfilled at the times they were prophesied to occur.  This final battle of history was not given a timeframe.  Atheists are not permitted to claim that my speculations in this post must meet the rigor of proof demanded of John’s and Jesus’ prophecies in the previous posts.  It is true that Jewish rabbis from the first century have speculated that the reign of the messiah would last for 2000 years, after which would come the end and the world-to-come (as I discuss in blogposts Apocalyptic? #4, #5, #21, and #37).  I find their speculation fascinating, and believe that John was familiar with such speculation when he prophesied the 1000-year confinement of the Dragon (i.e., the millennium).  I might even mention that the Christian writing the so-called the Epistle of Barnabas (which J. A. T. Robinson dates in the early 70s A.D.--just years after Revelation, but not considered inspired and in the New Testament canon--states something similar to the Jewish Rabbis.  In Barnabas 15:4-5, it says:

Give heed, children, what this meaneth; He ended in six days. He
meaneth this, that in six thousand years the Lord shall bring all
things to an end; for the day with Him signifyeth a thousand years;
and this He himself beareth me witness, saying; Behold, the day of
the Lord shall be as a thousand years.
 Therefore, children, in six
days, that is in six thousand years, everything shall come to an end.

And He rested on the seventh day. this He meaneth; when His Son
shall come, and shall abolish the time of the Lawless One, and shall
judge the ungodly, and shall change the sun and the moon and the
stars, then shall he truly rest on the seventh day.

According to Eusebias, this was also the view of Papias (110 A.D.).  However, as I state in #37, John, in Revelation does not write “two thousand years;” he writes “one thousand years.”  Furthermore, in my book Revelation:  The Human Drama, page 25, I write:


John does not explicitly paint himself into a corner regarding time frames, as do Yehoschua and the school of Elias.  John does indicate that there would be at least one "thousand years" period.  During these thousand years, "the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan," would be "bound" and thrown "into the Abyss . . . to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended" (Revelation 20:2-3).  Following these "thousand years," however, John does not appear to promise an immediate end to human history.  Instead, "After that, [the dragon] must be set free for a short time" (Revelation 20:3).


While I am fascinated by the notion that we may be nearing the end of the final 2000 years of history (admittedly, partly because it helps me cope with the corrupt world situation as it presently exists), I readily admit that this speculation of a 2000-year period from Jesus’ generation to ours is NOT inspired prophecy.  Conversely, neither is it purely baseless speculation.  The rabbis of the school of Elias based it on their interpretation of Psalm 90.  It has, therefore, some logical support, and should be kept in mind.  Nevertheless, the end of world history, clearly, is still “futuristic” from our perspective.  The end of human history, according to Revelation, is focused around four entities:   1. the Dragon (who raises up world empires), 2.  his final Beastly protege(s)—Gog and Magog—and, once again, 3.  the “land” and “the beloved city,” along with an additional entity, 4. “the camp of the saints.”  Revelation 20:7-9 tells us:


Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth (land), Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea.  They went up on the breadth of the earth (land) and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them. 



The Identity of the Beloved City


The words “the . . . city” in Revelation ALWAYS refer to Jerusalem, but sometimes to the old Jerusalem and sometimes to the New Jerusalem.  In the first 90% of Revelation—when referring to the old (earthly) Jerusalem, whom John also calls, negatively, “Babylon,” “Sodom,” and “Egypt”—the word “great” is usually inserted between the words “the” and “city” (hence, “the great city”: Revelation 11:8; 16:19; 17:18; 18:10, 16, 18, 19, and 21).  In the final 10% of Revelation—when referring to the New Jerusalem—the word “holy” is sometimes inserted between the words “the” and “city” (hence, “the holy city”: Revelation 21:2, 10, and 22:19), but it is notable that, in Revelation 11:2, the old Jerusalem is referred to, also, as “the holy city.”  ONLY ONCE does John refer to “the BELOVED city.”  That instance we find right here, in Revelation 20:9—placed CONSPICUOUSLY BETWEEN John’s two divergent uses of the term “the . . . city.”  This does not seem sheerly accidental; it seems intentional. It seems as if THIS Jerusalem is a transitional entity—midway between the old earthly Jerusalem that was destroyed and the New heavenly Jerusalem that will occupy the New Heavens and New Earth.  First Century readers (and modern readers, as well) will easily recall Jesus’ “love” for the earthly city of Jerusalem, despite his prophecies of its doom.  Matthew 23:37-39 NKJV (and Luke 13:34-35) records that love:


“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!  See! Your house is left to you desolate; for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’”


By simple deduction, since the New Jerusalem will not arrive until a new heavens and new earth are created, John must still be referring to the earthly Jerusalem.  We, therefore, may feel confident that we know who the “beloved city” is (Jerusalem) and what the “land/HA-ARETZ/earth/GĒ” is (the Land of Israel).  Jerusalem (along with the Land of Israel) is the central scene of the final battle of history, as it was the scene of the Battle of Armageddon, nearly two millennia ago.


The Identity of Gog and Magog


We already know who the Dragon is (Satan, in his role as the raiser of world empires).  Then, who are Gog and Magog?  Are they now in existence?   From John’s perspective, the thousand years of Revelation separate two major battles--Armageddon, in which “the beloved city” was left desolate, and Gog and Magog, in which “the beloved city” will be rescued.  The Jews of the first century believed that they were engaging in the battle with Gog and Magog, thinking that they (the Jews) would prevail, but John corrected them.   The Battle of Gog and Magog was still at least 1000 years away.


There are definite similarities and important differences between the Battle of Armageddon and the Battle of Gog and Magog.  Most importantly, the end is different.   The present-day signs Christians believe they are seeing might be pertaining to the Battle of Gog and Magog.  Ezekiel 38:16 promises Gog: “You will come up against My people Israel like a cloud, to cover the land.” Although this specific language is not used in Revelation, it describes what happens in both battles.  Ezekiel 38:19 speaks of “a great earthquake in the land of Israel.”  An earthquake is also mentioned in Revelation 6:12 pertaining to the Battle of Armageddon and explained in my blogpost Apocalyptic? #32. There, I point out that earthquakes are common in the land of Israel.  They have certainly happened more than once.  Ezekiel 38:20 mentions “mountains” and “walls” falling.  Ezekiel 38:22 mentions pestilence and bloodshed, hailstones, and fire.  All of these events occurred in the Battle of Armageddon, as well, but were directed against Babylon (Jerusalem), not Gog and Magog.  This time, God’s fury is against the opponents of Israel.  Ezekiel 39:1-4 records God saying: “Behold, I am against you, O Gog . . . I will turn you . . . and bring you against . . . Israel.  . . . You shall fall upon the mountains of Israel.” 

Some have speculated that Gog and Magog are (participants in or the aftermath of) the Battle of Armageddon, because Ezekiel 39:4 states concerning Gog: “I will give you to birds of prey of every sort and to the beasts of the field to be devoured,” just as Revelation 19:17 declares, “Then I saw an angel . . . saying to all the birds that fly in the midst of heaven, ‘Come . . . that you may eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them, and the flesh of all people . . . both small and great.’”  Nevertheless, this kind of language is typical of military slaughter and, clearly, represents the gory aftermath of a militarily defeated foe.  In the case of Revelation 19, such language was the somber warning that “the beast, the kings of the earth, and . . .  the false prophet . . . were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone.”

The Jews who were waiting for their salvation on the temple mount in 70 A.D. were quite likely actually expecting the fulfillment of Ezekiel 39:6: “And I will send fire on Magog . . . and I will not let them profane My holy name anymore.” Those Jews had surely thought that Rome was Gog and Magog and that God would rescue them, even at the final moments.  John, however, was telling the first Century Jews that the positive conclusion they were anticipating would not occur for at least another thousand years.  At that (later) time, John was predicting the defeat of Gog and Magog, the time when, according to Ezekiel 39:23-29:


“The Gentiles shall know that the house of Israel went into captivity for their iniquity; because they were unfaithful to Me, therefore I hid My face from them. I gave them into the hand of their enemies, and they all fell by the sword. According to their . . .  transgressions I have dealt with them, and hidden My face from them . . . Now I will bring back the captives of Jacob, and have mercy on the whole house of Israel . . . then they shall know that I am the Lord their God, who sent them into captivity among the nations, but also brought them back to their land, and left none of them captive any longer. And I will not hide My face from them anymore,’ says the Lord God.”


Who, then are Gog and Magog?  How far back should we go?  There was a historical Magog--Noah’s son Japheth’s descendant—born after the Flood, according to Genesis 10:2.  Nevertheless, more recently, according to Jewish interpretations and legends of Gog and Magog, citing Louis Ginzberg, in The Legends of the Jews, Gog and Magog were understood to be the final anti-Jewish political forces who would invade the land of Israel in the final conflict in the history of the world.  Gog, according to Ginzberg, will be annihilated with hail, fire, and brimstone (II.356).  The king of Magog would be a king of all nations (III.252-253) who would die on the mountains of Israel.  Gog and Magog would be destroyed on the plains of Jericho (III.443).  Gog’s destruction would be God’s final destruction (III.455).  King Saul, when he was innocent, prophesied that the war of Gog and Magog would be the last judgment (IV.66).  The Jews understand that Psalm 2 is the Psalm concerning Gog and Magog (VI.266).  “Why do the heathen rage?  God laughs at them.”  It is easy to see that the Jews expected the battle of Gog and Magog to be the final battle on earth and that the enemy (Gog and Magog) would be a confederation of the enemies of the Jews on earth.  Yet, Gog and Magog would be destroyed in the land of Israel, as they proceed to attack.  This is interesting, since the Jews were not even in control of the land of Israel from the year 70 A.D. until the year 1948 A.D.  With the emergence of the State of Israel in 1948, the stage could be set for a possible invasion from Gog and Magog.


The Identity of the Camp of the Saints


John uses the Greek word (PAREMBOLE/παρεμβολή)—translated “camp” in this location—only one time in the Apocalypse.  The New Testament writer who uses the term most frequently is Luke, in the book of Acts.  Acts uses the term six times (21:34, 37; 22:24; 23:10, 16, and 32) and a seventh time, in a textual variant, in 28:16.  Other than the textual variant (which, apparently, is not deemed to be the original text by the translators of the NKJV), the NKJV (mis)translates all six uses in Acts as “castle.” Bauer, Arndt, and Gingrich, in A Greek Lexicon of the New Testament, more correctly identify the word as “the barracks or headquarters of the Roman troops in Jerusalem.”  This identification seems quite apparent, as it refers in every one of those six instances to the area where the Roman troops kept Paul in protective custody when the non-Christian Jews were attacking him in Jerusalem.  If the textual variant, in 28:16, is considered the correct text, Bauer, Arndt, and Gingrich identify the term as “the barracks in Rome where the soldiers who accompanied Paul were quartered” (when Paul was finally brought to Rome to appeal to Caesar).  For other Greek writers, the Lexicon states that the term is “mostly used as a milit[ary term] . . . a fortified camp . . . [or] an army in battle array.”  Thus, as the only other New Testament book employing the term, Hebrews 11:34 uses the term to signify heathen “armies” who were put to flight by Hebrew judges and kings.  In Hebrews 13:11 and 13, the term might refer to Jerusalem as a “fortified city,” since the reference there is to Jesus suffering outside the gate and his disciples, therefore, going forth to him outside the “camp.”

Clearly, in Revelation 20:9, while the term “camp” is most likely referring to a military entity (barracks, headquarters, fortified camp, or army in battle array), it is not referring to a heathen military entity.  This entity is a military entity of the “saints.”  Who, then, are the “saints”?  John mentions the prayers of the “saints” in God’s presence in 5:8, and 8:3-4.  The “saints” are listed, along with God’s servants the prophets who will be rewarded in 11:18.  The “saints” will be conquered (martyred) by the Beast in 13:7, so they must have patience and faith (in 13:10).  In 14:12, John makes clear that the saints “keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus,” so they are Christians.  Their blood was poured out in 16:6, 17:6.  They “rejoice over” the destruction of the old Jerusalem (Babylon), along with the apostles and prophets, in 18:20.  They were slain, along with the prophets, in 18:24.  They are the “righteous” in 19:8. They are the final group referred to in Revelation 22:21: “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with the saints.  Amen.”



Now, allow me to speculate . . .

If, then, the “camp of the saints” is a Christian military entity, there is really only one major “Christian” military entity in the world, right now: the armed services of the United States of America.  True, there are other “Christian” nations, but their militaries are not large.  Our allies in NATO, for example, are notably dependent upon the military decisions of the U.S.  Our major military adversaries are not notably “Christian”—Communist China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, and the recently-heavily-armed-at-our-expense military of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.  It should be said, however, that Russia does contain a strong and growing Christian population (as do Iran and China, although the Christians there are not necessarily welcomed by the state).  If we expand our view over the last century of “the camp of the saints” fighting to protect a “Jewish” entity in World War II, perhaps even Russia could be counted, along with our western allies, Britain and France, in the camp of the saints.

It turns out, however, that the two strongest western allies, at present, are the United States and Israel.  If I were to speculate concerning the identities of the “camp of the saints” and “the beloved city,” in the current environment, I would guess that this alliance of the strongest Christian country and the Jewish nation of Israel might be the co-targets of Gog and Magog.  I would, then, be on the alert, if any major military movement against Israel (the land) and Jerusalem (the beloved city) begins.  How likely is that?  Fairly!  The threats from Iran to annihilate Israel and to destroy America are constant.  True:  President Carter helped to broker a sometimes “iffy” peace agreement between Israel and Egypt. With the Abraham Accords, President Trump was able to decimate ISIS and forge peace treaties between Israel and several of its Muslim neighbors, however tentative they may be.  Nevertheless, anti-Israeli rhetoric is still pervasive in many of those Muslim countries.  Will the peace agreements hold, if some significant Muslim neighbor attacks Israel? 

While it seems to me, at the present, that the most likely enemy of Israel (and the U.S., for that matter) would be a Muslim country, such as Iran, there is no more powerful political and economic adversary of the United States, right now, than Communist China.  Gog and Magog could be a conglomeration of Muslim countries or it could be a multi-national alliance of Communist or former Communist nations.  However, while these countries may be adversaries of America, it is difficult to see why they would have a particular animosity towards Israel.  On the other hand, the majority of nations of the United Nations do seem to hold a general animosity toward the State of Israel.  The United States is continually called upon to exercise veto powers to kill anti-Israeli resolutions at the U.N.  Perhaps, there remains enough anti-Semitism in the world to fuel such enmity.  There certainly was sufficient anti-Semitism in Germany (and other nations) to produce the Holocaust, in the last century.  Recent news stories suggest that such anti-Semitism has not dissipated, in Europe.  Nevertheless, with Muslim Pakistan in possession of nuclear weapons and Muslim Iran rapidly developing them and Muslim Afghanistan in possession of the extremely large sophisticated weapon cache left behind when the Biden administration pulled out and with the significant wealth and power of Muslim Syria, Turkey, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia (not to mention Ethiopia, Sudan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Lebanon, and perhaps even Iraq, etc.), the development of an anti-Israel (and anti-American) Islamic confederation is certainly not out of the question, with these countries existing, as Revelation puts it, on the “four corners of the land” of Israel (Revelation 20:8).  It appears to me that the Egyptian-based Muslim Brotherhood, the Syrian and Lebanon-based Hezbollah, and the Palestinian-based Hamas are continually trying to provoke such a conflagration between Islamic countries and the US-Israeli alliance.  I would keep an eye on such possibilities.  The fear of “mutually-assured destruction” has generally held sway in the conflict between America and her Communist foes, but Islamic terrorists display no such fear.  They even seek the reward of dying in a Jihad.  Hence, that is my greater concern.


How Will it End?


In a word: Fire. Revelation 20:9 states: “And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them.”  In Jewish legends, cited above, Gog, according to Ginzberg, will be annihilated with hail, fire, and brimstone (II.356).  That sounds considerably like Ezekiel 38:22 where he mentions pestilence and bloodshed, hailstones, and fire. Lightning frequently accompanies a hailstorm.  Perhaps, God will use lightning to specifically pinpoint those on Earth He wishes to destroy.  Or, perhaps, the “hailstones” are to be interpreted as John did in his military plague of Hail (Apocalyptic? #30), projectiles fired at the enemy.  In that case, the hundreds of rocket attacks from Hamas in Gaza and Israel’s retaliatory strikes may be called to mind.  Perhaps, even more sophisticated precision attacks—such as the precision drone strike that took out Iranian terrorist leader Qasem Soleimani, an Iranian major general, at Baghdad International Airport on January 3, 2020—are indicated.  Maybe, even nuclear attacks delivered by guided missiles or hypersonic propulsion missile systems or laser weapon systems or taser shockwave or satellite-based warfare.  At the very least, if humans are able to develop such precision targeted projectiles, God certainly can, if He decides to.  But, is that the method by which God will send fire down out of heaven?

Advocates of “global warming” theories might have us envision a slow conflagration, as the earth (over hundreds of years) will succumb to environmental destruction, but that doesn’t seem to fit with John’s description.  Perhaps, an asteroid will strike the earth (as some suggest happened 66 million years ago to wipe out the dinosaurs).  We can then assume that, at least, cockroaches will survive to populate the new earth.  Is that the method by which God will send fire down out of heaven?

II Peter 3:10-13 (NKJV) paints a different picture: 

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up . . . all these things will be dissolved . . . the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we . . . look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.


This picture seems to align much more closely to the Revelation picture.  Revelation 21:1 says: “Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.”  Thus, we come full circle.  The world began with creation and at the end, when the old heaven and earth are destroyed, there will be a new creation.  The topic of my next post.

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