Sunday, October 23, 2016

A Review of Revelation -- Part 9 -- Armageddon

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[Part 1] [Part 2] [Part 3] [Part 4] [Part 5] [Part 6] [Part 7] [Part 8] [Part 9] [Part 10]

     This is the continuation of my series reviewing Revelation as part of my reading of The Book of Revelation: Things Which Must Shortly Come to Pass by G. Erik Brandt. In my last part (Part 8 -- A Call to Repentance), I set out some further thoughts on the four trumpets and discussion of two of the last three trumps or woes.

     As you may remember, the seventh seal opens with a period of silence in heaven describes as being about half an hour in length. While this may be an actual half-hour, Brandt believes that the “half-hour” represents the time in heaven, which we are told is a ratio of one thousand earth years to a day in heaven , or about 21 years, after which judgments will be released upon the earth and mankind. During this time, no angels are seen flying through heaven nor sounding their trumps. My personal belief is that this will be a period of time when heaven will be silent in the sense of God no longer striving with mankind. That is, while we personally can draw on the power of the Holy Spirit and have it with us as comforter, the Lord will largely withdraw his spirit from the world as a result of the rampant wickedness. Although the great wickedness has been growing for at least two centuries, we will see--are seeing--a sudden uptick in wickedness; or, as Habakkuk describes it: Therefore the law is slacked, and judgment doth never go forth: for the wicked doth compass about the righteous; therefore wrong judgment proceedeth." (Hab. 1:4).

     After the period of silence, the wrath of the Lord is poured upon the earth, and the angels begin to sound their trumpets. Even at this time, the Lord will allow a space or time for the wicked to repent. As Brandt points out:
History has shown that God’s warnings are timed and spaced to allow for “breathers”and more importantly, for repentance. Only when the probationary hour is completely exhausted, when the calls to change are rejected, and the patience of God would destroy justice, will the great cleansing calamities be sent to sweep the wicked from the earth.
However, there will come a time when the patience of the Lord will be done, and the time for repentance will pass. At that time, there will only be judgment.

     The last three trumps are also referred to as the three woes. The first of these (i.e., the fifth trumpet) was the release of a Satanic army from the abyss. The second of these is the release of an army of "two hundred thousand thousand" across the Euphrates, which will result in the death of a third of mankind. Nevertheless, even after all these tribulations:
... the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk: Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts.
(Rev. 9:20-21).

     In respect to this vast army, Brandt explains:
As with previous trumpets, the term “third part”designates that this woe also has limits (Rev. 9:18.) Despite such limitations placed by the Lord, destruction and loss of life will be massive. Unlike the smaller “wars and rumors of wars”spoken of in the scriptures (D&C 45:26; JS-M 1:23), this conflict will involve a “great people and a strong; there hath not been ever the like, neither shall be any more after it, even to the years of many generations. A fire devoureth before them . . . and nothing shall escape them”(Joel 2:2-3). The destination of this innumerable alliance of troops is the battlefield of Armageddon and eventually the city of Jerusalem.
One thing to keep in mind, however, is that Armageddon* is not the end. Brandt notes that "[w]hile the war should not be understated, we must be careful about being too dramatic. True it will be massive and terrible, but it does not signify the end of the world; other events will follow Armageddon prior to the final destruction of the wicked."

     The invading army is described as coming from beyond the Euphrates (Joseph Smith indicated that the spiritual origin of this army is from the abyss, and therefore should probably be read as tying into the army of locust). According to Brandt:
[T]he reference to the Euphrates River also carries relevance. The Lord gave Abram and his posterity the land of Israel (Canaan) as an inheritance and designated its borders as Egypt in the south and the Chaldees (modern Iraq) on the northeastern frontier: “Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates”(Gen. 15:18). Traditionally, Israel’s most formidable enemies lay to the north and eastward beyond the great Euphrates. While the demons themselves will come from the bottomless pit, many of Israel’s mortal enemies will march from the north and the east beyond the natural boundary of the Euphrates River."
I have seen others suggest another implication from this, which is that the source of the armies may indicate that Israel occupies or, at least, does not have anything to fear from the nations immediately surrounding it.

     To understand this battle, it is necessary to examine the writings of other prophets concerning the events, as well as other chapters within Revelation. As an initial matter:
The prophet Ezekiel names Gog and his allies as the primary participants among the nations who will gather for this great war. The entire list includes, “Gog of the land of Magog, the peoples from Meshech and Tubal, Persia, Ethiopia, Libya, Gomer, and all his bands; the house of Togarmah”(Ezek. 38:1-6; see also: Dan. 11:44-45). Ezekiel identifies the countries by their ancient names, but they represent modern people or kingdoms surrounding Israel.
Magog, Meshech, and Tubal have been designated by historians as the peoples north and east of the Black and Crimea seas—modern-day Russia and her neighbors. Persia is known today as Iran, but anciently its territory ran east to include much of western India and west into Asia Minor or modern Turkey. The lands from Ethiopia to Libya cover most of the northern and east coasts of Africa. The bands of Gomer refer to the descendants of a son of Japeth (one of Noah’s three sons). Gomer and his son Togarmah (Gen. 10:3) are considered to be the forebears of the many tribes or peoples that now inhabit modern Europe.
I would note, however, that some scholars rejected this interpretation. Jeffrey Goodman, Ph.D. has written, for instance, that:
The Assyrian Court records show dealings with Magog, Meshech, Tubal, and Togarmah (Ezekiel 38:3-6), the nations that stretched across ancient Asia Minor (modern Turkey) from west to east. From these records we also learn that the ancient nation of Gomer (Ezekiel 38:6), an enemy of the Assyrians invaded Asia Minor by coming down from an area around the northeast shore of the Black Sea. Archeologists know that the militant leader called "Gog" in Ezekiel 38/39 led a confederacy of these nations against invading Gomer.
He also points out that Magog referred to Lydia, not the Scythians. Lydia was an ancient kingdom that ruled the western half of Asia Minor. Thus, if we were to take the list of enemies literally, rather than an expansive list consisting of most of Eurasia, we are presented with a smaller group of nations that appears to be a Muslim crescent from Turkey through Iraq and Iran to the north and east of Israel, and then the Muslim nations of much of North Africa.

     Goodman also suggests, however, that rather than a literal interpretation, Ezekiel may be using Gog and Magog to represent the characteristics of the anti-Christ and his army. That is:
As referred to in Ezekiel 38-39, the historical Gog who was a "prince" of the nations of Magog, Meshech, and Tubal, serve as "historical types" of the "antichrist" and the multi-national confederacy over which the antichrist is to rule during the tribulation period. The Bible uses the historical leader Gog as a historical type of the antichrist to come in the exact same ways the Bible uses the historical King David as a type of Jesus' Second Coming (Ezekiel 34:23 and Ezekiel 37:22-24). Similarly, in Matthew 11:14 (also see Malachi 4:5) and Matthew 17:10-13 ("if you will receive it") Jesus in effect says that John is a historical type of Elijah. In other words, "Gog and Magog" (remember in Akkadian "Magog" means "the land of Gog") in their most basic meaning, are taken to be types or references to any "antichrist" and "the land of this antichrist;" just as I John 2:18, 22, 4:3, and II John 7 says "there are many antichrists." 
In that vein, Brandt notes that "[i]n other prophecies, Zechariah and Jeremiah both expand the alliance lists to include 'all nations.' The whole world will participate in one form or another in the great war (Zech. 14:2, Jer. 25:15-27)."**

     Brandt goes on to describe the anti-Christ, Gog:
Once the alliance is established, the military forces gathered together will “come like a storm . . . [or] like a cloud to cover the land, thou, and all thy bands, and many people with thee”(Ezek. 38:9). Joel described the battles and their terrible methods of war. “A fire devoureth before them; and behind them a flame burneth: the land is as the Garden of Eden before them, and behind them a desolate wilderness; yea, and nothing shall escape them”(Joel 2:3). His description brings to mind the horrors brought by Shiz, a powerful anti-Christ of the Jaredite civilization, who waged genocidal warfare. “And there went a fear of Shiz throughout all the land; yea, a cry went forth throughout the land. Who can stand before the army of Shiz? Behold, he sweepeth the earth before him!”(Ether 14:18). The legions marching under the banner of the destroyer, Abaddon or Apollyon, at Armageddon will be led by a despot comparable to the tyrant Shiz, of the Jaredite nation (Ether 15).
The reference to the Jaradite kings is apropos. Goodman indicates that Gog was a historical person called by the Greeks Gyges of Lydia. Historical records vary as to details, but all agree that Gyges seized the throne of Lydia by murdering the King and marrying the Queen. Varying accounts indicate that Gyges was assisted by the Queen or by the King's chief guard. In any event, his ascent to the throne appears to be the result of a secret conspiracy. After killing the King, a civil war erupted, which, according to the Wikipedia article, "only ended when Gyges sought to justify his ascendance to the throne by petitioning for the approval of the Oracle at Delphi." Gygas then engaged in a series of wars to expand his kingdom, eventually dying in battle.

     Although we are getting ahead of ourselves as to the narrative given in Revelation, the Satanic power underlying Gog's power and army cannot be forgotten. Brandt observes that:
Later in the Revelation, John sees the spirits of the devil, the anti-Christ, which he calls a “beast”(Rev 11:7), and a false prophet, who works mighty miracles to deceive the “kings of the earth”(Rev. 16:14). Many deceptions and machinations will no doubt be used to convince the world to assemble and use this formidable army. Blasphemies will spew from the mouths of the anti-Christ and the false prophet, who proclaim the world alliance will establish peace, order and security, and that the war is a moral necessity. Behind the scenes secret combinations will actively engage and influence the nations to unite together. Radical religious leaders will claim that their genocidal ends against their long time adversary, the Jews, are justified because God has sanctioned it.
However, greed will also play a part. Ezekiel makes clear that a significant factor for Gog's invasion will the be the desire to take a spoil from Israel. Although we cannot say whether this greed will be for the land itself, or something else (e.g., the giant natural gas fields claimed by Israel).

     The number of the army is generally thought to number 200 million because the translations often state the number as "200 thousand thousand." However, Brandt notes that the text actually reads "two myriads of myriads." He interprets this as symbolizing "an innumerable throng gathered to insure a war of annihilation." Thus, for instance, "[o]ther prophets who viewed the innumerable force, portray it as 'without number' (Joel 1:6), 'a great company, a mighty army, a dark cloud from the north' (Ezek. 38:15)." Brandt also reminds his readers that "Joel speaks of the great army that comes from the north, but large armies also come from the east and south," and that "[s]ome scholars argue that they will come in two waves."

    The invasion will ultimately fail. Brandt writes:
Despite the awesome size and capacity of Gog and his allies, their best laid plans are thwarted by two servants of God, two prophets “who are raised up to the Jewish nation”to prophecy and defend her against the numberless hosts (D&C 77:15). In the end, the grand army is defeated by the Lord who destroys the majority of the troops and severely cripples the sponsoring nations with a series of cataclysmic disasters (Ezek. 39:6). Armageddon becomes an incredibly destructive event for them. 
Both the wicked gentile army and the wicked Jews in Israel will be destroyed in the battle. However, we are told that even after all of this, the wicked inhabitants of the earth will still not repent, but will actually turn on each other. Brandt says of this: "The bloodletting begun on the figurative Mount Megiddo, now spreads among the wicked. Apollyon or Abaddon, the great destroyer, drives them into great conflict among themselves and the abomination of desolations spreads throughout most corners of the world." After these massive military failures, the conflicts will become more local and personal.
The great destruction and subsequent collapse of those who fought against God following the tremendous war throws all the world into strife and instability. In the ensuing chaos each nation, state, city, or township will seek every means to survive. But it will be for naught, for the evil works of the wicked in Babylon have come into “remembrance before God”(Rev. 16:19).
This, of course, brings to mind the many prophecies that the United States would collapse into a civil war.

     As I've noted several times before, these battles and wars will largely be instances of the wicked destroying the wicked in an orgy of violence that change the nature of men for nearly 1,000 years. Although we may need to fight in self-defense, I do not see anything indicating that the righteous will be part of the cleansing of the wicked by war. Rather, as Brandt notes:
Driven by the spirit of the devil, they are left to themselves to destroy each other by the most barbarous means. The third and final woe is the worst of all. It begins with desolating scourges and bloody conflicts and culminates in the fiery advent of [the] Lord. When the Lord comes in purifying fire, no unhallowed soul will escape.

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Notes:

* While John gives us the name of where this battle will occur, "[o]ther prophets affirm that nations of the world will assemble troops to battle against the Jews, in the land of Israel (Ezek. 38:8; Zech. 12:3, 14:2; D&C 133:35). This war marks only the beginning of the conflict. Eventually, the effects of the war will expand and sweep across the earth, culminating in great desolations among all the nations of the earth."

** In that regard, who is to say that the United States will not be part of the great alliance against Israel?

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