The final battle (part 3)

The final battle on earth is depicted in the book of Revelation as an all out attempt by Satan to overthrow God’s kingdom (Revelation 20:7-8). In his description of this battle, Ezekiel foretold that the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal would come out of the land of Magog and lead a multinational force against Israel in the latter years (Ezekiel 38:2-9). It seems that the final battle will start at the end of the great tribulation and conclude after the millennial reign of Christ. Similarities between Ezekiel’s account and that of John the apostle show that God orchestrated the initial attack against Israel, but at the end of the thousand year reign of Christ, Satan will deceive Gog and Magog into gathering their army and making a final attempt to regain control of earth.

Ezekiel was told, “Therefore thou son of man, prophesy against Gog, and say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against thee, O Gog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal: and I will turn thee back, and leave but the sixth part of thee, and will cause thee to come up from the north parts, and will bring thee upon the mountain of Israel: and I will smite thy bow out of thy left hand, and will cause thine arrows too fall out of thy right hand” (Ezekiel 39:1-3). God’s reference to leaving a sixth part of the army probably meant that only some of the people that fought against Israel would be annihilated. The fact that Satan was able to deceive the nations and Gog and Magog are mentioned at the end of the millennial reign of Christ means that the some of God’s enemies were converted and submitted to the will of God (Revelation 20:20:7-8).

The final battle will not be an isolated conflict, but a war in which all of those on earth that are willing to challenge God’s authority are seduced by Satan into fighting against believers in Jesus Christ. Apparently, the rebellion takes place in Jerusalem and ends with Satan being defeated once and for all. It says in Revelation 20:7-10:

And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, and shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them. And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.

 

Transfer of wealth

King Solomon, who has been credited with being the wealthiest man to ever live, invested millions of dollars in the construction of his palace and the temple of God. Many of the items in God’s temple were overlaid with gold and the exterior covered with brass. When the army of the Chaldees came into Jerusalem, they ransacked the city and took all of its valuable treasures back to Babylon with them.

2 Kings 25:8-9 says:

And in the fifth month, on the seventh day of the month, which is the nineteenth year of king Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, came Nebuzar-adan, captain of the guard, a servant of the king of Babylon, into Jerusalem: and he burnt the house of the LORD, and the king’s house, and all the houses of Jerusalem, and every great man’s house burnt he with fire. And all the army of the Chaldees, that were with the captain of the guard, brake down the walls of Jerusalem round about.”

Three of the items that were removed from the temple before it was burned were identified as: 1) two pillars of brass, 2) ten bases of brass, and 3) the brazen sea that was in the house of the LORD (2 Kings 25:13). The dimensions of these items can be found in 1 Kings 7:15, 27, and 23. The two pillars of brass were each eighteen cubits high and twelve cubits around, so approximately 27 feet high and 18 feet around. The weight of just one of these pillars may have been as much as 366,469 lbs.

It says in 2 Kings 25:13 and 16, “And the pillars of brass there were in the house of the LORD, and the bases, and the brazen sea that was in the house of the LORD, did the Chaldees break in pieces, and carried the brass of them to Babylon…the brass of all these vessels was without weight.” In other words, there was too much brass to weigh it. How king Nebuchadnezzar managed to move probably more than a million tons of brass, silver, and gold, more than 500 miles from Jerusalem to Babylon is unknown, but in the process, he became a very wealthy man.

Zedekiah’s escape

King Nebuchadnezzar’s attack of Jerusalem lasted from the ninth year and tenth month of Zedekiah’s reign over Judah until the eleventh year and fourth month, on the ninth day of that month. The exact date of the fall of Jerusalem is known to be July 18, 586 B.C. During the nineteen month siege upon his country, king Zedekiah pretended to believe Jerusalem would survive Nebuchadnezzar’s attack, but in reality, Zedekiah knew the end was coming.

When Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, all his princes, and all his army came against Jerusalem, and sat in the middle gate, a strategic vantage point for invaders; it says in Jeremiah 39:4: “And it came to pass, that when Zedekiah the king of Judah saw them, and all the men of war, then he fled, and went forth out of the city by night, by the way of the king’s garden, by the gate betwixt two walls: and he went out the way of the plain.” Zedekiah took with him all his princes and men of war and left the people of Jerusalem defenseless (Jeremiah 52:7-10).

Zedekiah’s plan of escape went against the counsel he received from Jeremiah. The LORD told Jeremiah, “And Zedekiah king of Judah shall not escape out of the hands of the Chaldeans, but shall surely be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon, and shall speak with him mouth to mouth, and his eyes shall behold his eyes” (Jeremiah 32:4). The Chaldean army overtook Zedekiah in the plans of Jericho and brought him to Nebuchadnezzar’s military headquarters (Jeremiah 39:5).

Zedekiah was appointed king of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar in 597 B.C. after the first wave of captives was taken to Babylon (2 Kings 24:14, 17). Initially, Zedekiah did what Nebuchadnezzar wanted him to , but later Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon and sought assistance from the king of Egypt because Nebuchadnezzar “made him swear by God” that he would remain faithful to their agreement (2 Chronicles 36:13). It says of Zedekiah in 2 Chronicles 36:13 that “he stiffened his neck, and hardened his heart from turning unto the LORD God of Israel.”

When Zedekiah stood before Nebuchadnezzar after he had been captured, Zedekiah was treated as a traitor. It says in Jeremiah 39:6-8, “Then the king of Babylon slew the sons of Zedekiah in Riblah before his eyes: also the king of Babylon slew all the nobles of Judah. Moreover he put out Zedekiah’s eyes and bound him with chains to carry him to Babylon. And the Chaldeans burnt the king’s  house, and the houses of the people with fire, and brake down the walls of Jerusalem.”

Nebuchadnezzar’s barbaric treatment of Zedekiah was a type of psychological torture that was intended to cause him pain and anguish. Most likely, Zedekiah suffered from nightmares and perhaps depression as a result of seeing his family slaughtered before his eyes. The practice of putting out someone’s eyes after he has witnessed a personal tragedy suggests that Nebuchadnezzar was a ruthless disciplinarian that controlled others to the point that no one dared cross him. Zedekiah was foolish to think he could escape from Nebuchadnezzar’s army and paid dearly for his rebellion against the king of Babylon.

Babel

Not long after Noah and his sons were saved from the flood that destroyed every living creature on earth, a rebellion against God was led by the descendants of Noah’s grandsons. The sons of Noah were divided into nations, but everyone spoke the same language and understood things in the context of God’s will for mankind (Genesis 10:32-11:1). It says in Genesis 10:9 that Noah’s great-grandson Nimrod was a mighty hunter “and the beginning of his kingdom was Babel” (Genesis 10:10). Babel stands for Babylon and Nimrod’s kingdom represents the beginning of the Babylonian empire (894).

The intention behind the construction of Babel was to establish a permanent structure or fortress that would be impenetrable, such as Fort Knox where the U.S. gold reserves are located. It says in Genesis 11:5-7, “And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded. And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they many not understand one another’s speech.” The Hebrew word translated confound, balal means to overflow or to mix. In other words, the people’s language was useless, it was a wasted effort for them to try and communicate with each other.

The Babylonian empire was in some ways a fulfillment of the original intention with Babel. The wall surrounding Babylon was of double construction. The outer wall was 12 feet thick and was separated from the 21 feet thick inner wall by a dry moat that was 23 feet wide. Entering the city seemed impossible. The LORD said of Israel, “Thou art my battle axe and weapons of war: for with thee will I break in pieces the nations, and with thee will I destroy kingdoms” (Jeremiah 51:20). Babylon was symbolic of a world system that operated outside of God’s control. God intended to use his people as a means of judging the rebellion of all mankind. Because the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem, God would destroy them.

Jeremiah expressed the heart of God when he said, “The violence done to me and to my flesh be upon Babylon” (Jeremiah 51:25). God’s vengeance was personal, he attributed Babylon’s violence to an attack against his own sovereign will and Lordship over the earth. Jeremiah proclaimed, “Therefore behold, the days come, that I will do judgment upon the graven images of Babylon: and her whole land shall be confounded, and all her slain shall fall in the midst of her” (Jeremiah 51:47).

Power

In ancient times, the hand was a symbol of power. To be given into someone’s hands meant you were dominated by them and under their control (3709). To deliver someone out of another’s hands meant you released him from the other’s dominion or rule over him. One of the ways kings sought to increase their power, or at least their appearance of power, was to take other nations captive and rule over their people so that the size of their kingdom increased, making it seem as though they had become more powerful.

The Neo-Assyrian Empire existed for 300 years from approximately 911 B.C. to 612 B.C., during which time its population peaked and its territory expanded across more than a million square miles. The Neo-Assyrian Empire reached its greatest height politically and militarily under the reign of Sargon II who brought an end to the northern kingdom of Israel. Sargon’s son Sennacherib attacked the southern kingdom of Judah and conquered 46 of its strongest cities (Sennacherib’s campaign against Judah 701 B.C.).

When Sennacherib king of Assyria came and entered the fenced cities of Judah, it says in 2 Chronicles 32:1 that he “thought to win them for himself.” Sennacherib wanted to be the dominating power over Judah and Jerusalem so that he could claim himself to be their king. Sennacherib not only believed he was the most powerful man in the world, but he also believed he was more powerful than any god, including the God of the Israelites.

It says of Sennacherib in 2 Chronicles 32:17, “He wrote also letters to rail on the LORD God of Israel, and to speak against him, saying, As the gods of the nations of other lands have not delivered their people out of mine hand, so shall not the God of Hezekiah deliver his people out of mine hand.” The Hebrew word translated rail, charaph means to pull off or to expose as by stripping (2778). Another way of saying what Sennacherib was trying to do was to bring shame on God, to ruin his reputation.

Sennacherib was a very powerful man, and because of his position as the king of the Assyrian Empire, he was the most powerful man in the world in 701 B.C. His claim that no god of any nation or kingdom was able to deliver his people out of his hand (2 Chronicles 32:15) was partially true, but to compare God’s  ability to that of an idol was a huge mistake. God intervened in the situation and killed 185,000 of Sennacherib’s soldiers in one night, while everyone was sleeping (2 Kings 19:35). It says of Sennacherib in 2 Chronicles 32:21, “So he returned with shame of face to his own land. And when he was come into the house of his god, they that come forth of his own bowels slew him there with the sword.”

Foolishness

King Amaziah benefitted from his father Jehoash’s 40 year reign in Judah because most of that time the nation was peaceful. It was near the end of Johoash’s reign that war broke out with Syria and Jehoash was able to keep the damage to a minimum by paying Hazael king of Syria to leave Jerusalem.

After wining a battle with Edom, Amaziah made the mistake of antagonizing Jehoash king of Israel. “Then Amaziah sent messengers to Jehoash, the son of Jehoahaz son of Jehu, king of Isreal, saying, Come, let us look one another in the face” (2 Kings 14:8). Amaziah’s comment was the equivalent of challenging Jehoash to a dual.

Jehoash was a seasoned warrior that had defeated the Syrian army three times (2 Kings 13:25). Jehoash’s response to Amaziah’s challenge indicates he was not impressed with Amaziah’s victory over Edom. “Thou hast indeed smitten Edom, and thine heart hath lifted thee up: glory of this, and tarry at home: for why shouldest thou meddle to thy hurt, that thou shouldest fall, even thou, and Judah with thee?

Amaziah’s reckless behavior resulted in Judah being defeated by Israel’s army. In order to humiliate Amaziah and leave him in a vulnerable position, Jehoash broke down a 600 foot section of the wall of Jerusalem. He also raided the temple, “and he took all the gold and silver, and all the vessels that were found in the house of the LORD” (2 Kings 14:13-14).

Jehoash’s intention in defeating Amaziah was not to protect his own nation, but to diminish Judah’s strength, both physically and spiritually. Amaziah’s foolishness put his people at risk and left Judah vulnerable to attack. “And they made a conspiracy against him in Jerusalem: and he fled to Lachish” (2 Kings 14:19).