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.

 

The final battle (part 2)

It will be obvious when the end of the world is near because the events that take place will never have occurred before. For instance, there will be a worldwide earthquake that will change the geographical structure of the earth (Ezekiel 38:20). As Ezekiel described the circumstances leading to the final battle between God and mankind, he made it clear that it would come at a time that was unique and identifiable in advance. Ezekiel was told, “Therefore, son of man, prophecy and say unto Gog, Thus saith the Lord GOD; In that day when my people of Israel dwelleth safely, shalt thou know it?” (Ezekiel 38:14). God’s question was a rhetorical one, implying that Israel dwelling safely would be a rare circumstance that everyone would recognize as being out of the ordinary. Israel has been a nation known for its continual conflict with the rest of the world. Even today, we can see that Israel does not dwell safely among her neighbors. In fact, nuclear war has made it possible for Israel’s enemies to annihilate it with little effort, and yet, Israel continues to exist.

The Lord GOD is portrayed as Israel’s personal defender. When the final battle begins, God will immediately step in. Ezekiel said, “And it shall come to pass at the same time when Gog shall come against the land of Israel, saith the Lord GOD, that my fury shall come up in my face. For in my jealousy and in the fire of my wrath have I spoken. Surely in that day there shall be a great shaking in the land of Israel; so that the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the heaven, and the beasts of the field, and all creeping things that creep upon the face of the earth, and all that are upon the face of the earth, shall shake at my presence, and the steep places shall fall, and every wall shall fall to the ground. The Hebrew word translated shake, ra‘ash means to undulate or to have a continuous up and down motion like waves on the sea (7493). In other words, when God shows up on the scene of the final battle, nothing will be left standing, no one will be able to fight against him.

Revelation 6:12-17 gives further insight into what it will be like when God finally faces his foes in battle. It says:

And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; and the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. And the heaven departed as a scrole when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; and said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: for the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?

An important aspect of the day of God’s wrath was linked to “the Lamb” who was pictured as the sacrifice for sin and as the mighty conqueror. Jesus’ victory over death was necessary for him to overcome God’s enemies in the final battle.

The final battle (part 1)

A common topic of Old Testament prophecy was the latter days or latter years which represented a period of time when God would bring judgment on all mankind. Jeremiah spoke of God’s wrath during this time period. He said, “Behold, a whirlwind of the LORD is gone forth in fury, even a grievous whirlwind: it shall fall grievously upon the head of the wicked. The anger of the LORD shall not return, until he have executed, and till he have performed the thoughts of his heart: in the latter days ye shall consider it perfectly” (Jeremiah 23:19-20). Basically, what Jeremiah was saying was that things might not make sense right now, but there would come a time when God would settle accounts with his enemies and his people would then understand why he waited to bring judgment on the world.

In order to understand the latter days, you have to look at the beginning of history when God first judged the world. A flood covered the face of the earth and wiped out every sign of life, leaving only one family remaining; Noah and his three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth (Genesis 7-8). At that time, God made a covenant with every living creature and promised never again to destroy all life on earth (Genesis 9:16-17). It was then that Noah’s sons went forth and began to repopulate the earth, each having a designated territory to develop. The descendants of Noah’s son Ham settled in northern Africa and the land known as Canaan. It is believed that 14 nations came from Noah’s oldest son, Japheth. The Japhethites lived generally north and west of Canaan in Eurasia. The people of Gomer (the later Cimmerians) and related nations lived near the Black Sea. Magog was possibly the father of a Scythian people who inhabited the Caucasus and adjacent regions southeast of the Black Sea.

Some Bible scholars believe the descendants of Japheth occupy the territory formerly known as the USSR or modern Russia. Russia has been associated with Bible prophecy and the latter days when a final battle will occur between God’s army and the kingdoms of this world. The LORD told Ezekiel, “Son of man, set thy face against Gog, the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal, and prophecy against him…And I will turn thee back, and put hooks into thy jaws, and I will bring thee forth, and all thine army, horses and horsemen, all of them clothed with all sorts of armour, even a great company with bucklers and shields, all of them handling swords… Gomer, and all his bands; the house of Togarmah of the north quarters, and all his bands: and many people with thee” (Ezekiel 38:2-6).

Terrorists

Egypt, and in particular Pharaoh king of Egypt, was singled out by God for acts of terror. Ezekiel was told, “Son of man, wail for the multitude of Egypt, and cast them down, even her, for the daughters of the famous nations, unto the nether parts of the earth, with them that go down to the pit” (Ezekiel 32:18). The casting down of Egypt into Sheol or the grave was symbolic of separation from God. Egypt was among several other nations that were to be segregated due to their behavior. Ezekiel declared, “Asshur is there and all her company: his graves are about him: all of them slain, fallen by the sword: whose graves are set in the sides of the pit, and her company is round about her grave: all of them slain, fallen by the sword, which caused terror in the land of the living” (Ezekiel 32:22-23).

The scene that Ezekiel depicted was one in which a segment of the population was gathered together in order to view the fall of Egypt. Each of the spectators was distinguished as having caused terror in the land of the living. It could be said that this collection of terrorists was Satan’s army, but in reality, they were just “uncircumcised,” meaning not dedicated to God. It is likely this assembly was meant to be a prelude to Satan’s final defeat when he will be cast into the bottomless pit. John said in Revelation 20:1-3, “And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, and cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season.”

The terror that was caused by Egypt and the other nations listed in Ezekiel chapter 32 was probably related to both physical and spiritual warfare. The basic translation of the Hebrew word for terror, chittiyth (khit – teeth) is fear (2851), but a more comprehensive interpretation reveals a link to mental processes such as confusion and shame (2865). The outcome of the situation described by Ezekiel was an apparent turning of the tables in which the terrorists became victims of their own terror. Ezekiel proclaimed, “Pharaoh shall see them, and shall be comforted over all his multitude, even Pharaoh and all his army slain by the sword, saith the Lord GOD. For I have caused my terror in the land of the living: and he shall be laid in the midst of the uncircumcised with them that are slain with the sword, even Pharaoh and all his multitude, saith the Lord GOD” (Ezekiel 32:31-32).

A model of success

The lives of the Israelites were meant to be an example of what dependence on God could do for a nation of people. Their prosperity and peaceful existence was not only unusual, it was a stark contrast to a world in which power and influence reigned supreme. In particular, the city of Tyre or Tyrus appeared to be a model of success. Tyre was the island capital of Phoenicia (present day Lebanon). “Because of its geographical location, its political importance and the central role it played in international trade,” it was thought to be a gateway to the world (Ezekiel 26:2 and note). In many ways, Tyrus was the opposite of Jerusalem and could be considered an evil empire led by Satan himself.

Regarding the kingdom of Tyrus, Ezekiel was told, “Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; behold, I am against thee, O Tyrus, and will cause many nations to come up against thee, as the sea causeth his waves to come up. And they shall destroy the walls of Tyrus, and break down her towers: I will also scrape her dust from her, and make her like the top of a rock” (Ezekiel 26:3-4). Tyrus’ attitude of invincibility made it an easy target for God to shoot down. As he had sent Nebuchadnezzar against Jerusalem, so the Lord would bring down this coastal stronghold with the crushing blow of the Babylonian army.

Ezekiel was told, “For  thus saith the Lord GOD: Behold, I will bring upon Tyrus Nebuchadnezzar king of kings, from the north, with horses, and with chariots, and with horsemen, and companies, and much people” (Ezekiel 26:7). The term king of kings was first used by God in reference to Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom, but it was frequently associated with God’s kingdom and the Messiah. It is possible that Nebuchadnezzar was used by God to set the stage for a worldwide ruler who would as the Messiah, conquer every kingdom that stood against him.

Nebuchadnezzar’s conquest of Tyrus opened up a vast well of resources that would eventually cause him to follow in the footsteps of Tyrus’ leaders, becoming arrogant and blinded by pride. Nebuchadnezzar’s 15-year siege of Tyrus began shortly after the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. Nebuchadnezzar’s reign began in 605 B.C. and ended in 562 B.C., so he had about nine years to enjoy the fruits of his labor. No doubt, the king of Babylon was revered and hated by many, but his success in bringing down two of the most invincible cities in the world, Jerusalem and Tyrus, gained him a reputation for being a model of success.

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.

A coward

The kings of Israel and Judah had a responsibility as the earthly representative of God to defend and protect his people. In some instances, the king was considered a savior because God used him to deliver his people from their enemies (2 Kings 13:4-5). Like their Messiah, the king of Judah was endowed with special capabilities that enabled him to intercede for the people, and yet, many of Judah’s kings neglected their responsibilities and sought help from foreign kings (2 Kings 23:35).

King Zedekiah, the last king to rule over God’s people, had access to God  through the prophet Jeremiah. After Jeremiah repeatedly told the king and his people that Babylon was going to attack and destroy Judah, king Zedekiah began to seek counsel from Jeremiah secretly (Jeremiah 37:17). Although the king knew Jeremiah was telling him the truth, he had already made up his mind to disregard Jeremiah’s advice.

The reason king Zedekiah met with Jeremiah secretly was so that no one would know he planned to use the information Jeremiah provided to save himself from going into captivity. While the rest of the nation was deceived into thinking the king of Babylon was going to retreat as he had when the Egyptians came to assist Judah, king Zedekiah knew the end of his nation was nearing, and so, he distanced himself from Jeremiah to make it seem as though he wasn’t paying any attention to his message.

Jeremiah was placed in a dungeon and left for dead (Jeremiah 38:9), but king Zedekiah rescued him and arranged a meeting. It says in Jeremiah 38:14, “Then Zedekiah the king sent, and took Jeremiah unto him into the third entry that is in the house of the LORD, and the king said unto Jeremiah, I will ask thee a thing; hide nothing from me.” Zedekiah used his position as king to gain an advantage over the prophet Jeremiah. He wanted Jeremiah to reveal the future to him and Zedekiah intended to use the information for his own benefit.

Jeremiah told the king exactly what he needed to do to avoid Jerusalem being burned to the ground. The kings response showed his true motive for disobedience to God’s command was a lack of concern for anyone but himself. It says in Jeremiah 38:19, “And Zedekiah the king said unto Jeremiah, I am afraid of the Jews that are fallen to the Chaldeans, lest they deliver me into their hand, and they mock me.” Jeremiah assured Zedekiah he would be safe if he obeyed the LORD and encouraged him to listen to the voice of the LORD (Jeremiah 38:20).

In spite of Jeremiah’s warning, Zedekiah chose to keep the truth hidden and threatened Jeremiah with death if he told anyone else what he revealed to the king (Jeremiah 38:24). In the end, Judah’s army believed they could withstand Nebuchadnezzar’s attack and many of the people waited inside the walls of the city until it was too late for them to surrender and save their own lives (2 Chronicles 36:17).

The last king

King David’s reign began a 400 year monarchy in Israel that ended with king Zedekiah in 586 B.C. Initially, David was told his kingdom would be established for ever (2 Samuel 7:16), but when Solomon became king, God established a conditional covenant with him that stated, “If thou wilt walk before me, as David thy father walked, in integrity of heart, and in uprightness, to do according to all that I have commanded thee, and wilt keep my statutes and my judgments: then I will establish the throne of thy kingdom upon Israel for ever, as I promised David thy father, saying, There shall not fail thee a man upon the throne of Israel” (1 Kings 9:4-5).

After Solomon’s death, Jereboam rebelled and was given rulership over 10 of the tribes of Israel which became the northern kingdom of Israel. The southern kingdom of Judah was left to the descendants of David. The LORD said, “he shall have one tribe for my servant David’s sake and for Jerusalem’s sake, the city which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel…Because that they have forsaken me, and have worshipped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, Chemosh the god of the Moabites, and Milcom the god of the children of Ammon, and have not walked in my ways, to do that which is right in mine eyes, and to keep my statutes and my judgments” (1 Kings 11:32-33).

About 588 B.C., king Zedekiah went to Jeremiah and said, “Inquire, I pray thee, of the LORD for us; for Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon maketh war against us: if so be that the LORD will deal with us according to all his wondrous works, that he may go up from us” (Jeremiah 21:2). King Zedekiah was hoping for a miraculous deliverance from Nebuchadrezzar’s army. Because God had stepped in at the last moment numerous times in Israel’s history, Zedekiah thought it might not be too late to ask him for a miracle. Unfortunately, Zedekiah hadn’t been paying attention to the prophecies Jeremiah had been sharing for more than 30 years.

Zedekiah had actually been appointed to his position of king of Judah by Nebuchaddrezzar (2 Chronicles 36:10). Initially, Zedekiah paid tribute to Nebuchadrezzar, but later rebelled against him and must have thought God would come to his aid. The response to Zedekiah’s petition for help indicated God had switched sides and would be fighting against his own people. Jeremiah stated, “Thus saith the LORD God of Israel; Behold, I will turn back the weapons of war that are in your hands, wherewith ye fight against the king of Babylon, and against the Chaldeans, which besiege you without the walls, and I will assemble them into the midst of the city. And I myself will fight against you with an outstretched hand and with a strong arm, even in anger, and in fury, and in great wrath” (Jeremiah 21:4-5).

No escape

The job of Baruch, Jeremiah’s scribe, was to make sure that the message Jeremiah received from the LORD was recorded accurately. In other words, what Baruch inscribed in his book was expected to match word for word what the LORD had spoken. In order to provide a detailed and accurate recounting of the message, Baruch would have had to clearly understand what was being said. Baruch was no doubt an educated man who was considered to be loyal to God and a devout student of the Mosaic Law. When Baruch heard the message from Jeremiah about Judah’s destruction, he would have known if it were true or not.

After Baruch recorded Jeremiah’s message in a book, he received a personal message from the LORD. Jeremiah said to him, “Thus saith the LORD the God of Israel, unto thee, O Baruch; thou didst say, Woe is me now! for the LORD hath added grief to my sorrow; I fainted in my sighing, and I find no rest” (Jeremiah 45:3). Baruch’s reaction to God’s message for his people was uncontrollable sobbing and an inability to sleep. He was heartbroken and fearful about what was ahead. Clearly, the danger was real to Baruch and he knew the end was near. God’s personal message to Baruch showed that he wanted to reaffirm his involvement in what was going to happen and would not abandon his people altogether.

Jeremiah relayed these words to Baruch, “Thus shalt thou say unto him, The LORD saith thus; Behold, that which I have built will I break down, and that which I have planted I will pluck up, even this whole land” (Jeremiah 45:4). God’s responsibility for the destruction of Judah was important for Baruch to know because otherwise, he might think the Babylonians were able to thwart God’s plan for his people. God remained in control and would not allow any force to interfere with his ultimate goal, the salvation of his people.

In spite of God’s reassurance that he was behind the Babylonian attack, Baruch was told that his position would not make a difference in the outcome of his situation. There was no way he could escape the terror that was coming, but Baruch would survive and live to tell the story. God said to him, “And seekest thou great things for thyself, seek them not: for behold, I will bring evil on all flesh, saith the LORD: but thy life will I give unto thee for a prey in all places whither thou goest” (Jeremiah 45:5).