Sermon title: ARMAGEDDON: ALL THE NATIONS vs GOD
Joel 3:1-12; Ezekiel 38:14-17
Immanuel Baptist Church – October 21, 2018
Our Lord Jesus is coming again
and he encouraged us at Matthew 24:42
to “keep watch” for His coming.
We can “keep watch”
by eagerly praying for Christ’s return
and by paying attention to world events
that point to the imminence of his coming.
Today we’ll look at some of those events,
that you’ll recognize from current news headlines,
and next week we’ll conclude this series on the End Times
by looking at more of them.
Today, I’d like to focus on the end times military battles,
and the troop movements reported in the news
that seem to be significant.
In particular, Russia, Turkey and Iran
are now moving their armed forces into position
poised to fulfill Bible prophecy.
When the disciples asked our Lord Jesus in Matthew Chapter 24,
what would be the sign of his coming
and the end of this world,
his answer included “wars and rumors of wars.”
And he added,
“Nation will rise against nation,
and kingdom against kingdom.
There will be famines and earthquakes
in various places.
8 All these are the beginning of birth pains.”
But these would not be the final conflict.
The final conflict would begin with
a multi-national attack
against the restored nation of Israel.
The generation that crucified Jesus
saw Israel destroyed.
Just as Jesus predicted,
the armies of the Roman Empire
killed a million Jews
and carried away the rest of the Jews captive
and sold them as slaves
in all the nations—
just as the Bible foretold.
The nation of Israel went out of existence for almost 2,000 years.
There was no nation of Israel,
and no Jewish Jerusalem,
for almost 2,000 years.
Then, in “the End Times”—the last days of this world—
Israel has been restored,
and Jerusalem has taken back into Jewish hands.
Then the stage is now set
for the final war
that will accompany the return of Christ.
Last week we talked about
how watching Jerusalem
can help us be ready for Christ’s return.
And we read from the prophecy of Zechariah, Chapter 12,
where it foretold a multi-national attack on Jerusalem
in the End Times.
We read Zechariah 12:3, which says,
3 On that day, when all the nations of the earth
are gathered against her,
I will make Jerusalem an immovable rock
for all the nations.
All who try to move it will injure themselves.
We read Zechariah’s description of that battle,
which concluded in Verse 9 with God saying,
9 “On that day I will set out to destroy
all the nations that attack Jerusalem.”
And we saw in the very next verse
that the Jews will turn to Christ at that time
and will welcome back the one they had pierced
on the cross.
But besides Zechariah,
the Bible gives us several additional descriptions
of that End Times conflict.
And the name commonly attached to the final war is “Armageddon.”
But the Bible word “Armageddon”
has also slipped into popular usage.
Even people who don’t read the Bible
use the word “Armageddon”
to describe a nuclear war
that they fear would wipe out the civilized world.
If you google “Armageddon”
the top search results
are likely to be for a 1998 movie
staring Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck.
In the movie an asteroid
threatens to strike the earth and end all life on this planet.
But the English word “Armageddon”
is derived from the Hebrew name
which means “hill of Megiddo”—
an actual location in Israel.
Megiddo is about 81 miles north of Jerusalem
via the Yitzhak Rabin Highway,
which is Israel’s Route 6.
There is a man-made hill there,
that resulted from human habitation at Megiddo—
with construction taking place
on top of old ruins and debris for thousands of years.
And today there is also
an Israeli national park located at Megiddo.
But the amazing thing
is that the Bible foretells
that the final war of human history
will begin there at Megiddo.
Revelation Chapter 16,
says that Satan the devil
will call the world’s armies to assemble there
for the final battle.
Revelation 16:13 starts off
telling how the devil uses evil spirits
and entities under his control
to summon the world’s armed forces
to that location in Israel.
13 Then I saw three evil spirits
that looked like frogs;
they came out of the mouth of the dragon,
out of the mouth of the beast
and out of the mouth of the false prophet.
14 They are spirits of demons
performing miraculous signs,
and they go out to the kings of the whole world,
to gather them for the battle
on the great day of God Almighty.
Then there is a little “aside” comment here
in Verse 15,
where Jesus reminds us
to be ready for his return:
15 "Behold, I come like a thief!
Blessed is he who stays awake
and keeps his clothes with him,
so that he may not go naked and be shamefully exposed."
And then Verse 16 goes back
to talking about these evil, demonic spirits
that gather the rulers of the whole world
for battle against God. It says,
16 Then they gathered the kings together
to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.
Most translations call the place “Armageddon,”
but some have a footnote saying
“Armageddon” means “Mount Megiddo”
or the hill of Megiddo.
When the armies of all the nations
deploy to Megiddo in Israel
that obviously constitutes an invasion of Israel.
Foreign armies don’t march into any country
without expecting a fight.
So, this multi-national force
that targets Megiddo in modern Israel
will expect to fight a battle
against the IDF, the Israeli Defense Forces.
But, Revelation goes on to tell us
in Revelation Chapter 19
that the invading armies
will encounter something else entirely.
They will come face-to-face
with a supernatural army
that’s described in Revelation Chapter 19,
beginning with Verse 11.
There the Apostle John tells us about his vision
of the battle of Megiddo,
or the battle of Armageddon,
11 I saw heaven standing open
and there before me was a white horse,
whose rider is called Faithful and True.
With justice he judges and makes war.
12 His eyes are like blazing fire,
and on his head are many crowns.
He has a name written on him
that no one knows but he himself.
13 He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood,
and his name is the Word of God.
14 The armies of heaven were following him,
riding on white horses
and dressed in fine linen, white and clean.
15 Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword
with which to strike down the nations.
And Verse 19 repeats that the heavenly armies
are fighting against the same armies that gathered at Megiddo:
“the kings of the earth and their armies
gathered together to make war
against the rider on the horse and his army.
So, that’s Revelation’s description
of what will happen at Megiddo in modern Israel.
Another description of the final battle
is found in Psalm 83.
Psalm 83 tells how the surrounding nations
will plot to destroy the nation of Israel
and will form a multi-national alliance to do that.
Beginning with Psalm 83:4 we read,
4 "Come," they say, "let us destroy them as a nation, that the name of Israel be remembered no more."
5 With one mind they plot together; they form an alliance against you--
6 the tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites,
of Moab and the Hagrites,
7 Gebal, Ammon and Amalek, Philistia,
with the people of Tyre.
8 Even Assyria has joined them
to lend strength to the descendants of Lot.
The modern nations around Israel
are the descendants of these ancient peoples.
Edom is the modern Kingdom of Jordan.
The Ishmaelites are the forefathers of today’s Arabs.
Philistia is the area called Gaza today.
Tyre is in modern Lebanon.
And Assyria covered the land of modern-day Iraq and Syria.
Psalm 83 goes on to describe
how God will defeat the invading armies of these nations.
Verse 15 mentions that he will use
severe weather and storms as instruments of war
to defeat them:
15 so pursue them with your tempest
and terrify them with your storm.
16 Cover their faces with shame
so that men will seek your name, O Lord .
17 May they ever be ashamed and dismayed;
may they perish in disgrace.
18 Let them know that you,
whose name is the Lord –-
that you alone are the Most High over all the earth.
So, Psalm 83 agrees with Revelation
that the nations will attack Israel
but God will step in and win the victory.
Another description of the End Times attack on Israel
is found in the book of Joel.
Joel is a small book toward the end of the Old Testament.
The easiest way to find it
is to open to one of the larger books like Ezekiel or Daniel.
After Ezekiel and Daniel comes Hosea, followed by Joel.
And in Joel Chapter 3
it speaks of the distant future from Joel’s day,
when God would re-establish the Jews in Jerusalem.
It says that a multi-national coalition force
will attack the restored state of Israel
and that God himself will fight against them.
It says God will win the victory
in the “Valley of Jehoshaphat”
which is just outside Jerusalem,
between Jerusalem and the Mt. of Olives.
Reading Joel Chapter 3, beginning with the first Verse,
1 "In those days and at that time,
when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem,
2 I will gather all nations
and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat.
There I will enter into judgment against them concerning my inheritance, my people Israel,
for they scattered my people among the nations
and divided up my land.
So, the multi-national army
seems to move from Megiddo in northern Israel
about 80 miles south to “the Valley of Jehoshapat”
just outside Jerusalem.
And then God issues a challenge to the nations,
continuing in Verse 9:
9 Proclaim this among the nations: Prepare for war! Rouse the warriors!
Let all the fighting men draw near and attack.
We’re familiar with a passage elsewhere in the Old Testament
that talks of the peace that will prevail
under God’s Kingdom
when there will be no more war
and the nations will
‘beat their swords into plowshares.”
But here in Joel 3:10,
the Lord challenges the nations to a fight,
and he tells them to do the opposite:
to beat their plowshares into swords:
10 Beat your plowshares into swords
and your pruning hooks into spears.
Let the weakling say, "I am strong!"
11 Come quickly, all you nations from every side,
and assemble there.
God dares them to come fight against him.
Then the prophet Joel himself breaks in to speak,
and cheers-on God’s side of the battle:
Bring down your warriors, O Lord!
In Verse 12 the Lord is speaking again,
and he says,
12 "Let the nations be roused;
let them advance into the Valley of Jehoshaphat,
for there I will sit
to judge all the nations on every side.
Verse 16 describes the outcome of the battle:
16 The Lord will roar from Zion
and thunder from Jerusalem;
the earth and the sky will tremble.
But the Lord will be a refuge for his people,
a stronghold for the people of Israel.
17"Then you will know that I, the Lord your God,
dwell in Zion, my holy hill.
Jerusalem will be holy;
never again will foreigners invade her.
So, we’ve seen the coming war in Israel
described in Zechariah, Revelation, Psalms and Joel.
But it’s the description in the Book of Ezekiel
that I find the most interesting right now.
It’s more detailed, covering 3 whole chapters—
Ezekiel Chapters 37 through 39.
And it seems especially timely,
because news headlines tell how
the major nations named in Ezekiel
have recently been moving their armed forces
into position just outside the borders of Israel.
Ezekiel Chapter 37, beginning with Verse 21
sets the stage,
because it quotes God as saying,
'This is what the Sovereign LORD says:
I will take the Israelites out of the nations
where they have gone.
I will gather them from all around
and bring them back into their own land.
22I will make them one nation in the land,
on the mountains of Israel.
And Israel has been restored like that
during the lifetime of many here in this church.
Then Ezekiel Chapter 38 tells how
“Gog, of the land of Magog”
will lead a multi-national attack against Israel
in the End Times.
Beginning with the 1st Verse, Ezekiel writes,
1 The word of the LORD came to me:
2 "Son of man, set your face against Gog,
of the land of Magog,
the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal;
prophesy against him
3 and say: 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says:
I am against you, O Gog,
chief prince of Meshech and Tubal.
4 I will turn you around, put hooks in your jaws
and bring you out with your whole army—
your horses, your horsemen fully armed,
and a great horde with large and small shields,
all of them brandishing their swords.
5 Persia, Cush and Put will be with them,
all with shields and helmets,
6 also Gomer with all its troops,
and Beth Togarmah from the far north
with all its troops--the many nations with you.
And Verse 8 continues,
8 After many days you will be called to arms.
In future years you will invade
a land that has recovered from war,
whose people were gathered from many nations
to the mountains of Israel,
which had long been desolate.
Verse 17 ties it in with the other End Times prophecies:
17 "'This is what the Sovereign LORD says:
Are you not the one I spoke of in former days
by my servants the prophets of Israel?
At that time they prophesied for years
that I would bring you against them.
18 This is what will happen in that day:
When Gog attacks the land of Israel,
my hot anger will be aroused,
declares the Sovereign LORD .
Verse 21 continues,
21 I will summon a sword against Gog
on all my mountains, declares the Sovereign LORD . Every man's sword will be against his brother.
22 I will execute judgment upon him
with plague and bloodshed;
I will pour down torrents of rain,
hailstones and burning sulfur on him
and on his troops and on the many nations with him.
So, what nations are these
that will attack Israel in the End Times?
Ezekiel 38:2 calls the one leading the charge,
Gog, of the land of Magog,
the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal;
Some translations say
“Gog, of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh”
Many modern commentators see “the prince of Rosh”
as a reference to Russia
and Magog as Moscow.
They see this passage as foretelling
an attack against Israel
by Russia and a broad coalition of nations.
This seems especially timely,
because right now Russia has 3,000 troops
in Syria, near the border of Israel.
And what about the other nations named by Ezekiel
that will join Gog of Magog
in this multi-national attack against Israel?
Genesis, Chapter 10, lists Cush and Put
as grandsons of Noah through his son Ham,
and Magog, Gomer, Meshech and Tubal
as grandsons through Japheth—
plus Togarmah as a great-grandson.
And Genesis 10:5 says of them that
“All the families grew
and became different nations,
each nation with its own land and its own language.”
Commentaries locate these nations
across portions of Europe, Asia and Africa.
Some of them are part of modern-day Russia and Turkey.
Notice, too, that Verse 5 names “Persia” among the attackers.
Persia is the old name for Iran.
And today Iran has 15,000 troops in Syria,
near Israel’s border.
The situation is heating up
because a few weeks ago Russia blamed Israel
when the Syrians mistakenly shot down a Russian plane
while Israeli planes were bombing
Syrian targets in September.
In recent weeks, Russia has responded
by sending sophisticated new anti-aircraft
radar and weaponry to Syria—
specifically to target Israel’s planes.
And Russia reportedly brought in
trained operators from Persia—from Iran—
to man that new weaponry.
So, today we see Russia and Iran
facing off against Israel
in a situation that is heating up, day by day,
and that threatens to trigger
a war like the one described in Ezekiel 38.
The next chapter, Ezekiel 39, describes
what will happen to the multi-national force
that will attack Israel.
Beginning with Verse 2 the Lord says,
2 I will turn you around and drag you along.
I will bring you from the far north
and send you against the mountains of Israel.
3 Then I will strike your bow from your left hand
and make your arrows drop from your right hand.
4 On the mountains of Israel you will fall,
you and all your troops and the nations with you.
I will give you as food
to all kinds of carrion birds and to the wild animals.
Verse 6 says,
6 I will send fire on Magog
and on those who live in safety in the coastlands,
and they will know that I am the LORD .
8 It is coming! It will surely take place,
declares the Sovereign LORD.
This is the day I have spoken of.
We may remember that Revelation 19 Verse 18 describes
the same outcome of the battle,
namely that the birds will
“eat the flesh of kings, generals, and mighty men,
of horses and their riders,
and the flesh of all people, free and slave,
small and great.”
But, as believers in Christ,
we have nothing to fear
as these events draw near.
1st Thessalonians Chapter 4 tells us that
we will be raptured to heaven
as the Lord’s armies approach the earth
for the final battle.
Beginning at 1st Thessalonians 4:16, it says,
16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command,
with the voice of the archangel
and with the trumpet call of God,
and the dead in Christ will rise first.
17 After that,
we who are still alive and are left
will be caught up together with them in the clouds
to meet the Lord in the air.
And so we will be with the Lord forever.
18 Therefore encourage each other with these words.
And continuing in Chapter 5, Verse 1, it says,
1 Now, brothers, about times and dates
we do not need to write to you,
2 for you know very well
that the day of the Lord will come
like a thief in the night.
3 While people are saying, "Peace and safety," destruction will come on them suddenly,
as labor pains on a pregnant woman,
and they will not escape.
4 But you, brothers, are not in darkness
so that this day should surprise you like a thief.
We are not in darkness
and that day will not surprise us
because we talk about the End Times
and Christ’s return.
Jesus told us to keep on the watch
and to be ready.
“nations will be in anguish and perplexity” and
“Men will faint from terror,
apprehensive of what is coming on the world.”
But as for Christians he said,
“When these things begin to take place,
stand up and lift up your heads,
because your redemption is drawing near."