The Book of Revelation with commentary by Dr. Henry M. Morris and paintings by Ramona Lowe
The paintings are a work in progress and the finished pieces are highlighted in red on Page 2

Page 145

The Great Battle of Armageddon 

     The spirits of demons, working miracles, have now persuaded all the kings of the earth to send their armies to Armageddon (Revelation 16:13-16), there to be ready to fight their great Enemy, in one final desperate attempt to confirm the beast as king of the earth, and to enthrone Satan as king of the cosmos.  They know Christ is about to descend to earth, and they have experienced His awful judgments, one after the other.  But there is no longer either desire or opportunity for salvation, so they must either fight or perish.  And so they march and skirmish with the people of the lands and fight with the remnant Jews in Jerusalem, and wait fearfully for the heavens to open and Christ to come.

 Revelation 19:17.     And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God. 

     An invitation had gone out long ago to come to the marriage supper of the Lamb, and many had responded.  Now an invitation is issued to another feast, the supper of the great God, but what a difference in the two suppers!  The guests at the one are the redeemed saints of the ages, joyfully feasting in the presence of the Redeemer.  Those invited to the other are the birds of prey and the carrion-eating foul from all over the world, and their dinner is to be the flesh and blood of the slain multitudes at Armageddon.

     The angel who called out this amazing invitation was “standing in the sun.”  Perhaps this means, merely, that the angel was in the sunlight, or else standing on the earth with the sun behind him but it would seem unnecessary to mention it at all if that were the meaning.

     More likely, the angel was actually in the sun.  Angels are commonly identified with stars in the Scripture, and it is not far-fetched to suppose this angel has his own assignment, in God’s great dominion, on the sun itself.  As such, he would have special concern for the earth, since it is energy from the sun that maintains the physical and biological processes taking place on the earth.  It may well have been this same angel who was responsible (see Revelation 16:8, 9) for causing the sun to heat up so severely during the latter days of the tribulation period.

     But the task of cleansing the earth of the awful carnage at Armageddon will be more than unaided solar energy can accomplish, no matter how much intensified.  Accordingly, he calls out in a mighty cry, reaching all the way from the sun, capable of being heard and understood by the hawks and ravens, the crows and vultures, from all over the world.

     The call is to a great gathering-together of the fowls of the heavens.  The armies of the heathen had first been gathered together (Joel 3:2, 11; Zephaniah 3:8; Zechariah 12:3; 14:2; Revelation 16:16) on the ground, in a great column from Bozrah in Edom up through the valley of Jehoshaphat and over the plains of Jezreel at Armageddon.  Now the birds of prey also begin to gather together, but in the air, circling over the masses of humanity stretched out below them, darkening the sky and undoubtedly filling the hearts of the armies on the ground with great gloom and dread.  “For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together” (Matthew 24:28).  “Hold thy peace at the presence of the Lord God: for the day of the Lord is at hand: for the Lord hath prepared a sacrifice, he hath bid his guests” (Zephaniah 1:7). 

Revelation 19:18.     That ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and great. 

     Mighty kings and mighty warriors, great men and small men, all men, will become carrion for the vultures.  Thus will the haughtiness of men be brought low.  “For the day of the Lord of hosts shall be upon every one that is proud and lofty, and upon every one that is lifted up; and he shall be brought low” (Isaiah 2:12).

     This scene is very similar to that described in Ezekiel 39:17-20.  “And, thou son of man, thus saith the Lord God; Speak unto every feathered foul, and to every beast of the field.  Assemble yourselves, and come; gather yourselves on every side to my sacrifice that I do sacrifice for you, even a great sacrifice upon the mountains of Israel, that ye may eat flesh, and drink blood.  Ye shall eat the flesh of the mighty, and drink the blood of the princes of the earth, of rams, of lambs, and of goats, of bullocks, all of them fatlings of Bashan.  And ye shall eat fat till ye be full, and drink blood till ye be drunken, of my sacrifice which I have sacrificed for you.  Thus ye shall be filled at my table with horses and chariots, with mighty men, and with all men of war, saith the Lord God.”

     Because of the similarities, many commentators have taken the battle of Gog and Magog, of which this Ezekiel passage is an aftermath, to be the same as the battle of Armageddon.  This is very unlikely, however, though the one may well be intended as a type of the other.  One is on the mountains of Israel, the other on the plains of Armageddon and in the valley of Jehoshaphat.  One includes all the animals of the land, the other only the men and their horses.  The destruction in the first is caused by divinely controlled nature, the second directly by Christ Himself.  Further, as discussed in Chapter 6, the battle of Gog and Magog almost certainly will take place at the beginning of the tribulation, Armageddon at its end.

     Reports have been widely published stating that there has been a great increase in the population of such birds of prey in recent years in the lands of the Middle East.  Whether or not this is really so, there are indeed two great banquets due one day soon to be spread for the birds of the air, one of the armies of Gog, the other those of the beast.

Revelation 19:19.     And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army.

     The last time the beast and the kings of the earth were seen together was as recorded at Revelation 17:13, where the kings had deeded their power and strength over to the beast.  This was at the middle of the tribulation so that, for the last three-and-a-half years, the beast had been essentially king of the world.  Under the impact of the ensuing bowl judgments, the beast and the false prophet, as instructed by the old dragon, had finally sent forth their call to all the kings to gather their armies together to Armageddon (Revelation 16:13-16).  Shortly thereafter, the great capital city at Babylon had been destroyed, and all these kings of the earth had mourned greatly over her loss (Revelation 18:9, 10).

     But now they are all gathered together at Armageddon, with their hosts extending in great multitudes down past the Dead Sea deep into the ancient territory of the Edomites, awaiting the coming of Christ and His army of saints from heaven.  The dragon also is there, with all his demonic hordes, poised for one last mighty assault on the King of creation, still hoping against hope that God can be defeated.  The day of final confrontation is almost here.  “Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision” (Joel 3:14).  “Come near, ye nations, to hear; and hearken, ye people: let the earth hear, and all that is therein; the world, and all things that come forth of it.  For the indignation of the Lord is upon all nations, and his fury upon all their armies: he hath utterly destroyed them, he hath delivered them to the slaughter” (Isaiah 34:1, 2). 

Revelation 19:20.     And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image.  These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone. 

     The multitudes in the armies of the kings of the earth had placed great faith in their leader, the beast, believing that he would indeed prove out to be greater than Christ.  They had been willing even to receive the mark of the beast, knowing that this choice would irrevocably cut them off from any subsequent desire to change their minds and turn to Christ (Revelation 14:9-11).  To a considerable degree, they had been influenced to make this fateful decision by virtue of the charismatic personality of the beast and the amazing miracles wrought by his lieutenant, the world’s preeminent religious leader and prophet.  This false prophet had persuaded men that he could even give life to the great image of the beast set up in the temple at Jerusalem, so that all men should bow down to this image, either the prototype image in Jerusalem or the replicas of the image installed in household shrines all over the world.

     With the beast and the false prophet there to exercise their brilliant leadership and miraculous powers, respectively, the earthly armies still hoped desperately that the Lamb and those following Him could be defeated when they descended from their great space platform in the skies.  Furthermore they knew that the dragon whom they worshiped (Revelation 13:4) was also there with all his hosts.  Despite the circling vultures and the fresh memory of the global earthquake and the fall of mighty Babylon, somehow they still hoped that they would be delivered.  The Devil that deceived them, through the demonic miracles of the prophet, still held sway.

     How unspeakably terrifying, then, to see their great leaders suddenly and unceremoniously snatched from their midst!  Whether Christ dispatched a band of angels to take them or whether they were simply caught up in response to His omnipotent Word is not recorded.  Whatever the means, these two mighty men, the most powerful and most feared men in all the world, were gone.  The assembled multitudes were suddenly left exposed and helpless, with no one to lead them.  Their confusion and fright were unbounded, as they watched in an absolute trauma the grand approach of the armies of heaven.

     But their fright was nothing compared to that of the beast and the prophet, as they were suddenly seized and translated at unimaginable speed to a vast fiery lake boiling with brimstone.  There, while still alive in their human bodies of flesh and blood, they were hurled into the flaming cauldron, where they would remain throughout eternity.

     This is the first specific mention in Scripture of the lake of fire, at least by this name.  Needless to say, the location and character of this terrible place has been the subject of much controversy throughout the centuries.  Are the fires in the lake literal or symbolic?  If they are literal fires, how can human bodies continue to exist in them forever?  If they are symbolic, what do they symbolize?  Would God leave such an important figure of speech unexplained, if indeed they are figurative?

     The lake of fire is clearly not the same place as Hades, or Sheol, which terms are often translated as “hell” in the New and Old Testaments, respectively.  This is obvious by the fact that the unsaved dead in Hades are first resurrected from Hades and only then cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:13-15).

     As we have already seen (note discussion on Revelation 1:18; 9:1). Hades is a great abyss in the center of the earth, where the spirits of unsaved men are confined until the “second” resurrection takes place (Revelation 20:5, 6, 13).  Furthermore, there are apparently hordes of demonic spirits confined there as well, in compartments of Hades called Abaddon and Tartarus (see discussion on Revelation 9:1-3, 11, 16-18).

     Wherever the lake of fire may be, the beast and the false prophet will become its first occupants.  Later the Devil and all unbelieving men and women will join them there  (Revelation 20:10, 15).

     The concept of a place of fire into which ungodly men and women will ultimately be consigned does appear occasionally in the Old Testament.  Isaiah says that the Lord will make new heavens and a new earth and, in the same passage, says that as far as “the men that have transgressed against me” are concerned, “their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched” (Isaiah 66:22, 24).  Daniel said, concerning the beast: “I beheld even till the beast was slain, and his body destroyed, and given to the burning flame” (Daniel 7:11).

     In the New Testament, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself spoke of this place of “everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41), into which shall also be cast the unsaved.  He spoke of this place as “hell,” a place of “fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:43-48).  The word for “hell” in these passages is not Hades, but gehenna.  This place of unquenchable fire is clearly identical with the “everlasting fire” and the “lake of fire.”

     Christ also spoke of gehenna in a number of other passages as well.  “Whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of [gehenna] fire” (Matthew 5:22).  “Fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in [gehenna]” (Matthew 10:28).  See also Matthew 5:30; 18:9; 23:15; Luke 12:5.

     There are also a number of other references in the New Testament, to these everlasting fires.  For example: “As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world.  The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; and shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 13:40-42).  “The chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable” (Luke 3:17).

     There is no question, therefore, that the Bible teaches that the ultimate destiny of all the unsaved is to be cast into the “everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41).  Furthermore this fiery environment is to be their eternal prison.  Those who are incarcerated there will be “tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever” (Revelation 14:10, 11).

     The beast and the false prophet are thus evidently the very first to be cast into gehenna, the lake of fire.  As the greatest and most blasphemous of all human rebels against their Creator, they will be given the distinction of being the first to be separated forever from His presence.  Initially they will be taken to gehenna by the holy angels, and in their presence and in the presence of the Lamb whom they have despised, they will be “tormented,” a word which comes from a root meaning “placed under foot.”  Their knees must bow and their tongues confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Philippians 2:10, 11), and then they “shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power” (2 Thessalonians 1:9).  Following this, in other words, the Lord and His angels will withdraw forever from their presence, leaving them in this unending torment of bitterness and defeat, like “wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever (Jude 13).

     Initially they will be cast alive into the lake of fire.  Assuming that the fire is literal fire (and in view of the abundance of Scriptures referring to this fire, as listed above, it would be presumptuous to think otherwise at this point), their bodies will be quickly burned up and they will die, in the physical sense.  This is confirmed in Daniel 7:11.  “The beast was slain, and his body destroyed, and given to the burning flame.”

     However, their spirits, like those of all men, are eternal spirits, initially created in the image of God.  As unsaved spirits, these wicked men, like the evil spirits of the fallen angels, will then continue to occupy the lake of fire forever.  For a thousand years, they will be its sole occupants, and one can well imagine their unspeakable loneliness, the bitter recriminations, the implacable hatred which will consume their thoughts during this period.  We will reserve discussion of the nature and location of the fiery lake, however, until the section on Revelation 20:10-15, when all other lost spirits will join them there.

Revelation 19:21.     And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh.

     When their great leaders, the supposedly invincible king and his miracle-working seer (the Scriptures call them the beast and the false prophet), were suddenly seized and carried away from their command post, the armies which had followed them were left in utter dismay and confusion.  This is the scene particularly foretold in Luke 21:26, 27.  “Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.  And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.

     Knowing now that all hope was completely gone, the frightened multitudes will await their own fate.  They will not have to wait long.  A mighty cutting wind sweeps across their ranks, up the 180-mile column of massed men and horses, proceeding like a slicing sword directly from the powerful Word of the majestic Rider as He rides up from Edom.  Like grapes trampled in a winepress, the blood bursts from their veins and death is instantaneous.  Soon the great trough is flowing with blood and His vesture dips therein while He treads the winepress alone.  The spirits of the slain multitudes depart into Hades, there to await the judgment of the great white throne.

     This is the great climactic battle of the ages, long foreseen by the prophets.  “The Lord at thy right hand shall strike through kings in the day of his wrath.  He shall judge among the heathen, he shall fill the places with the dead bodies; he shall wound the heads over many countries” (Psalm 110:5, 6).  “The wicked shall be turned into hell [i.e., sheol], and all the nations that forget God” (Psalm 9:17).

     The language of Isaiah’s prophecy is awesome: “Their slain also shall be cast out, and their stink shall come up out of their carcases, and the mountains shall be melted with their blood. . . . The sword of the Lord is filled with blood . . . for the Lord hath a sacrifice in Bozrah, and a great slaughter in the land of Idumea” (Isaiah 34:3-6).

     The prophet Jeremiah gives a similar message: “I will call for a sword upon all the inhabitants of the earth, saith the Lord of hosts. . . . The Lord shall roar from on high, and utter his voice from his holy habitation; he shall mightily roar upon his habitation; he shall give a shout, as they that tread the grapes, against all the inhabitants of the earth. . . . Thus saith the Lord of hosts, Behold, evil shall go forth from nation to nation, and a great whirlwind shall be raised up from the coasts of the earth.  And the slain of the Lord shall be at that day from one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth [“earth” in this passage could legitimately, and probably better, be translated “land,” as, for example, in Jeremiah 25:20 – “the land of the Philistines”]: they shall not be lamented, neither gathered, nor buried; they shall be dung upon the ground” (Jeremiah 25:29-33).

     Through Zephaniah the Lord had pronounced: “I will bring distress upon men, that they shall walk like blind men, because they have sinned against the Lord: and their blood shall be poured out as dust, and their flesh as the dung.  Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them in the day of the Lord’s wrath; but the whole land shall be devoured by the fire of his jealousy: for he shall make even a speedy riddance of all them that dwell in the land” (Zephaniah 1:17, 18).  See also Zephaniah 3:8.

     It is apparently at this time, as the conquering Christ comes up from Edom to Jerusalem, smiting all the assembled armies as He comes, that the Jews who have returned to Jerusalem finally will receive Him as their Messiah and Savior.  The prophet Zechariah tells us about it: “And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it.  In that day, saith the Lord, I will smite every horse with astonishment, and his rider with madness. . . . And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.  And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn. . . . In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness. . . . They shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The Lord is my God” (Zechariah 12:3, 4, 9, 10; 13:1, 9).

     It is probably at this time that He will stand triumphantly on Mount Zion, with the 144,000 chosen Israelites, who will have returned to Jerusalem with their Jewish converts from their sojourn in the wilderness (Revelation 12:6; 14:1).  He will also “stand in that day upon the mount of Olives” (Zechariah 14:4), from which He had ascended long ago (Acts 1:9-12), thereby triggering the great earthquake which will open the healing springs and rivers (Zechariah 14:4, 8).

     Whether or not He then will continue on up to Armageddon, to complete the trampling of the winepress, as it were, we are not informed, but the awful slaughter is indeed quickly accomplished.  Millions upon millions of dead bodies lie fallen upon the ground, awash in their own blood.  “For by fire and by his sword will the Lord plead with all flesh: and the slain of the Lord shall be many” (Isaiah 66:16).

     Then will the great cloud of ravenous birds swoop down from the heavens gorging themselves on the flesh and blood of the once high-and-mighty rebels against a long-suffering God.  Gradually the earth will be cleansed of its pollution, leaving the bones soon to disintegrate and scatter with the winds.

     The terrible scene of carnage and death depicted in these verses may at first offend the sensibilities of those who think of God only as a loving and patronizing grandfather.  He is indeed a God of great mercy and forgiveness, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.  His love for a lost world is so great that as the sacrificial Lamb of God He suffered and died on the cross to save men from their sins

     But when they adamantly refuse His salvation, denying His Word and blaspheming His name, there must one day come a time of reckoning.  “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1).  The time is surely coming when God’s great purpose for His creation must be brought to its consummation and this requires that it be purged from sin.

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