Rev. Gritters is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of Byron Center, Michigan.

We have been answering the question that the disciples asked in their lifetime, the same question that arises in our souls especially aw we see more turmoil in the world, “Lord, when shall these things be, and what shall be the sign of thy coming and of the end of the world?” We areinterested in these questions.

The signs that Jesus showed His disciples do not point out the day and the hour of Jesus’ coming, but they do help us understand the times and the seasons so that, as the Lord said to His disciples, no man might deceive us. We must expectlawlessness, natural calamities, pleasuremindedness, apostasy, the Antichrist, persecution (opposing most in whatever ways we can and may); and we must be active in the spread of Jesus’ gospel into all nations. But we must not be deceived.

Nor may we be deceived by false interpretations of the millennium, which teach that there will be a universal reign of peace and prosperity for a thousand years at the end of human history, either with Christ present on earth (premillennialism) or without Christ present on earth (postmillennialism). Our view (amillennialism) holds that there will be no literal thousand-year reign of peace on earth, but that Christ will return to a horribly wicked world to end earthly history and usher in the eternal reign of His kingdom in the new heaves and the new earth. (The millennium is the present, new dispensation. See the last article.)

The history of this new dispensation ends in the battle of Armageddon. The last battle, Armageddon, comes after the millennium.

The premillennialist believes that there will be two major battles, one at the end of the great tribulation, the other at the end of Jesus’ thousand-year reign on earth. The first battle, they say, is the battle of Armageddon; the second is the battle of Gog and Magog. In the first, Jesus will destroy the Antichrist and begin the millennial kingdom on earth. In the second, Jesus will destroy the forces of Gog and Magog and usher in eternity.

The difficulty with this view is that it believes the battles of Revelation 16:14 and Revelation 20:7-10 are different battles. But the premill should not stumble at the fact that these battles are separated by several chapters in Revelation. The book of Revelation does not give history in chronological order, but has a series of visions, many explaining the same history but from different viewpoints and with differing emphases. Proof of this is that in chapter 16, John was shown what will take place at the very end, including the battle of Armageddon. In chapter 17, John receives detailed instruction about the great whore and the beast, whose destruction was already described in chapter 16. Likewise, in chapter 20 we come back to the great battle referred to in Revelation 16.

The second difficulty with this view, as with almost all premillennialism, is that it interpretsliterally an obviously symbolic book.

Third, premillennialism has the mistaken notion that permeates all its teachings, that the nation of Israel will again be restored as the kingdom of God, separately and in distinction from the church.

The amillennial position differs radically from this view.

The battle of Armageddon spells the end of Antichrist’s kingdom. His kingdom will be a great political, universal world power, under one head, the man of sin (II Thessalonians 2). This political power will be served by the false prophet (Rev. 13, 17), the united forces of religion, especially Christianity At the height of his kingdom, the world will experience a great prosperity; the church will suffer. And now the battle of Armageddon brings to an end this devilish kingdom.

This is the last battle. This is how it will come about: Revelation 20 tells us that at the end of the 1,000 years (this present dispensation), Satan will be loosed so that he can deceive the nations (Rev. 20:4), something that he was unable to do duringthis dispensation. The result is that Antichrist rises to power and unites the world into one. The second result is that the nations are gathered together for war, encircling the “camp of the saints” and “the beloved city.” While they are in the middle of the most horrible war the world has known, fire from heaven devours them, the devil is cast into hell, and the last judgment takes place (Rev. 20:7ff.).

Gog and Magog

Gog and Magog are involved in this last battle.

The names, Gog and Magog, come from Ezekiel 38and Ezekiel 39, which means that the Revelation of John is a fulfillment of prophecy made by Ezekiel. In Ezekiel, Gog is a leader in the land of Magog. Gog leads a huge armed force from the north down against the nation of Israel, which is once more living in Canaan after the captivity in Babylon. Gog’s motive is loot, but God’s purpose is the judgment of Israel (see Ezekiel 38:4, 16). Then, after Gog arrives in Israel, God destroys his hosts with an awesome slaughter, which Ezekiel 39describes in gory detail and which Revelation 19 says ends in a carrion feast for buzzards.

The fact that there are slight differences between John’s vision and Ezekiel’s prophecy should not hinder us. Gog and Magog, essentially, are the pagan nations, the ungodly peoples that desire to destroy the people of God. In Revelation 20 they are seen to be the pagan peoples from the four comers of the earth who hate Gods saints and war against them.

You may ask the question, “How does this fit with the view that Antichrist will be from the ‘Christianized’ western nations, though you say that these pagan nations will fight against “the beloved city?”

The explanation is this: Antichrist is the beastwhich will have universal sway. All nations will be united under him—one kingdom, one government, one world. This is the “one hour” that Revelation 17 speaks of. But the beast does not have this power all of himself, because Revelation 17says that there are 10 kings that give their powerto the beast. Revelation 16 also talks about the beast receiving help from the “kings of the east.”

These 10 kings, or the kings of the east, that give their power to Antichrist, are Gog and Magog.

This fits with the prophecy of Daniel. In Daniel 7, the little horn, which represents Antichrist, arises from the fourth beast, which is the old Roman empire. (If anyone is interested, he may read E. J. Young’s strong defense of this position in the appendix at the back of his commentary on Daniel.) The Roman empire broke up into the “Western” nations: the “Christian” nations of Europe and the Americas (and a few others). From these nations the Antichrist will arise.

But there are other nations in the world, the people of whom are “as the sand of the sea”: China, Japan, India, Africa, the Soviet Union. And the one great difference between these nations and the rest is that these nations have never been “Christianized,” while the others have. China, India, etc., are pagan nations, hostile to Christianity. Also, since they have never been that much of an influence on world history, they have been “on the four corners of the earth.”

At the end of time, these nations will be marshalled by the devil to the last battle against the beloved city.

The Beloved City

The “beloved city” in Revelation 20:9 is Jerusalem. But we do not mean the earthly city by that name. Gog and Magog do not fight against the Jews in Israel. Jerusalem is symbolic and represents the church of Christ. The “camp of the saints” in verse 9 is not the tents of Israelites pitched again in the desert over there, but the gathering of believers and their children. And the proof of this is not far to be found. Believers and their children, now, are Jews, according to Romans 2:29. New Testament believers are called the “Israel of God” in Galatians 6:16. Old Jerusalem has been fulfilled in Jesus Christ; its reality is the New Testament church.

So the New Testament warns us, Christian believers, that before the end of time there will be a great battle, the last battle, a full-scale battle, between the world and the “church.” All the nations of the world will turn on the people of God to persecute and destroy her. (Can you see, then, why so many today are watching with bated breath what’s happening in the Middle East? They believe that this prophecy refers to theearthly nation of Israel. And with the threat of Israel entering the war, which has not happened yet at this writing, the battle of Armageddon, for them, looms near! But the battle will not be against earthly Israel; so their fear is misdirected.)

But in the eyes of Gog and Magog, the “church” at that time will be true Christianity! Looking at the “Christian world’ (which really will be theantichristian world!), the nations of Gog and Magog will say, “Let us go up to Jerusalem; let Zion be defiled: let our eye look upon Zion.” Really, then, the battle will pit the antichristian kingdom under the power of the devil, over against all the pagan nations which. the devil himself has deceived to join up with him. It is the world fighting against itself!

This will be the battle to end all battles. We see a little bit of the horror of what that war will be when we see the weapons of modern warfare that are used in Iraq and Kuwait. At the end, all the powerful weapons of mass destruction will be unleashed.

In the middle of that battle, Jesus will return to end earth’s history, render judgment, and begin eternity.

(to be concluded next time)

Questions for discussion:

1. How would you try to convince a premillennialist of the error of his position? Be specific.

2. Why are the premillennialists so concerned that the battle of Armageddon not startimmediately? According to them, what is supposed to happen before this battle begins?

3. Why would God want the world to end in the way described in Revelation 20?