Armageddon

Then the sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great Euphrates River, and it dried up so that the kings from the east could march their armies toward the west without hindrance. And I saw three evil spirits that looked like frogs leap from the mouths of the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet. They are demonic spirits who work miracles and go out to all the rulers of the world to gather them for battle against the Lord on that great judgment day of God the Almighty. “Look, I will come as unexpectedly as a thief! Blessed are all who are watching for me, who keep their clothing ready so they will not have to walk around naked and ashamed.” And the demonic spirits gathered all the rulers and their armies to a place with the Hebrew name Armageddon.
‭‭Revelation‬ ‭16:12-16‬ ‭NLT‬‬

John’s vision describes a scene with some key features. We have the Euphrates River, an effective boundary to the movement of troops and equipment from East to West. Three frogs, representing evil spirits, emerging from the devilish leaders at that time, and they, by their dark and evil trickery, deceiving other world leaders into thinking they could join together and defeat God Himself. Psalm 2:2-3 describes their thinking, “The kings of the earth prepare for battle; the rulers plot together against the Lord and against his anointed one. “Let us break their chains,” they cry, “and free ourselves from slavery to God””. If only they had read the next bit, “But the one who rules in heaven laughs. The Lord scoffs at them. Then in anger he rebukes them, terrifying them with his fierce fury. For the Lord declares, “I have placed my chosen king on the throne in Jerusalem, on my holy mountain.”” (Psalm 2:4-6). But in their arrogance the earthly rulers and their armies were confident that they would win.

The word “Armageddon” has come to mean two things. It is believed to be a physical place located in Northern Israel, on the site of the ancient town of Megiddo, which only exists as a mound today. But the word has also come to mean the ultimate battle of destruction, catastrophic for the human race.

So all the worldly forces mobilised by the “ dragon, the beast, and the false prophet” come together on the plain in Israel ready to take on God’s chosen King in Jerusalem. Their fate is assured, but God gives the armies and their rulers one last chance to pull back. Again from Psalm 2, the last verse reads, “Submit to God’s royal son, or he will become angry, and you will be destroyed in the midst of all your activities— for his anger flares up in an instant. But what joy for all who take refuge in him!” We know what happens as John’s vision unfolds in the next verses in Revelation 16.

In the middle of these verses today, Jesus encourages His followers to be ready for His return, to avoid being shamed otherwise. Jesus taught about readiness in the parable of the ten virgins in Matthew 25. We truly don’t know when He will come again but it could be anytime. In the next hour or in one hundred years time. It may occur in our lifetimes, it may not, but the temptation is to think it won’t, and we therefore can behave like the five foolish virgins in Jesus’ parable. So instead we pilgrims live our lives in a state of readiness, with the expectation that Jesus really is coming soon. But we also plan accordingly in case He is delayed, making sure we are faithful in doing what He has asked us to do. 

We pilgrims can only think of the cataclysmic Armageddon event with a shudder. We pray that these days really will be cut short. And we pray for our loved ones, our friends and families, that they will come to know the love and grace of our Heavenly father before it is too late.

Dear Father God. We thank You for this season of grace, in which You have held back the forces of darkness. Please help us to be diligent in seeking You and being obedient to Your ways. And we pray for our families and friends, that they too will embrace Your love that You make so freely available. In Jesus’ name. Amen. 

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The Winepress

“After that, another angel came from the Temple in heaven, and he also had a sharp sickle. Then another angel, who had power to destroy with fire, came from the altar. He shouted to the angel with the sharp sickle, “Swing your sickle now to gather the clusters of grapes from the vines of the earth, for they are ripe for judgment.” So the angel swung his sickle over the earth and loaded the grapes into the great winepress of God’s wrath. The grapes were trampled in the winepress outside the city, and blood flowed from the winepress in a stream about 180 miles long and as high as a horse’s bridle. 
Revelation 14:17-20 NLT

John’s vision has become rather gruesome. In fact, he describes a scenario that, if taken literally, would be inexplicable. So to make any sense of what is going on, we have to try and interpret the events. If we take the key players in the scene, we have angels, the Heavenly Temple, sickles, fire, grapes, a wine press and lots of blood. They all add up to nothing short of a devastating war of some kind. This might even be a picture of the Armageddon that appears so often in literature and film. As in all good films there are “goodies” and “baddies”. We know who the “goodies” are because the angels are associated with the Temple. The clusters of grapes are the “baddies”, and the picture emerges of a complete victory over the “baddies” by God’s forces, His angels, and their subsequent annihilation. The reference to the quantity of blood perhaps implies that the forces arraigned against God’s angels were numerically considerable. We don’t know what weapons the “baddies” had, but they turned out to be totally ineffective against the angels, who had sickles and fire.

So what do we pilgrims make of all this? It seems that a war of proportions never seen before on Planet Earth is coming. And the slaughter of those who dare to take on God will be complete. This must be a comforting thought for all those who are, and have been, persecuted during their lifetime, for being counted amongst God’s holy people. Those people who have been crying out to God for relief from the abuse they have been receiving will be encouraged to keep on, because they know what will happen, in the end, to their abusers. 

As we read the next chapters, the world will enter a period of effective meltdown, as a number of events are rolled out to complete the End Times. But at this point, God’s wrath against sin and wicked people is finally being dispensed. The season of grace is over. In the end we know that a holy and righteous God, no matter how patient He has been, has to set right the imbalance between holiness and unholiness, between purity and impurity. In the post-End Times world, whatever form that will be, wickedness and sin will be unknown. Evil will have been flushed away in the blood flowing from the wine press of God’s wrath.

We pilgrims, perhaps becoming a bit weary of the increasingly bleak scenes coming our of John’s vision, must follow the Scripture written in Hebrews 12:12-13. “So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong.” Our journeys haven’t yet ended. Our promised land is just over the horizon, but we will arrive there one day, if we “endure to the end”. And those brothers and sisters journeying alongside us, who are perhaps finding the going too tough and who want to give up, the “weak and lame”, they need our encouragement and support as well. They need kind words and friendship. They need our prayers and, often, practical help. Together God’s people will arrive at the finishing post, listening to the cheers of the angels and those brothers and sisters who arrived before us. The pilgrim’s journey through life is not a sprint. It’s a marathon. 

Dear Father God. We thank You for the Heavenly home, within which we will be a resident one day. Please help us to stay true and firm in our faith on the journey ahead. Amen.