A Gruesome Invitation

“Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, shouting to the vultures flying high in the sky: “Come! Gather together for the great banquet God has prepared. Come and eat the flesh of kings, generals, and strong warriors; of horses and their riders; and of all humanity, both free and slave, small and great.”
Revelation‬ ‭19:17-18‬ ‭NLT

The scene before John in his vision paused. There was a stillness hanging in the air, with a growing sense of impending doom. The angel was clear to see, illuminated by the sun, and he was gathering the vultures. Carrion eaters, with the ability to spy out and find dead bodies of all types. Keen eyes that could spot a meal from miles away. But on the upcoming occasion, they wouldn’t have to seek out their next meal. It would be laid before them. Food beyond their highest expectations. But sadly, the flesh they would gorge on would be human. Before them would be many dead people.

We’re told in the vision that there would be royalty, senior members of the armies, the soldiers, and many more civilians caught up in the conflict, regardless of their status in life. The coming war was to be no respecter of persons. Presumably, all the combatants were unaware of their fate. They would be looking around and seeing their fellow soldiers. The leaders would be oozing with self-confidence, their battle plans in place. We’re invincible, would be the mood. Morale would be high. If only that angel would stop bothering us, would be the thought. It won’t be us lying dead on the battle field, they confidently declare. I wonder if any of them had any doubts creeping into their minds? But they would have dismissed them. After all, they think, we killed the Son of God before. We’ll do it again.

The arrogance of mankind can be breathtaking in its extremes. We see it from all parts of society. The business leader, claiming supremacy in the market place. The politicians boasting about their electoral successes. The general about his wartime exploits. But none stopping to think about what God said in Psalm 2. We read, “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. Now then, you kings, act wisely! Be warned, you rulers of the earth! Serve the Lord with reverent fear, and rejoice with trembling. 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.….” (Psalms‬ ‭2:4-5, 10-12‬)

As far as us pilgrims are concerned, we take comfort in what God said to his prophet in Isaiah 45:23, “I have sworn by my own name; I have spoken the truth, and I will never go back on my word: Every knee will bend to me, and every tongue will declare allegiance to me”. And in Philippians 2:9-11, “Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honour and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father”. Not one of God’s enemies stopped to think that one day they would be lying prostrate before God, whether dead or alive, declaring the Lordship of Christ.

The day that Armageddon comes is still before us. We pilgrims may be caught up in it, but we hope we won’t. Back to what God promised in Isaiah 41:10, “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand”. We see the heart of Jesus in Luke 19:41-42, “But as he came closer to Jerusalem and saw the city ahead, he began to weep. “How I wish today that you of all people would understand the way to peace. But now it is too late, and peace is hidden from your eyes.”” It breaks God’s heart to finally declare His judgement over the sin and wickedness infecting Planet Earth. Especially as His only Son died for His creation.

Sombrely, we pilgrims once again bow before our God. With grateful and worshipping hearts. Declaring our love for the One who cares for us.

Dear Lord. Thank You for Your many promises of love and care, that we read in Your Word. In worship we hallow Your name today. Amen.

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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