Saturday, April 21, 2007

Re: Thoughts on your web page - Jesus' return #2


Continuing from part #1.

[Above: The World as known to the Hebrews. This map locates Gog and Magog in the southern Caucasus, Wikipedia]

----- Original Message -----
From: AN
To: Stephen E. Jones
Sent: Sunday, April 15, 2007 6:47 AM
Subject: Thoughts on your web page - Jesus' return


Your mention of "Ezekiel 38" (see part #1), reminded me to add a new sub-section under "Signs of Second Coming" on the battle of Armageddon:

"Battle of Armageddon "Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon." (Rev 16:16; "When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth-Gog and Magog-to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore. They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God's people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them. And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever." (Rev 20:7-10; Eze 38:1-23; 39:1-29; Jdg 5:19; 2Ki 23:29-30; Zec 12:11.

However, I agree with those comentators who see Gog and Magog (Eze 38:2; Rev 20:8) as not literal but rather "symboliz[ing] ... the forces of evil which are intent on destroying the people of God":

"The invasion of the armies of Gog ([Ezekiel]38:1-16) 2. Gog has been variously identified with Gyges, king of Lydia, who is called Gugu in the records of Ashurbanipal, and with the place-name, Gagaia, referred to in the Tell el-Amarna letters as a land of barbarians. From Ras Shamra writings there has been found a god, Gaga, and this identification too has been suggested (Enuma elish, III: line 2). Others have seen in Gog a historical figure like Alexander the Great. The most likely suggestion is the first, but the origin of the name is less significant than what it symbolizes, namely the personified head of the forces of evil which are intent on destroying the people of God. The name Magog is unknown in the Old Testament apart from the single reference in Genesis 10:2 (=1 Ch. 1:5), where he is a son of Japheth and the founder of a nation. In Revelation 20:8 Magog is a person associated with Gog, but in Ezekiel the word is almost certainly meant to represent the country where Gog lived (so RV, RSV)." (Taylor, J.B., "Ezekiel: An Introduction and Commentary," Tyndale Press: London, 1969, p.244. Emphasis original)

and "the battle of Har-Magedon" as "symbolism" for "the final attack of antichristian forces upon the Church":

"The Final Conflict ... ([Rev] 20:7-10): The meaning, then, is this: the era during which the Church as a mighty missionary organization shall be able to spread the gospel everywhere is not going to last for ever; not even until the moment of Christ's second coming. Observe what is happening in certain countries even today. Are certain regions of this earth already entering Satan's little season?' In other words, we have here in Revelation 20:7-10 a description of the same battle-not 'war'-which was described in Revelation 16:12ff. and in Revelation 19:19. In all three cases we read in the original, the battle. Thus 16:14: 'to gather them together for the battle of the great day of God, the Almighty'. Again, Revelation 19:19: 'gathered together to make the battle against him....' Similarly, here in 20:8: 'to gather them together to the battle'. In other words, these are not three different battles. We have here one and the same battle. It is the battle of Har-Magedon in all three cases. It is the final attack of antichristian forces upon the Church. The 'new' thing which Revelation 20 reveals is what happens to Satan as a result of this battle. This final onslaught is directed against 'the beloved city', also called 'the camp of the saints'. Thus the Church of God is described here under the double symbolism of a city and a camp. 'And fire came down out of heaven and devoured them.' Notice the sudden character of this judgment upon Gog and Magog. It is as sudden and unexpected as the lightning which strikes from heaven (cf. 2 Thes. 2:8). Thus, suddenly, will Christ appear and discomfit His enemies! This is His one and only coming in judgment. Satan had deceived the wicked world. He had deceived the wicked into thinking that a real and absolute victory over the Church was possible and that God could be defeated!" (Hendriksen W., "More than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation," [1940], Tyndale Press: London, 1966, reprint, pp.194-195).

because "No place of this name is known, and the term is surely symbolic":

"[Rev 16:]16. John reverts to the activities of the dirty spirits. They gathered the kings (and, of course, their followers) to a place called Armageddon. No place of this name is known, and the term is surely symbolic. But its meaning is uncertain. John tells us that it is a Hebrew word, and the two most favoured suggestions are that it means 'mountain of Megiddo' (har megiddo) or `the city of Megiddo' (ir megiddo). The former seems closer to the Hebrew, but unfortunately no mountain appears to be called 'the mountain of Megiddo'. Many stirring feats took place in the vicinity, but they seem to be connected rather with the plain of Esdraelon than with any particular mountain or with Megiddo. In fact Megiddo is mentioned but rarely in connection with battles (Jdg. 5:19; 2 Ki. 23:29; 2 Ch. 35:22). There are Old Testament passages that look for the ultimate battle near mountains (Ezk. 39:1ff., perhaps Dn. 11:45), but none that we can identify with the present expression. It is possible that 'mountain' should not be taken literally, but understood of the great mound on which the city stood, in which case the two suggestions come to much the same thing. Since great battles have been fought nearby, the city may stand in John's mind for decisive conflict (Beasley-Murray, 'a symbol for the last resistance of anti-god forces prior to the kingdom of Christ'). In that case it will stand as a symbol for the final overthrow of all the forces of evil by Almighty God. It is not unlikely that the deliverance under Deborah is regarded as setting the pattern. Then Sisera had 900 chariots of iron (Jdg. 4:13), but in Israel there was scarcely a shield or spear among 40,000 (Jdg. 5:8). Israel's position was completely hopeless. But when the battle was joined, 'the LORD routed Sisera and all his chariots and army' (Jdg. 4:15). So will it be at the last day. However strong the forces of evil may appear, and however hopeless the position of those of good, God will win the victory. He will resoundingly overthrow the evil." (Morris, L.L., "The Book of Revelation: An Introduction and Commentary," The Tyndale New Testament commentaries, [1969], Inter-Varsity Press Leicester: UK, Second Edition, 1987, Reprinted, 2004, pp.193-194. Emphasis original)

since "Megiddo" is a "little town ... in the plain of Esdraelon in Israel, and it has no mountain" therefore "it is doubtful that any single locality is in mind at all. The name stands for an event. ... it will have been a symbol for the last resistance of anti-god forces prior to the kingdom of Christ" :

"[Rev 16:]16. The name for the place of assembly of the kings of the world, Armageddon, presents an even more perplexing puzzle than 666. It is a Greek transliteration for the Hebrew Har-Meggido, the mountain of Megiddo. This little town is in the plain of Esdraelon in Israel, and it has no mountain. The nearest mountain is Carmel in the north, though some think in terms of the range of hills in southern Galilee. Carmel would be an attractive identification, since it witnessed Elijah's contest with the prophets of Baal, when the Lord gave a signal revelation of his presence and power, and the false prophets were put to the sword. Unfortunately there is no indication in ancient literature that Carmel was ever referred to as Har-Megiddo. Numerous attempts have been made to explain the name by derivations from allied forms. One most widely favoured viewed Har-Megiddo as a corruption of the Hebrew Har-Mo'ed = mountain of assembly. This term appears in Isaiah 14:13 to denote a mythical mountain of the gods which the king of Babylon in his pride determined in his heart to ascend, but in vain. It is suggested that this mountain became viewed as the demonic counterpart to the heavenly mount Zion, on which the city of God stands (Heb. 12:22ff ; cf. Rev. 21:10), and so a fitting symbol for the gathering of the rebellious hosts of earth against the God of heaven. The notion is interesting, but no one has satisfactorily explained why Har Mo'ed should become corrupted to Har-Megiddo, and so the speculation must be viewed as dubious. Whatever the origin of the term, we are not to think in terms of a geographical locality in Israel (the Holy Land does not really feature in John's prophecy). Indeed it is doubtful that any single locality is in mind at all. The name stands for an event. Like the number 666, it will have had a history in the apocalyptic tradition, lost to us but known to the prophet, and for him it will have been a symbol for the last resistance of anti-god forces prior to the kingdom of Christ." (Beasley-Murray, G.R., "The Book of Revelation," [1974], New Century Bible Commentary, Eerdmans: Grand Rapids MI, Revised Edition, 1978, Reprinted, 1983, pp.245-246. Emphasis original).

Having said that, I do not rule out that there may be a concrete realisation of this symbol in a threatened attack on Israel (which may have largely converted to Christianity or Messianic Judaism-see part #3 on one of the signs of Jesus' coming being "Acceptance by Israel") through "Syria" by "the bitter enemy of the Jews" whose "territory extended beyond the Tigris":

"The final conflict ([Rev] 20:7-10) When the thousand years are finished, Satan is released from his prison. Then it becomes very clear that the final and most terrible persecution, by means of which antichristian forces are going to oppress the Church, is instigated, in a most direct manner, by Satan himself. The devil musters Gog and Magog for a final attack upon 'the camp of the saints, the beloved city'. The expression 'Gog and Magog' is borrowed from the book of Ezekiel [Eze 38:2], where the term undoubtedly indicates the power of the Seleucids especially as it was revealed in the days of Antiochus Epiphanes, the bitter enemy of the Jews. The centre of his kingdom was located in Northern Syria. Seleucus established his residence there in the city of Antioch on the Orontes. To the east his territory extended beyond the Tigris. To the north the domain over which the Seleucids ruled included Meshech and Tubal, districts in Asia Minor. Accordingly, Gog was the prince of Magog, that is, Syria. Therefore the oppression of God's people by 'Gog and Magog', refers, in Ezekiel, to the terrible persecution under Antiochus Epiphanes, ruler of Syria. The book of Revelation uses this period of affliction and woe as a symbol of the final attack of Satan and his hordes upon the Church." (Hendriksen, Ibid, p.193).

Or (and I hope this does not happen but I must admit it has a chilling plusibility) something like Scott Adams' scenario in his fictional "The Religion War" (2004), where Israel is actually be overrun and wiped out in a "Second Holocaust, an unfathomable and black moment in history, dwarfing the First Holocaust in both scope and savagery":

"HOW ISRAEL FELL ... The Israel Strategy involved convincing the Palestinians to accept a disingenuous peace in return for international promises of massive reconstruction aid. They would wait, letting prosperity accomplish what terrorist attacks could not. Al-Zee was the first Muslim leader to realize that the only way they could lose the fight with Israel was to continue fighting. Peace meant inevitable victory; it just required patience. Al-Zee's reputation allowed him to preach patience to an impatient people. His credibility was unapproachable. So they made peace, and they waited. Demographics favored the Muslims, who were having children at three times the rate of the Jewish population, thanks to financial inducements arranged by al-Zee. By 2035, it was clear that Muslims were heading toward a voting majority in Israel. The Israeli government hoped to solve the problem by restricting voting rights for non Jews. This was exactly what al-Zee had foreseen. Israel was filled with, and surrounded by, a massive population of angry young men who preferred death to the apartheid and humiliation they were being asked to accept. After years of lying low, al-Zee focused the anger of the majority, who were by then universally armed, and working and living amongst the Jewish minority. The overrun lasted less than two days. It was mostly hand-to-hand fighting with knives, small arms, and homemade explosives. The military was helpless because the violence was everywhere at the same time, in every block, every street, every housing development. Human waves of martyrs stormed military bases. Over a million Muslims died that day, eventually exhausting the ammunition of the Israeli army and the armed Jewish civilians. With their superior numbers, the element of surprise, and a willingness to die as martyrs, a1-Zee's citizen Jihadists prevailed. The Jewish Israeli men stayed and fought to the last, along with most of the fighting age women. The older women and children were allowed to escape on foot, streaming out of the cities and towns and eventually ending up in refugee camps. To the rest of the world it became known as the Second Holocaust, an unfathomable and black moment in history, dwarfing the First Holocaust in both scope and savagery. It happened so quickly that the world didn't know how to respond. By the end of the second day there were so few Jews left in Israel that military intervention seemed useless. Countries condemned the atrocities in the strongest words, but they were only words. Some countries threatened embargoes but needed the oil and so found reasons to back off. A feeling of shame and helplessness gripped the Judeo-Christian world, plunging it into a collective mental depression, and making it ripe for the rise of a man like General Horatio Cruz." (Adams, S., "The Religion War," Andrews McMeel Publishing: Kansas City MO, 2004, pp.105-107. Emphasis original).

as a precursor to Antichrist's orchestration of "the final attack of Satan and his hordes upon the Church" (see Hendriksen above, Adams does not say this).

But whatever happens to the earthly Jerusalem (and again I hope nothing happens to it, or to Israel), I agree with the late Christian theologian George Beasley-Murray (1916-2000) that "The city which John has in mind is `the holy city Jerusalem', which comes down from God out of heaven ... the centre of the kingdom of Christ. ... The assault on the city, therefore, represents an attack on the manifestation of the divine rule in the world, comparable to the attack on the Church in the present age" (my emphasis):

"[Rev 20:]7, 8. After the thousand years Satan is loosed from his prison ... to deceive the nations ... Gog and Magog, and assemble them for battle. The motif is ancient. Ezekiel tells of an invasion from the north of `Gog of the land of Magog', where Gog is the prince and Magog the name of a people (Ezek. 38:1; cf. 39:6). As early as the Tell el-Amarna tablets Gog was used as a name for the nations of the north. Ezekiel sees in the attack on Israel by Gog the fulfilment of earlier prophecies (38:17). He depicts this as an invasion of the Holy Land and attack on Jerusalem after the Jews return from their exile among the nations and dwell in the peace of the messianic age under the new David (see especially 38:8). Gog comes at the head of many peoples `like a cloud', but the Lord will create confusion amongst the invaders, so that every man's sword is against his brother. Ezekiel declares in the name of the Lord, `I will rain upon him and his hordes and the many peoples that are with him torrential rains and hailstones, fire and brimstone' (38:22). As Ezekiel sees in Gog's invasion the fulfilment of earlier prophecies of Gentile attacks on Israel, so John sees in the hosts of Gog and Magog a symbol of the evil in the world of nations which resist the rule of God. For him, therefore, the attack of Gog comes not from one corner of the earth-the north-but from all four corners. ... Wherever the theme of Ezekiel 38-9 is taken up in Jewish apocalyptic writers ... it is the nations generally which combine in assault on Israel, and it is likely that John had a similarly undefined company in view. ... 9. The hordes of Gog and Magog surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. The language befits Jerusalem, viewed however first as the focal point of the pilgrim people on the march through the desert to the promised land, and then as the city which God loves (cf. Ps. 87). But Jerusalem in the Revelation is equated with Sodom and Egypt, `where their Lord was crucified' (11:8). The city which John has in mind is `the holy city Jerusalem', which comes down from God out of heaven (21:10). Its mention at this point indicates that John sees the beloved city as descended from God out of heaven in the messianic age and so views it as the centre of the kingdom of Christ. The brevity of the description of that kingdom in verses 4-6 is at least partly due to John's intention to describe its nature in the vision of 21:9ff. The assault on the city, therefore, represents an attack on the manifestation of the divine rule in the world, comparable to the attack on the Church in the present age." (Beasley-Murray, Ibid., pp.297-298. Emphasis original)

And as the late New Testament scholar Leon Morris (1914-2006) pointed out, "the hosts of evil" are depicted "as taking up a threatening position over against the servants of God" and "We are prepared for a great battle. But none comes" because "since 19:19-21" Rev 20:7-10 "goes on immediately to the annihilation of the wicked" because "the power of God as so overwhelming that there cannot be even the appearance of a battle when he wills to destroy evil" (my emphasis):

"[Rev 20:]8. Upon his release Satan will resume his deceitful activities, but on a larger scale. Like the 'unclean spirits like frogs' he will gather the nations for the final battle (16:13-16). The expression Gog and Magog seems to mean all people. Gog is mentioned in the Bible only in a genealogy (1 Ch. 5:4), in a prophecy (Ezk. 38 - 39). and here. Magog is found similarly in genealogies (Gn. 10:2; 1 Ch. 1:5), the Ezekiel passage, and here. Magog appears to be the land from which Gog came (Ezk. 38:2, though in LXX Magog seems to be a prince). In later Judaism Gog and Magog were thought of as two leaders. In apocalyptic writings, for example, they often symbolize the forces of evil. For John the combination is another way of referring to the hosts of the wicked. He has in mind the last great attack of evil on the things of God. Satan will gather all his armies. He will assemble the greatest possible number to oppose God (in number they are like the sand on the seashore). This is the decisive moment, the final battle (cf. 17:14; 19:19). 9. John changes to the past tense, they marched, but it is the same sequence. The breadth of the earth is a curious expression in this connection. It probably means that their armies were very large. They encircled 'the camp of the saints' (NIV, God's people) and 'the beloved city'. Both expressions appear to mean the people of God. The `camp' sees them as 'soldiers of God', and there might also be an allusion to the encampments of God's people during their wilderness wanderings. 'The beloved city' should surely be understood over against 'the great city'. This latter we have seen to mean people in organized community, organized against God. The former will then signify spiritual people, willingly under the dominion of God. John is picturing the hosts of evil as taking up a threatening position over against the servants of God. We are prepared for a great battle. But none comes. Exactly as in 19:19-21, John goes on immediately to the annihilation of the wicked. This time it is done by fire which came down from heaven (cf. Ezk. 38:22). Consistently John thinks of the power of God as so overwhelming that there cannot be even the appearance of a battle when he wills to destroy evil." (Morris, Ibid., pp.232-233. Emphasis original)

That is, it is "When the world, under the leadership of Satan ... is gathered against the Church for the final battle, and the need is greatest; when God's children, oppressed on every side, cry for help; then suddenly, dramatically, Christ will appear to deliver His people" (my emphasis):

"The sixth bowl ([Rev ]16:12-16) produces Har-Magedon. ... or Armageddon ... Har-Magedon is the symbol of every battle in which, when the need is greatest and believers are oppressed, the Lord suddenly reveals His power in the interest of His distressed people and defeats the enemy. ... But the real, the great, the final Har-Magedon coincides with the time of Satan's little season (see Rev. 11:7-11). When the world, under the leadership of Satan, antichristian government and antichristian religion-the dragon, the beast and the false prophet-is gathered against the Church for the final battle, and the need is greatest; when God's children, oppressed on every side, cry for help; then suddenly, dramatically, Christ will appear to deliver His people. That final tribulation and that appearance of Christ on clouds of glory to deliver His people, that is Har-Magedon. It is for this reason that Har-Magedon is the sixth bowl. The seventh is the judgment day. As we have indicated, this sixth bowl, as well as the preceding ones, is evident again and again in history. Yet, like the other bowls, it reaches its final and most complete realization just before and in connection with the last day. John sees that the sixth bowl is emptied upon the Euphrates river. This river represents Assyria, Babylonia, the wicked world. When the river is said to dry up, the road is prepared so that all the antichristian powers can make the attack upon the Church. The apostle sees proceeding out of the mouth of the dragon (Satan) and out of the mouth of the beast (antichristian government) and out of the mouth of the false prophet (antichristian religion) three unclean spirits. These spirits or demons are compared to frogs in order to indicate their abominable, loathsome and repulsive character. They represent satanic, hellish ideas, plans, projects, methods and enterprises, hell-born and introduced by hell into the sphere of thought and action. Thus, when the kings of the earth gather to battle against believers, this battle or persecution is inspired by hell itself. Here very little is said about this final battle. But we must remember that this same conflict of Har-Magedon is described in Revelation 11:7ff. ... and especially in Revelation 19:11ff.; 20:7ff. Now, at this moment of tribulation and anguish, of oppression and persecution, Christ suddenly appears (verse 15). He comes as a thief, suddenly, unexpectedly (cf. Mt. 24:29ff.; Jdg. 5:4; Hab. 3:13; 2 Thes. 2:8ff.)." (Hendriksen, Ibid., pp.162-164. Emphasis original).

That is, there won't be an actual battle of Armageddon, just a threatened one!

[Continued in part #3]

Stephen E. Jones, BSc. (Biology).

Exodus 16:9-20. 9Then Moses told Aaron, "Say to the entire Israelite community, 'Come before the LORD, for he has heard your grumbling.' " 10While Aaron was speaking to the whole Israelite community, they looked toward the desert, and there was the glory of the LORD appearing in the cloud. 11The LORD said to Moses, 12"I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites. Tell them, 'At twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will be filled with bread. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God.' " 13That evening quail came and covered the camp, and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. 14When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor. 15When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, "What is it?" For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, "It is the bread the LORD has given you to eat. 16This is what the LORD has commanded: 'Each one is to gather as much as he needs. Take an omer for each person you have in your tent.' " 17The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little. 18And when they measured it by the omer, he who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little. Each one gathered as much as he needed. 19Then Moses said to them, "No one is to keep any of it until morning." 20However, some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell. So Moses was angry with them.

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