The War of Armageddon
August 4th, 1985 @ 10:50 AM
THE WAR OF ARMAGEDDON
Dr. W. A. Criswell
8-4-85 10:50 a.m.
This is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Battle of Armageddon. Never in my life have I been more prostrate in wonder, in amazement, in praise at the amazing, unbelievable revelation of God in the Holy Scriptures. We are in the Book of Ezekiel chapters 38 and 39. This prophet lived two thousand-five hundred years before today, and yet he writes as though he were a correspondent for the daily newspapers of the earth. What he says is as pertinent this moment as though he lived in the separate places where history is unfolding before our very eyes.
Because of the length of the exposition, I have divided it into two parts thus far. It may be divided into four, or five, or six parts, a dozen before I get through, but I am trying to contain it, to compress it into two messages. Next Sunday morning the message will be entitled The End of the World, and this day, The War of Armageddon. Now we begin in our Bibles in chapters 38 and 39 of Ezekiel. In verse 23 of chapter 39, the prophet says,
The heathen, the nations, the Gentiles, shall know that the house of Israel went into captivity for their iniquity:
because they trespassed against Me, therefore I hid My face from them, and gave them into the hand of their enemies: and they fell by the sword.
In verse 28 of that same thirty-ninth chapter, he says that again: “That the nations may know that I am the Lord God, who caused Israel to be led into captivity among the heathen,” among the pagan nations, the Gentile nations of the world [Ezekiel 39:28].
And in the thirty-seventh chapter of the Book of Ezekiel, as you know, he saw Israel buried in the graves of the nations of the world, out of which, though they were dead, dry bones, they were resurrected to be a living, viable, national people again [Ezekiel 37:1-28]. Now, Ezekiel speaks there of the captivity of the people of Israel and of the incursions into the nations by invading armies.
Among all of those incursions through the years, there are four great invasions that have been prophesied minutely in the Scriptures. I name them. Number one: the Chaldean-Babylonian invasion of 605 [2 Kings 24:1; Daniel 1:1-3], 598 [2 Kings 24:10-16], and 587 BC [2 Kings 25:1-21]. That invasion by Babylon was prophesied in detail by Isaiah [Isaiah 39:5-7], in great expansive pictures, and dramatic presentations by Jeremiah [Jeremiah 29:1-14] and by Habakkuk [Habakkuk 1:5-11]. The prophet Isaiah spoke of Assyria that carried away the northern ten tribes of Israel in 722 BC; he quotes God as saying, “Assyria is the rod of Mine anger, and the staff of Mine indignation” [Isaiah 10:5]. Habakkuk, in describing the invasion of Babylon into Judah and Jerusalem, quotes the Lord as saying the bitter, hasty Chaldeans are brought in for judgment and for correction [Habakkuk 1:6,12]; all of this under the surveillance of God Almighty who presides over all human history. That is the first, great invasion described by the prophets: the Babylonian.
The second is prophesied by the Lord Jesus Christ on the part of the Romans. When the disciples showed the Lord Jesus the vast stones, some of them seventy-five feet long, higher than your head, when the disciples pointed out to the Lord Jesus the tremendous structure of the Herodian temple in Jerusalem, He sat on the Mount of Olives, looking down upon it, and said, “There is coming a time when there will not be one stone left upon the other” [Matthew 24:1-2]. And in that long apocalyptic discourse in the twenty-fourth chapter of the Book of Matthew, he described the coming desolation wrought by the Romans, which came to pass in 70 AD [Matthew 24:3-51]. In the siege of Jerusalem, in that war in Jerusalem alone, there were over one million Jewish dead. It was a vast carnage. And of course, as you know, from 70 AD, the Jews were scattered all over the earth. They were wanderers on the face of the globe. They were buried in the nations of the world [Ezekiel 37:1-3]—until your lifetime.
The third and fourth great invasions of Israel are future. One of them—the third one—one of them precipitates the war of Armageddon, the great battle that ends our dispensation; this present course of history [Revelation 16:15-16]. And the fourth one is described in the twentieth chapter of the Book of Revelation. It is the war of rebellion, after the millennium [Revelation 19:11-20:6].
The millennium, the reign of Christ on earth [Revelation 20:4-6], is framed in two great, vast worldwide wars. The war of Armageddon [Revelation 19:11-21]—the war of the great tribulation—at which time, at the end of which time, the Lord Jesus personally appears in the earth and establishes His throne, and for one thousand years reigns personally in peace and blessedness over the earth [Isaiah 11:1-9; Revelation 2:27]. At the end of that thousand years, there is a rebellion against God and His righteous government, the last, great and final war [Revelation 20:7-15], after which we enter the unending ages of eternity [Revelation 21:1-22:21].
Could I pause here and just remark that the final and fourth great, vast invasion of Israel and the war against the Lord God [Revelation 20:7-15]; that is one of the most amazing things I could ever read in prophetic history. You would think after a thousand years of blessedness and perfection and peace and harmony and heavenly relationships [Isaiah 11:1-16], you would think under the direct aegis and government and control of the Lord Christ, the King of heaven Himself, that men would come to love God. But just the opposite is true. The children of the families that enter the millennium and were born in that thousand year period, when Satan is loosed for a season, he deceives them, and they rebel against God and against His government and lead in that one final, vast, war that introduces us to eternity [Revelation 20:7-15].
But I see it today; there are people who hate Jesus Christ, there are those who hate God. And the vast numbers and multitudes of this world and the nations are not friends of our Savior or of the great, omnipotent God in heaven. It is a remarkable thing as you look at it in your own experience, in history, and finally, in prophetic revelation.
Now in the thirty-eighth and the thirty-ninth chapters of the Book of Ezekiel, the prophet reveals to us this third, great, vast invasion of the Holy Land that precipitates the war of Armageddon, and he does it in a remarkable way. I say, in these days I have prostrated myself in wonder at what God has revealed through this prophet two thousand five hundred years before it comes to pass. Now let’s begin.
First: in this prophetic revelation, Israel is regathered in her homeland and is prospering. She is in safety and at peace. I don’t have time to read the passage, but in Ezekiel 38, chapter 38, beginning at verse 8 through verse 14 [Ezekiel 38:8-14], there is a description of Israel in the homeland. She is brought back—the last part of verse 8; she’s dwelling safely, all of them there—and she is prospering in their unwalled villages and cities [Ezekiel 38:8]. In verse 11: “They are at rest, they dwell safely, dwelling in cities without walls, without bars or gates” [Ezekiel 38:11]. And verse 14: “My people of Israel dwelleth safely” [Ezekiel 38:14].
Now that is a wonder of wonders! When Ezekiel wrote that, he was a slave; he was a captive in the land of Babylon. The nation had been utterly destroyed by the Chaldeans [2 Kings 25:1-21]. The Holy City had been laid waste, the walls broken down, the gates burned with fire, and the temple had been utterly laid in ruins [2 Kings 25:8-17], yet this prophet Ezekiel speaks of a great and ultimate time when Israel is regathered, when she is in her homeland and when she is prospering as a nation [Ezekiel 38:8, 11, 14]. Now that prophecy has come to pass in my day and in my time. When I was a student, I never heard a professor even hint that in my day I’d ever see the nation of Israel re-created, regathered; never mentioned. Nor did anyone else ever think in those terms. Israel was scattered and buried among the nations of the earth. The Jews were wanderers in a foreign and a strange land.
Yet Ezekiel says here—this begins the prophecy of the end times—yet Ezekiel says here that the nation is regathered, that they are back at home, that they are prospering and living in safety [Ezekiel 38:8, 11, 14]. So let me make an aside here. Israel has many enemies on every side, as you know, and they constantly face the threat of annihilation and war. But Ezekiel says Israel is there and she is there to stay, and she is there to prosper, and she is there finally to live in peace; that is what Ezekiel says by the prophetic Word of God [Ezekiel 38:8, 11, 14].
So as I read the daily newspapers, I have no deep trouble that though there is one war after another now, Israel is going to remain. The nation is going to stay there, and they are going to be increasingly prosperous. They are going to be increasingly strong. They are going to be increasingly safe. That is what God says, and it has happened in your lifetime. In May of 1948, the nation of Israel was created, for the first time since 70 AD, almost two thousand years. All right, that is the first thing that Ezekiel prophesies—is the regathering of the nation of Israel, and their prosperity, and continuation in the land of their fathers [Ezekiel 38:8-14].
Now the second great and amazing revelation here in Ezekiel 38 and 39 is this: that in the north country, there is to arise a vast military power by the name of Russia, and that she is an enemy of the people of God, and that she is coming down out of the north to invade the Holy Land. And her invasion is the precipitation of the final war of Armageddon that ends this dispensation and this present civilization [Revelation 19:11-21].
Well, let’s look at it. In the thirty-eighth chapter of the Book of Ezekiel and verse 15, [he] describes that nation up there as “out of the north parts” [Ezekiel 38:15]. In chapter 39 and verse 2, [he] speaks of that same thing again: “From the north parts, from the north parts” [Ezekiel 39:2], and they come down upon the mountains of Israel. Now he names that land up there—they are up there in the north. In the thirty-eighth chapter of the Book of Ezekiel, beginning at verse 1, “The word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man, set thy face against Gog,” that’s the rulers of the north country, the land of Magog. That’s the land north of the Black and Caspian Seas, and the land north of the Caucasus mountain range. You have it translated, “the chief prince” [Ezekiel 38:1-2]. The Hebrew of that is the prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal: “And prophesy against them, And say, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I am against thee, O Gog, the chief prince of Rosh and of Meshech and of Tubal” [Ezekiel 38:3].
Now when Ezekiel said that, they didn’t even know what was up there in that north country. The Jewish historian, Josephus, says that the Greeks call those people up there Scythians. They were a nomadic, rude, uncivilized tribes of people that lived up there in the north country. But when Ezekiel speaks about them by prophecy, they are a great and mighty nation, and they are a vast military power, and he names them [Ezekiel 38:1-3].
Now when you read these scholars, they have all kinds of things to say about these names here, but in my humble opinion, they surely do sound like—the prince of Rosh, there are a lot of scholars who say that’s Russia. The prince of Meshech, they say that’s Moscow, and Tubal, that is Tobolsk. And Moscow is directly north of Jerusalem, and out of that nation and out of those cities come this great vast army that invades the Holy Land, and that precipitates this vast final war of the tribulation, called Armageddon [Revelation 16:16, 19:11-21].
Now let us look at that country and at that nation. I have been dumbfounded as I have studied this week and looked at Russia and her relationship with the state of Israel. Karl Marx, the father of communism, never dreamed—it never entered his mind—that the country that would first embrace communism would be Russia. It never occurred to him. When Karl Marx lived, the czars of Russia seemed to be impregnable and unassailable and invincible. Nor did he ever dream that when communists seized Russia, that they would continue to expand the Russian empire as the communists did; never entered his mind.
Karl Marx was the London correspondent of the New York Tribune. He wrote for the paper, The Tribune, that czarist Russia meant to seize the Middle East. It was then controlled by the Ottoman empire, the Turkish empire, and Karl Marx wrote in 1853 these words: “Let Russia get possession of the Middle East, and her strength is increased nearly half. She becomes superior to all the rest of Europe put together.”
Now as Karl Marx warmed up to his job, he sounded more and more like the editorial pages of our daily newspapers. Here is a sentence from him, sent to the New York Tribune: “In all essential points, Russia has steadily, one after another, gained her ends, thanks to the ignorance, the dullness, and the constant inconsistency and cowardice of Western governments.” You would think you would be reading the Dallas Morning News or the New York Times.
The communists picked up where the czars left off. When Joseph Stalin divided up the world with Adolf Hitler in the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939, the Soviet Union—as a secret clause revealed later—the Soviet Union staked out the Middle East as their part of the division of the world between the Nazis and the Soviets.
Now after the First World War—and I can remember that well; one advantage of being old, you sure know what’s going on now compared to what was back then—after the First World War, the British governed Palestine under a mandate. Now the communists began to work after that First World War to get the British out of the Middle East, get them out of Palestine. And the communist Russian thought that he saw an opportunity to oust the British and to make a communist ally in a creation of a Jewish state there; a Jewish communist state. The reason you have a Jewish state in Palestine is not because of us, and it is not because of the West; it was because of Russia. In trying to oust the British out of the Middle East, the Russians worked toward the creation of an Israeli state in the Holy Land, and they thought it would be communist, and they could seize that world of the Middle East. In that troubled area of Arab and Jew, they succeeded, as you know, in ousting the British, creating a Jewish state. They did it, and they were the first to recognize the new government, both in Russia and in the United Nations. That is the work of the communist Russians.
Now Dr. Chaim Weizmann, father of Zionism, was born in Russia. Moshe Sharett, the leader of the Jewish delegation, was born in Russia. David Ben-Gurion—my friend whom I visited with several times—David Ben-Gurion, the later first prime minister of the new state, of the new nation, was born in Russia. Golda Meir was born in Russia. Now, all was arranged; the British are out. In May 1948, the new nation, for the first time in two thousand years, is created, and all is arranged for the Russian communist state in the Middle East, called Israel. Everything is set.
Then a miracle, an unbelievable miracle: the Israelis say, “If you don’t believe in miracles, you are not a realist.” Brother, that is true! The architects of the new Israeli nation, like Ben-Gurion, and Sharett, and Weizmann, and Golda Meir, they elected a parliament and built a democracy there instead of a communist, totalitarian nation. And to make matters worse, the perky little country of Israel had the chutzpah, the gall, to start a movement of religious liberation inside Russia. No sooner had Israel’s first prime minister—first minister and ambassador to the Soviet Union, Mrs. Golda Meir—arrived with her staff in Moscow, than they begin to work for religious liberty in the Soviet Union. Thousands of Jews flocked to the lone synagogue in Moscow to see and to hear Golda Meir and her fellow Israelis. And the wrath of the Russian there knew no bounds! And from that day until this, Russia has been the bitter and implacable enemy of the Jewish state and of Israel.
Can you believe such a thing? She [Russia] created it, thinking to oust the British and thinking to find a toehold in the Middle East so she could control it all, and it turned just the opposite. I am amazed at God, and I am amazed at the prophetic Scriptures! Let me close this little thing because our time so runs away. There is a book just off the press, just off the press, called Countdown in the Holy Land. It is by Lester Velie, an editor of the Reader’s Digest. I just copied here the last paragraph of that book. Quote:
The Soviet Union’s aggressive global war tactics in the Middle East could plunge the world into the atomic proliferation, against which the Kremlin has been piously preaching. And the Middle East, which gave birth to three major world religions, could be the burial ground of civilization.
I didn’t read that out of the Bible. That is what Ezekiel says [Ezekiel 38:1-3]. I didn’t read that out of the Bible. I read that as the last paragraph of a book that is just this moment off the press.
The enemy of Israel, Ezekiel says, is Russia. And she is that implacable foe of the Israeli, never failing. In the war of 1956, in the war of 1967, the Six Day War, and the war of the 1973, the Yom Kippur War, Russia allied herself [with] the enemies of Israel. And to this day the weapons of all the nations that war against Israel are manufactured in Russia. She is the implacable enemy of that little country, just as Ezekiel says two thousand-five hundred years ago [Ezekiel 38:1-3].
Now I want to point out one other thing that amazes me. Here in the fifth [verse] of the thirty-eighth chapter of Ezekiel, it says that the allies of Russia are Persia [Iran], Ethiopia, and Libya [Ezekiel 38:5], and [he] names Gomer over here, and Togarmah [Ezekiel 38:6]. Well, did you know I have preached in those countries? I have preached in those countries. When I was in Iran, when it was in Persia, they were the friends of the United States; they were the friends of the West. When I was in Ethiopia—I preached all over Ethiopia—Ethiopia was friends of the United States and friends of the West. I have preached in Libya, and when I was there, Libya was the friend of the United States. But Ezekiel said two thousand five hundred years ago that Iran, and Ethiopia, and Libya, and the Eastern European block, and Togarmah, up there near the Caucasus, will be the enemies of Israel; that is what Ezekiel said [Ezekiel 38:5-6]. Well, I’ve been there preaching, and they were the friends of the West and the friends of Israel. Man, as brave as I am, you’re not going to see me going back to Ethiopia or Iran or Libya to preach today. I’m just not going to do it, just not going to do it. They’d string me up. Yeah, they’d shoot me before a firing squad. And I love the Lord, but I want to meet Him a little later, just a little later. That’s God! He knows and He predicted this two thousand-five hundred years ago.
Now—Oh, dear! You look at this; Ezekiel says that this invasion of Russia into the Holy Land is going to come to pass. Now you look at it; the eighth verse of chapter 38: “After many days,” and then the next clause, “in the latter years,” Russia is coming into the land [Ezekiel 38:8]. Now he speaks of that again in the sixteenth verse here, “And thou shalt come up against My people, as a cloud to cover the land; it shall be in the latter days” [Ezekiel 38:16]. Now when you see that phrase in the prophets, they are talking about a specific period of time at the end of civilization; at the end of the world. Those “after many days” and those “latter years” [Ezekiel 38:8], refer to the great final denouement of history, and the invasion of the Holy Land by Russia is the introduction. It is the first act that precipitates this final war of Armageddon, and when Russia does that, the armies of the world converge on the Middle East.
In the ninth chapter of the Book of the Revelation, there is an army from the east crossing the Euphrates River, and the number of the army were two hundred million men, and I heard the number “two hundred million” men [Revelation 9:16]. I presume that would have to come from China because no other nation in the earth could field an army that large; there is an army there from China of two hundred million men. And then I had you read the passage:
I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, the beast, the false prophet.
And they go forth to the whole world, to gather them to battle of the great day of God Almighty.
And he gathered them together into a place [called], in the Hebrew tongue, the Mount of Megiddo; Armageddon.
When Russia, according to the prophecy of Ezekiel, when Russia enters that land, when Russia comes down into that land with her vast armies [Ezekiel 38:1-3], it’s the precipitation of the last great war in this world [Revelation 16:13-16, 19:11-21]. And I can easily see that. The very minute that Russia moves, you put it down, we’re going to move. We already have the Sixth Fleet over there. We are sensitive to that. The world is sensitive to that. France is sensitive to that. The United States is sensitive to that. The whole world is sensitive to the Middle East.
Now, who is fighting whom for what? It’s in the providences of God. But when Russia enters that Holy Land in that invasion [Ezekiel 38:1-3], it’s going to precipitate the awesome war called Armageddon [Revelation 16:13-16, 19:11-21]. Now Ezekiel says that in that war Russia is going to be defeated. In the thirty-ninth chapter and verse 4 and 5, God says to the invading Russians:
Thou shalt fall upon the mountains of Israel, thou, and all thy allies, and the people with thee: I will give thee unto the ravenous birds of the air, and to the beast of the field…
And thou shall fall upon the open field: for I have spoken it…
And then, from verses 8 through 12, he describes the defeat of that army [Revelation 39:8-12]. In verse 9, their weapons; it will take seven years, Ezekiel says, for them to burn the debris of that war. Seven years, all the length of it [Revelation 39:9], and in verse 12 it says it will take seven months for the house of Israel to bury the dead from that war [Revelation 39:12]. Ah, that final, great confrontation in the Middle East! Now that could happen any day, and at any time, and at any moment. It all depends on that Kremlin.
And Churchill called the Kremlin “a mystery wrapped up in an enigma in the middle of an unknown quantity.” You don’t know what’s happening over there in the Kremlin. Any day, any time, this last great battle could be precipitated. And it’s at the end of that battle, after seven years, that Jesus our Lord comes visibly to the earth [Revelation 19:11-16].
Now in just this moment that I have, let me point out one other thing that Ezekiel says that is true with all of the Word of God, and it is true in all history. In verse 22 of chapter 38, he says:
I will plead against him, against that Russian, with pestilence and with blood; I will rain upon him, and upon his bands, and upon the many people that are with him, I will pour out on him an overflowing rain, and hailstones, and fire, and brimstone.
That sounds like atomic.
Thus will I magnify Myself, and sanctify Myself…
All right, let’s turn to the next chapter, chapter 39, and look at 6 and 7:
I will send a fire on Magog, and among them that dwell with him.
So will I make My holy name known in the midst of My people Israel; I will not let them pollute My holy name anymore: and the nations shall know that I am the Lord God.
Now I want you to look at that for just a minute, just for a minute. It is God who determines the outcome of war. We prepare, we build armaments, we train soldiers and technicians, and airplanes, and build atomic bombs, and God only knows what all; we pour the strength of our economy into armaments, but it is God who determines the outcome of war. God does it. God defeats Russia. God defeats the atheistic armies that rise up and invade against Him. God does it.
Well, is that unusual? No, that is the story of human history. It was God that intervened in the days of Noah. God found Noah righteous, and He saved him out of the flood [Genesis 7:1, 23]. God did that. God is the One that preserved Israel out of the dark days of their enslavement in Egypt. It was God that delivered them [Exodus 12:30-42]. It was God that opened the Red Sea when the armies of Pharaoh were pressing them against the waters [Exodus 14:21-31]. It was God that gave victory to Gideon. He had three hundred soldiers against a Midianite army that the Book said numbered like the sands of the sea [Judges 7:12]. God gave him the victory [Judges 7:7-25]. It was God that stood by young David as he faced Goliath the Philistine [1 Samuel 17:32-51].
It was God that answered Hezekiah when Sennacherib, the king of the Assyrians, shut Jerusalem up as in a vise [2 Kings 18:13-37], and sent a letter threatening the destruction and annihilation of the king and his people [2 Kings 19:8-13]. He bowed before the Lord and read the letter before the Lord God [2 Kings 19:14-19], and the Lord God said to Hezekiah, “You rest in Me” [2 Kings 19:20-34]. And that night there were 185,000 Assyrian soldiers that were corpses [2 Kings 19:35; Isaiah 37:36]. The angel of God, the angel of death, passed over and the victory, the intervention, was from heaven. God did it; God does this, God does it! It’s God that makes the difference in human history and in human warfare and in human life.
I wish I had time—which I don’t—to recount the most marvelous story of God’s intervention in the twentieth chapter of 2 Chronicles. Jehoshaphat is a godly man. And the multitude of the Moabites, and the Edomites, and the Ammonites, and the others come against him. And Jehoshaphat stands before God with the wives of the people, the Bible says, and with their little ones, their little children [2 Chronicles 20:13]. And Jehoshaphat cries, saying, “We have no might against this great host that cometh out; neither know we what to do; but our eyes are upon Thee” [2 Chronicles 20:12]. And while Jehoshaphat was crying and pleading before the Lord God, the Spirit of the Lord came upon a choir member—upon Jahaziel, Jahaziel, a son of Asaph [2 Chronicles 20:14]—and the choir member said to Jehoshaphat, “God’s battle is this: the battle is the Lord’s” [2 Chronicles 20:15].
And according to Jahaziel, the son of Asaph, Israel went out singing. God said, “You go out there and face that great multitudinous army with songs and praise,” as the Bible says. And the Levites, and the sons of Ahaz, he says, all the people went out to face that vast multitude that came to conquer Israel; they went out singing the praises of God [2 Chronicles 20:21]. And the Lord did it. He sent ambushments against them, and they fought against each other and slew one another [2 Chronicles 20:22-24]. And the Book says, “And the people returned to Jerusalem with Jehoshaphat with timbrels, and with trumpets, and with psaltery, and with harps praising God!” [2 Chronicles 20:27-28]
I have to close. I would just like to say this one thing, this one thing. I am happy that America builds a defense force, trains our pilots, builds their bombs and on and on. But I’m just saying whether we live or die lies in the imponderables of Almighty God! It’s God who will say whether we live or die! It is God! And our nation needs to turn to God. We need to realize that it is the Lord of all history and of all earth that has that final word of judgment, and what we need to do is to pray, “O Lord, be Thou our defender and our protector. Send us a great revival and bless Thy people,” and if God is protecting us, our coastlines are invulnerable; our people are invincible. We are unbeatable if God is with us. That’s what Ezekiel says; that’s what the Bible says; that’s what God says.
It has to start somewhere. How does God send a revival? He does it through me; He does it through us. How is our nation going to repent if I don’t repent? How is our nation going to be baptized if I am not baptized? How is our nation going to have a revival if I do not have a revival? How is the nation going to love Jesus if I don’t love the Lord Jesus? It starts with us.
And that is our invitation to your heart. In a moment, when we stand to sing our appeal: “Pastor, this day I have opened my heart God-ward and Christ-ward. This day I am bringing my family in the fellowship with this wonderful church. This day I am looking with you to heaven for a blessing. God has spoken to me and I am answering with my life.” On the first note of the first stanza, down one of those stairways, down one of these aisles: “Here I am, pastor, I am on the way.” God bless you and angels attend you in the way as you come, while we stand and while we sing.