I want you to go on a long journey, in a sense, with me this morning, scripturally speaking, and I want to begin by reading a portion of the Old Testament. Turn to Psalm 2, Psalm 2. One of the popular realities in our current culture is fantasy – futuristic, speculative fantasy. The Word of God talks about the future, but it’s not fantasy and it’s not speculation. I’m here this morning to tell you the future, the future of the world as God has revealed it. He is the Creator and the Consummator of His creation.
In Psalm 2 you hear these words: “Why are the nations in an uproar and the peoples devising a vain thing? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, ‘Let us tear their fetters apart and cast away their cords from us!’” We’re moving inexorably toward a global anti-God, anti-Christ, anti-Scripture, anti-church movement. It’s gathering momentum all the time, and the goal of it is to rip off what sinners see as binding cords of Christian influence.
“He who sits in the heavens laughs, the Lord scoffs at them. Then He will speak to them in His anger and terrify them in His fury, saying, ‘But as for Me, I have installed My King upon Zion, My holy mountain,’ – which is to say – ‘Your rebellion will not succeed, it will be put down, and I will establish My King on My holy mountain. I will surely tell of the decree of the Lord: He said to Me,’ – this is the King – “You are My Son, today I have begotten You. Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, and the very ends of the earth as Your possession.’” The psalmist is saying there will be a final rebellion of the nations of the world, but they will not succeed in rebelling against the Lord and His Anointed. They will be crushed. The Lord will laugh at them, and in His anger He will destroy them and establish His own King as King over all the earth, over all nations and the ends of the earth.
“You shall break them with a rod of iron, You shall shatter them like earthenware.” In light of that, “Now therefore, O kings, show discernment; take warning, O judges of the earth. Worship the Lord with reverence and rejoice with trembling. Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way, for His wrath may soon be kindled. How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!”
To anyone who knows the Old Testament this is a very familiar message – the promise of final judgment on the world. Turn in your Bible to Isaiah chapter 2, Isaiah chapter 2. There are so many sections of Isaiah that speak of that final judgment on the world in which all the ungodly are destroyed and Christ reigns as King. We can’t begin to cover all of them even in Isaiah, but I want to give you some samplings.
Isaiah chapter 2, verse 12: “For the Lord of hosts will have a day.” Nineteen times in the Old Testament there is a statement about a day called the day of the Lord. “The Lord of hosts will have a day, and everyone who is proud and lofty against them and against everyone who is lifted up, that he may be abased. And it will be against all the cedars of Lebanon that are lofty and lifted up,” – these are metaphoric terms – “and all the oaks of Bashan, and all the lofty mountains, against all the hills that are lifted up, against every high tower, against every fortified wall, against all the ships of Tarshish and against all the beautiful craft. The pride of man will be humbled and the loftiness of men will be abased; and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day, but the idols will completely vanish. Men will go into caves of the rocks and into holes of the ground before the terror of the Lord and the splendor of His majesty, when He arises to make the earth tremble. In that day men will cast away to the moles and the bats their idols of silver and their idols of gold, which they made for themselves to worship, in order to go into the caverns of the rocks and the clefts of the cliffs before the terror of the Lord and the splendor of His majesty, when He arises to make the earth tremble. Stop regarding man, whose breath of life is in his nostrils; for why should he be esteemed?” Man is nothing when compared to God, and God’s vengeance is coming.
Isaiah 13, and we can look at verse 6: “Wail, for the day of the Lord is near! It will come as destruction from the Almighty. Therefore all hands will fall limp, and every man’s heart will melt. They will be terrified, pains and anguish will take hold of them; they will writhe like a woman in labor, they will look at one another in astonishment, their faces aflame. Behold, the day of the Lord is coming, cruel, with fury and burning anger, to make the land a desolation; and He will exterminate its sinners from it. For the stars of heaven and their constellations will not flash forth their light; the sun will be dark when it rises, the moon will not shed its light. Thus I will punish the world for its evil and the wicked for their iniquity; and I will put an end to the arrogance of the proud and abase the haughtiness of the ruthless.”
God is patient. God is merciful. God is a God of salvation, but God will not be mocked, and His patience will not endure forever. The day of wrath will come. Let’s go to the very vision of that day in the nineteenth chapter of Revelation, Revelation chapter 19, and I want to read verses 11 to 21, and that’s going to be the focus of our time this morning.
“And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems;” – or crowns – “and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, ‘KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.’
“Then I saw one angel standing in the sun, and he cried out with a loud voice, saying to all the birds which fly in midheaven, ‘Come, assemble for the great supper of God, so that you may eat the flesh of kings and the flesh of commanders and the flesh of mighty men and the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them and the flesh of all men, both free men and slaves, and small and great.’
“And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies assembled to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone. And the rest were killed with the sword which came from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse, and all the birds were filled with their flesh.”
It’s a terrifying picture. Doesn’t it strike you how starkly different that is than the first coming of Christ as a baby in a manger, as one who comes to heal, to show mercy, and to save. And the next time He comes, it’s so starkly different. He comes to kill, not to give life, but to take it. The first time He came, “I am come” – He said – “that you might have life.” The next time He comes, He brings death – physical death, followed by eternal death.
This is really an awful story. It tells of the greatest of world rulers being made food for vultures, birds. Kings, leaders, strong, confident become roadkill. With no one to bury them, their corpses are strewn everywhere, along with everybody else; and they’re all reduced to the same carrion. Those who once were conquerors and leaders elevated are basically desecrated to the lowest possible level that a human could be taken, and that to become nothing but food for birds.
In contrast to the world’s conquerors, the great Conqueror comes down, rides on a bright horse, flying on the wings of supernatural power, along with all the saints and angels. He comes with His sword to kill. He roars out of Zion the prophet says. He utters His voice from Jerusalem, and His voice is so powerful that the heavens and the earth shake. The fury of His own incensed holiness will literally cause Him to be smoking. The sun will disappear. The mountains will melt. The earth will split. The hills will run from their places. The waters will leave their channels. The sea will roll back in some kind of howling fear. The sky will split and fold in on itself like a collapsed tent. It is the day for executing the world.
The world essentially in covenant with Satan, the world that has persecuted those people who belong to God and hated God will have His vengeance fall on them in eternal fury. Isaiah saw this in chapter 66 and he said this: “For behold, the Lord will come in fire and His chariots like the whirlwind, to render His anger with fury, and His rebuke with flames of fire.”
The prophet Joel also was given a revelation of this very same day. Listen to the words of Joel in Joel chapter 3, verse 1: “For behold, in those days and at that time, when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem,” – this is when the kingdom comes; before that – “I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the valley of Jehoshaphat. And then I will enter into judgment with them there on behalf of My people and My inheritance, Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations; and they have divided up My land. I’m coming to judge them for what they’ve done to My people Israel. So let them know.” – chapter 3 of Joel, verse 9 – “Proclaim this among the nations: Prepare a war; rouse the mighty men!” The army that is gathered to fight against Christ will be assembled by God. God calls that army together. And then, of course, Christ defeats them in an instant.
“Let all the soldiers draw near,” – says God – “let them come up! Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears.” Even those who have farming implements will turn them into weapons. “Let the weak say, ‘I am a mighty man.’ Hasten and come, all you surrounding nations, and gather yourselves there. Bring down, O Lord, Your mighty ones. Let the nations be aroused And come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat, there I will sit to judge all the surrounding nations. Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Come, tread, for the wine press is full; the vats overflow, for their wickedness is great.
“Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision. The sun and moon grow dark, the stars lose their brightness. The Lord roars from Zion, utters His voice from Jerusalem, the heavens and the earth tremble. But the Lord is a refuge for His people and a stronghold to the sons of Israel.” This is that day. And God promises to spare His people Israel. Final verse of that chapter: “I will avenge their blood which I have not avenged, for the Lord dwells in Zion. Vengeance from God. And by the way, God’s vengeance will be absolutely accurate with regard to its justice because of His perfect knowledge of every evil thing.
I can’t resist drawing you also to Ezekiel, Ezekiel chapter 38. The word is so powerful because this is the truth, and I just want you to hear the word, hear from God.
Ezekiel 38:1, “And the word of the Lord came to me saying, ‘Son of man, set your face toward Gog’ – Gog is a term that refers to a chief ruler or a chief prince – ‘of the land of Magog,’ – Magog, a Middle Eastern identifiable country in ancient times – ‘the prince of Rosh,’ – Rosh may mean chief, the chief prince – ‘Meshech and Tubal,’ – further identified landmarks – ‘prophesy against them and say, “Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I am against you, O Gog,” – O exalted one – “ chief prince of Meshech and Tubal. I will turn you about and put hooks into your jaws, and I will bring you out, and all your army, horses and horsemen, all of them splendidly attired, a great company with buckler and shield, all of them wielding swords; Persia, Ethiopia, Put” – surrounding the nation Israel – “with all of them. They will come with shield and helmet;” – so God begins to gather the forces, the first identities. Magog and the cities that are associated with it come from the north; the rest, from the east and the south – “Gomer” – in verse 6 – “with all its troops; Beth-togarmah from the remotest part of the north with all its troops – many peoples with you.”’” This seems to be references to ancient Syria and what we would see as Modern Turkey.
“Be prepared, and prepare yourself.” In other words, all around the land of Israel the nations are being gathered by God; they are coming to make war. And verse 8 says, “After many days, you will be summoned; in the latter years you will come into the land that is restored from the sword, whose inhabitants have been gathered from many nations to the mountains of Israel which had been a continual waste; but its people were brought out from the nations, and they are living securely, all of them.” So Israel is living at this time securely in the future, and now God gathers the armies of the world. “You will go up, you will come like a storm; you will be like a cloud covering the land, you and all your troops, and many peoples with you.
“Thus says the Lord, ‘It will come about on that day, that thoughts will come into your mind and that you will devise an evil plan, and you will say, “I will go up against the land of unwalled villages.” – what that means is during the time of tribulation in the future Israel’s living at peace, they have been gathered from all the nations, they’re there. They have unwalled villages because they don’t need to be protected because the Antichrist has made a pact to protect them. But when that Antichrist breaks that pact, their security disappears and the world gathers to come against them. They come to capture spoil, seize plunder. They come after what Ezekiel calls, at the end of verse 12, the center of the world. The Hebrew term is “navel.” God sees Israel and Jerusalem as the navel of the world.
So God is gathering all these forces to come against Israel. And you can keep reading, but just go over to verse 16. “All of these people are coming” – verse 15 – “from the remotest parts of the north, you and many people with you, all of them on horses,” – this is speaking of armament, this is a war machine coming from all over the globe – “and come against My people Israel like a cloud to cover the land. It shall come about in the last days that I will bring you against My land,” – again, the Lord is bringing all these nations because it’s time for final vengeance – “so that the nations may know Me when I am sanctified through you before their eyes, O Gog.” God is going to be vindicated. Down in verses 23, “I will magnify Myself, sanctify Myself, and make Myself known in the sight of many nations; and they will know that I am the Lord.”
Chapter 39 shows them gathering, verse 3: “I will strike your bow from your left hand and dash down your arrows from your right hand. You will fall on the mountains of Israel, you and all your troops and the peoples who are with you; I will give you as food to every kind of predatory bird and beast of the field. You will fall in the open field; for it is I who have spoken,” declares the Lord God. “And I will send fire upon Magog” – the powers from the north – “and those who inhabit the coastlands in safety; and they will know that I am the Lord.
“My holy name I will make known in the midst of My people Israel; I will not let My holy name be profaned anymore. And the nations will know that I am the Lord, the Holy One in Israel. Behold, it is coming and it shall be done,” declares the Lord God. “This is the very day of which I have spoken.”
Down in verse 17 of Ezekiel 39, “As for you, son of man,” – terms for Ezekiel – “thus says the Lord God, ‘Speak to every kind of bird and to every beast of the field: Assemble and come, gather from every side to My sacrifice which I’m going to sacrifice for you, as a great sacrifice on the mountains of Israel, that you may eat flesh and drink blood.’” Remember we saw in Isaiah 34 that the nations will become their own sacrifice for their own sins.
Consistency of Scripture about “calling the birds to feast on the flesh” – verse 18 – “of mighty men, and to drink the blood of the princes of the earth, as though they were rams and lambs, and goats, and bulls, and fatlings.” Again, the dead have been their own sacrifice. There was no other sacrifice other than Christ. They rejected the only sacrifice by which they could be delivered from the day of vengeance; and they are the sacrifice for their own wretchedness. Verse 21, “I will set My glory among the nations; and all the nations will see My judgment which I have executed and My hand which I have laid on him. And the house of Israel will know that I am the Lord their God from that day forward.”
When you come into the ministry of the apostle Paul in the New Testament you have Paul looking at that very day, 2 Thessalonians 1:6, “It is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His might angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God, to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.” There it is. The people that are going to fall into this judgment around the globe are those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. They will pay the penalty of eternal destruction away from the presence of the Lord and the glory of His power.
This is terrifying truth. This is nothing to tamper with, this is nothing frivolous. All those passages are pictures and prophecies of final judgment, which is exactly where the world is headed. And people ask me from time to time, “Do you think it’s near?” It’s nearer than it’s ever been. And beyond that, all the pictures laid out in Scripture indicate that when the Lord returns, there will be global unity religiously and global unity politically and economically, and for the first time in human history we will experience that kind of global identity.
There is nothing prophetically that has to happen before the Lord would remove His believing church and unleash the terrors of the tribulation described in Revelation 6 to 19. For that seven years, God will judge with a fury, opening the seals, blowing the trumpets, and pouring out the bowls of wrath. That all culminates in that final judgment when Christ returns at the end of that period to destroy all the ungodly.
It’s one interesting thing to note – back to Revelation 19 – that in Revelation 19 you have the execution in the nineteenth chapter, although you have the tribunal and the court in the twentieth chapter. Judgement will be described in chapter 20, verses 11 and following, as the great white throne judgment; but their execution occurs before that – that is, their physical execution. Multitudes across the world are drawn into what is called the Valley of Decision or the Valley of Jehoshaphat. They’re not there to make a decision, they’re there to be the victims of the decision made long ago by God. The Judge has already decided, and this is execution day. Our Lord saw this day, and we need to hear from Him.
Look at Matthew, Matthew’s gospel, chapter 24 and verse 29: “But immediately after the tribulation of those days” – that seven-year period – “the sun will be darkened, the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky,” – we read that in Isaiah – “and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.” So when He comes, He will gather believers together with Himself, and then He will destroy the wicked.
Go to chapter 25 – and we need to look at this – verse 31: “When the Son of Man,” – and this is Jesus speaking – “when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne.” That’s what we see in Revelation 19. “All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and put the sheep on His right, and the goats on His left. “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.’” And then He describes the work that evidenced their salvation.
And then He says in verse 41, “To those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels.’” Verse 46 says, “These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” So there’s a separation of the believers from the nonbelievers at the return of Jesus Christ. The believers are gathered together to go into the kingdom in which Christ will reign for a thousand years – we’ll see more about that next time – but the unrighteous will be destroyed.
In the little epistle of Jude – I can’t resist – verses 14 and 15, “Behold, the Lord came with many thousands of His holy ones,” – this is a prophecy – “to execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their ungodly deeds which they have done in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.” Ungodly, ungodly, ungodly – repeated. They are the ones who will be judged. They have rejected God and they have rejected the gospel of Jesus Christ.
So what we read in Revelation chapter 19 is nothing new. It is nothing new. We knew at the birth of Christ that He came to be a King. We knew that Isaiah in chapter 9 said, “A child would be born, and the government be upon His shoulders, and He would rule forever.” We knew from the Old Testament prophets that this setting up of His kingdom would involve the securing of the righteous into that kingdom, including a restored group of Jews; but it would also involve the destruction of all the ungodly. The King of kings is coming. The Lord of lords is coming. Or as Paul identifies Him in 1 Timothy 6:15, “The blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords.”
Now with all that background, we come to the seventeenth verse. Just two things to look at in this text: “The Conquest Announced.” We’ll start there in the opening two verses. “Then I saw” – literally – “one angel standing in the sun, and he cried out with a loud voice, saying to all the birds which fly in the midheaven, ‘Come, assemble for the great supper of God, so that you may eat of the flesh of kings and the flesh of commanders and the flesh of mighty men and the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them and the flesh of all men, both free men and slaves, and small and great.’” One angel.
We know that angels are associated with the judgment. They’re made reference to in the Old Testament by the prophets who see the same scene. But all through the book of Revelation, the angels appear in very important times of judgment. This angel standing in a very conspicuous and somewhat commanding place is the first indicator of the end, this one angel standing in the sun. That is to say perhaps he creates a sort of eclipse. This is before the sun goes out.
In Joel chapter 2 we know – and Revelation affirms it – but in Joel chapter 2 is the first place we read about it. When the Lord is about to come, the sun will not give its light. Listen to the end of Joel chapter 2, verses 30 and following: “I will display wonders in the sky and on the earth, blood, fire, and columns of smoke. The sun will be turned into darkness and the moon into blood before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And it will come about that whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be delivered.” But in that day, the sun will go out.
So before the sun has gone out, that prophecy of Joel, by the way, is repeated in Peter’s sermon in Acts chapter 2, verses 19 and 20. Before the sun goes out, before the sign of the Son of Man takes over the black sky with His flaming, blazing glory, an angel stands in the sun, and makes this announcement. He cried with a loud voice. We have an angel doing that in chapter 7. We have an angel doing that in chapter 10. We have an angel doing that in chapter 14, about verse 15. We have an angel doing that at the beginning of chapter 18. And when an angel does that, it is to make an announcement from heaven, because an angel has some kind of a supernatural megaphone that covers the earth and announces judgment on a wide scale. But this announcement is not to people. “This angel cried out with a loud voice saying to all the birds which fly in midheaven, ‘Come, assemble for the great supper of God.’”
There is a marriage supper back in verse 9. There are two suppers in this supper. There’s a marriage supper of the Lamb, back in verse 9, enjoyed by the saints who have been taken to glory. This is a very different supper. Birds fly in the midheaven. This angel will call the birds, and he’s inviting them to eat the dead flesh before the Son of God was declared to be the King of kings and Lord of lords. That is to say He has sovereign power over everyone. The prophet said that He would have a sword, and by that sword out of His mouth He would slaughter all the ungodly on the face of the planet. That will leave corpses, and particularly focusing on the land of Israel where all the armies of the world have gathered to fight against Him because God Himself gathered them, they will be nothing more than food for these birds. “Feed on the carnage.”
One of the most interesting things that I learned about bird migration a number of years ago was that the greatest migration of birds on the planet is over the land of Israel at the beginning of winter, because all of the birds in Europe that go south to Africa have to go through Israel; they don’t fly across the Mediterranean. They end up in Israel, migrating. And they are predictable as to exactly the days and the weeks every year that certain types of birds migrate. It is the largest migration stream on the planet. God will call them all then to somewhat a familiar track through this angel, to come assemble for the great supper of God.
All through human history birds have eaten the flesh of those who were killed in battles. This will be unlike anything the world has ever known. The battle will be brief. The armies of the world will be gathered around Israel and the plain of Megiddo, stretching two hundred miles north and south. The battle will be so devastating that Scripture says it will take seven months to bury what’s left after the birds have fed on the corpses.
An American Airlines pilot in Chicago knew that I was interested in the Bible, and he sent me a training video that was used with American Airlines for their flights in and out of Israel. The largest challenge they have in flying in and out of Israel is bird migration. It has been long a problem at Tel Aviv Airport, because when birds get in those jet engines, they can bring down an airplane. And by the way, the Israeli Air Force has lost more pilots from accidents with birds than it has in war. And with all kinds of migrating birds going south through Israel in the spring or in the fall, they’ve had to figure out how to avoid these migrating birds. This was a video that I watched that helps train pilots and even schedule flights around such migrations.
The world will be carnage, and one particular center for that will be the land of Israel, and the birds will come and eat the flesh. And no matter whether they are princes or paupers, great or small, it will be reduced to roadkill.
Look at verse 18, “so that you may eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of commanders, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses, those who sit on them, the flesh of all men – free men, slaves, small, great.” Corpses lying unburied.
Back in chapter 6, verse 15, “Then the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains.” This is at the sixth seal when the sky splits and rolls up, and every mountain and island is moved out of the way; and they know they’re getting closer to the coming of the Lord.
We know they’re getting closer to the coming of the Lord. People are in panic, no matter who they are, from kings to slaves. They head for the caves and the rocks, and they head there saying to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come; and who is able to stand?” In that time of tribulation, even when they know God is judging them, even when they know the Lord is coming to destroy them, they don’t repent, they just want to hide. The feast will be the feast of flesh all over the world.
Listen to Zephaniah the prophet, chapter 1, verse 14: “Near is the great day of the Lord, near and coming very quickly; listen, the day of the Lord! In it the warrior cries out bitterly. A day of wrath is that day, a day of trouble and distress, a day of destruction and desolation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness, a day of trumpet and battle cry against the fortified cities and the high corner towers. I’ll bring distress on men so that they will walk like the blind, because they have sinned against the Lord; and their blood will be poured out like dust and their flesh like dung. Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to deliver them on the day of the Lord’s wrath; and all the earth will be devoured in the fire of His jealousy, for He will make a complete end, indeed a terrifying one, of all the inhabitants of the earth.” What Zephaniah’s saying is every ungodly person will be killed when Christ returns, every one of them. So the conquest is announced by one angel calling together the birds to feed on the corpses.
There’s a second point to consider here and that is in the final verses 19 to 21: “The Conquest Accomplished.” The conquest announced, and the conquest accomplished. Now John sees: “I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies assembled to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army.” This is the final war.
“I saw the beast,” that’s the Antichrist, the world ruler during the time of the tribulation. He is described in detail back in chapter 13, verses 1 through 8. He is powerful. He is blasphemous. He operates under satanic authority and satanic power. He is the world leader.
Verse 8 says, “All who dwell on the earth will worship him, those whose names are not written in the Lamb’s Book of Life from before the foundation of the world.” The whole world will worship this Antichrist identified as a beast who comes out of the earth. He’s the head of the world. “And so the beast is seized, and with him the false prophet,” down in verse 20. We’ll say more about that.
“I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies assembled to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army.” Assembled to make war against Jesus Christ and the saints and angels who are coming back with Him.
The battle is set. Zechariah 14:5 speaks about this and it identifies Christ’s army as “all the holy ones with Him.” His enemies succeeded in killing Him when He came in humility and grace. They hated Him when He healed. They hated Him when He showed mercy. Imagine how they’ll hate Him when they have been under His unrelenting judgment in severity for at least three-and-a-half years during that second half of the tribulation.
And then it happens: “The beast is seized, and with him the false prophet,” also described in chapter 13, verses 11 to 13. A false prophet is sort of the religious partner of the Antichrist who performs some kind of deception and deceiving those who received the mark of the beast that causes them to worship the Antichrist. So the Antichrist has an assistant who pulls off some signs of wonders that give people the illusion that he is truly a supernatural leader, and the whole world follows him.
Back in chapter 13, verse 16, it says, “He causes all – the small, the great, the rich, the poor, the free men, slaves – to be given a mark on their right hand or their forehead. He provides – no one will be able to buy or sell, except the one who has the mark, either the name of the beast or the number of his name.” So if you don’t identify with the beast, you can’t survive. You cannot survive because you can’t operate in society if you don’t have the number. We understand that with credit cards. We understand how everybody can be identified; we understand that by the Internet. Everybody knows who we are. Everybody knows where we are because of cell phones. And you can be deleted if you don’t worship the beast.
“So the two demon-indwelt, satanic leaders” – one political and the other religious – “are captured first, and thrown” – back to verse 20 – “thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone.” This is the first mention of the final hell, the first mention of the final hell, the final eternal hell, and the first two occupants of that final eternal lake of fire are the Antichrist and the false prophet. It doesn’t mean that they have not been out of the presence of the Lord; they have. To die in any point in human history without God is to be out of His presence everlastingly in punishment and in torment.
But even Daniel saw this in Daniel 7:11, “I kept looking because of the sound of the boastful words which the horn was speaking; I kept looking until the beast was slain, and its body destroyed and given to the burning fire.” Daniel even sees this beast, this final Antichrist and even his cohort, cast into the lake of fire.
By the way, the lake of fire was prepared for the devil and his angels, for demons; but it will be the location of humans as well. This is evidence there’s no annihilation. They are thrown into a lake of fire which burns with brimstone. The lake neither annihilates them, nor purifies them. How do we know that? Go to chapter 20, verse 7, “A thousand years later, Satan will be released from his prison,” – he’s been captive during the millennial kingdom – “come to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth, to gather them together for the war; the number of them is like the sand of the seashore.”
One more war at the end of the kingdom. “They came up on the broad plain of the earth, surround the camp of the saints, the beloved city; fire comes down from heaven and devours them. And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” That is not annihilation. “The lake of fire” – Isaiah says – “is a fire” – Isaiah 66 – “that will not be quenched.”
In the New Testament our Lord says, “It is an everlasting fire” – Matthew 25 – “prepared for the devil and his angels.” In Mark 9, “The fire will not be quenched.” Matthew 13, “A furnace of fire where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth,” which is not annihilation, it is conscious punishment. Luke 3, “The chaff He will burn with fire unquenchable, everlasting fire,” “tormented by fire,” Revelation 14:10. And John adds that in this vision this fiery lake into which the beast and the false prophet are cast is identified with brimstone, brimstone, connecting it with the destruction of Sodom in our minds.
So the beast and the false prophet are the first to occupy the final lake of fire; and the rest will follow. And the rest will follow, verse 21: “And the rest were killed with the sword which came from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse, and all the birds were filled with their flesh.” Literally, the Lord speaks a word and all the ungodly drop dead everywhere on the planet. We first saw that sword back in the vision of Christ in His return, chapter 19, verse 15: “From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations.” The whole world of sinners will be killed.
Our society has been given the illusion that Jesus is a benign, soft-hearted, compassionate teacher, and He just wants to do for you whatever you’d like to do for yourself. He’s your genie... No, He’s your Judge. He is your Judge.
Suddenly it’ll all be over. Suddenly no more war. Millions of people have died through wars. The whole planet of ungodly people will be killed in one word. The entire planet will be dead except those in Christ.
Zechariah the prophet, at the end of his prophecy, chapter 14, says, “Behold, a day is coming for the Lord when the spoil taken from you will be divided among you. I’ll gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle,” – again, saying exactly the same thing Ezekiel said, Isaiah said, Joel said, Jesus said, Paul said, book of Revelation shows. “I’ll gather all the nations” – Psalm 2 – “against Jerusalem to battle. The city will be captured, the houses plundered, the women ravished, half of the city exiled, but the rest of the people will not be cut off from the city. For the Lord will go forth and fight against those nations, as when He fights on a day of battle. In that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in the front of Jerusalem on the east. The Mount of Olives will be split in its middle from east to west by a very large valley, so that half the mountain will move toward the north and the other half toward the south.” When He does come back in this fiery judgment act, He will come to the area of Jerusalem, He will touch the Mount and split the Mount. People will flee by that valley that has been created. They will flee before the earthquake.
“Then the Lord, my God, will come, and all the holy ones with Him! In that day there’ll be no light; luminaries will dwindle,” – we know that. The sun goes out, the moon goes dark, the stars fall from heaven. “It’ll be a unique day which is known to the Lord, neither day nor night, but it will come about that at evening time there will be light. And in that day living waters will flow out of Jerusalem, half of them toward the eastern sea and the other half toward the western sea. It’ll be in summer as well as in winter. And the Lord will be King over all the earth. In that day the Lord will be the only one, and His name the only one.” He’s going to recreate the typography of Jerusalem so that there’s going to be a river that flows into the desert and restores a measure of what God originally created in the garden of Eden.
Daniel is very specific, chapter 12: “From the time” – verse 11 – “of the regular sacrifice being abolished and the abomination of desolation,” – that happens halfway through the seven-year tribulation – “from that time on, there will be 1,290 days.” – 1,260 days is three-and-a-half years, so there’s an extra 30 days. And in the next verse he says – “How blessed is he who keeps waiting and attains to the 1,335 days!”
What’s Daniel saying? He comes after three-and-a-half years, 1,260 days. There’s an extra 35 days, and an extra 45 days. And what’s that for? That is the transition between the destruction of the earth and the establishment of Christ’s glorious kingdom. How specific is that – 75 days to set up the kingdom, to bring the saints and establish their authority around the world.
And so here’s the final comment on humanity, end of verse 21: “All the birds were filled with their flesh.” That’s where the whole human race is headed, to be corpses torn apart by birds; that’s the truth. Don’t get mad at them. Plead for them to come to Christ, right?
You say, “This is too much. This cannot be true.” I understand that, that it’s hard to hear. And I also understand that most people completely reject it. So let me take you in conclusion to 2 Peter 3 – 2 Peter 3, verse 3 – and let me read you verses 3 and 4: “Knowing this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.’”
The assumption of Peter is that people will mock the notion of Christ’s return, they’ll mock it. And there’s an argument from just sheer ridicule, verse 3: “Mockers will come with their mocking.” That’s the argument of ridicule. And then there’s the argument from immorality, “following after their own lusts.” They don’t want that to be a reality because it would cause them to be terrified enough to give up their lusts, which they’re unwilling to do. So you have mockers arguing by the avenue of ridicule and by the love of their own immorality.
Then there’s another argument that mockers can give on top of ridicule and immorality, and that’s uniformity. All things continue just as they were from the beginning of creation. Nothing like that has ever happened. No divine judgment has ever come. We’ve never seen any divine judgment, hasn’t happened in our lifetime. There’s no God, there’s no Judge, there’s just uniformity; things just keep going down the same path that evolutionary chance creates as it goes. So whether it’s ridicule or the love of immorality or some kind of stupid argument from uniformity, mockers have some avenues to choose.
Encountering that, believers also have some arguments. There’s an argument from Scripture, verses 1 and 2: “This is now, beloved, the second letter I’m writing to you in which I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles.” You have heard from Ezekiel, you have heard from Isaiah, you have heard from the psalmist, you have heard from Joel, you have heard from Zephaniah, you have heard from Zechariah, and there would be many others that I could have shown you. Our argument is the Scripture says this is coming, the argument from Scripture.
There’s also an argument from history, verse 5: “When they maintain this,” – that things never change – “it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water.” They forget that there was a massive global act of divine judgment that destroyed every human being on the planet with the exception of eight people.
And then there’s a third argument, the argument from eternity: “Don’t let this one fact escape your notice, beloved,” – just because it seems like a long time to you and judgment hasn’t come – “that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day.” God doesn’t have a clock.
We argue back from the authority of Scripture. We argue back from the universal flood, the proof of which is found in the fossils around the planet. We argue from the eternal nature of God, that God exists without regard to time. And there’s one other reality, and that’s the argument from grace, verse 9: “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness,” – don’t think He’s just slow in getting the plan together – “it’s rather that He’s patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” What’s He waiting for? He’s waiting for you to come to repentance.
“But” – verse 10 – “the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar, the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, the earth and its works will be burned up.” That actually happens at the end of the thousand-year kingdom.
Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be? He’s going to destroy all the ungodly, and then He’s going to destroy the universe. What kind of people should you be in holy conduct and godliness, not godlessness? And you ought to be looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat. That’s an atomic implosion that takes everything that exists out of existence. According to the promise, we’re looking for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
So what kind of person should you be? Be diligent to be found in Him. Be in Christ, and thus be in peace with a satisfied soul. Be spotless, blameless. And down in verse 17: “Beloved, be on your guard that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness.” Here are the implications of this for us: “Be in Christ at peace with God, spotless and blameless, on guard against error so you don’t fall from your spiritual stability.”
And then, finally in verse 18, “Multiply in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Focus on Christ, right? “To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”
Our Father, we thank You again for the gift of truth, the incomparable of Your Word. We do have satisfied souls. But, Lord, we desire to grow even more, to multiply in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Living life in the light of Your coming should be for us a combination of things as it was for John, when realizing that the judgment was coming he said it was both sweet and bitter – sweet because You would be vindicated, Christ would be exalted, and the saints would receive their eternal reward. But it was bitter because the ungodly of the world will be destroyed physically and spiritually cast into an eternally burning lake of fire and torment.
Help us not to get sucked up into the frivolous issues of this world’s dysfunctional society. Help us to not live with any illusions that we can change evil hearts – we can’t – or to believe that in spite of the fact that You say, “Evil men will grow worse and worse,” we can somehow stop that. Help us to realize that what we’re dealing with is accumulated thousands of years of wretchedness that isn’t going to turn and go the other way.
As we come closer to Your return, may our affections be on things above and not on things on the earth. May we live and proclaim the gospel for Your glory, we pray in the name of our Savior. Amen.
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