Tag Archives: Armageddon

The Important Thing

The Lord will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one Lord, and his name the only name.
Zechariah 14:9 (NIV)

On my podcast this past week, I began a conversation about time. One of the more profound and mysterious aspects of God’s Message is, of course, the prophetic. What I regularly refer to as “The Great Story” is the story arc from creation in Genesis to the end of the book of Revelation when history as we know it ends and there is a new beginning.

One of the things I’ve noted in God’s creation is the number of recurring themes present. The way we depict an atom looks just like a little solar system, which is replicated in the moon going around the earth, the earth going around the sun, the solar system spinning in the galaxy, and etc.

One of the other great themes is simply the cycle of life and death. Physicists tell us that matter is energy. Genesis says God made humans from the dust of the earth, and when we die it was prescribed that “to dust you will return” (Gen 3:19). There is a natural part of the life-cycle of creation in this. Our bodies die, return to the ground, decay, and then are recycled by creation to feed new life.

As mentioned in my podcast, I see this cycle replicated in the Great Story. I look at human history and see all of the life stages: infancy, toddler, child, teenager, and etc. There is a course of macro human development that I find is very much like the micro stages of an individual human life. And, we are reminded by the prophets, history like each of our lives will have an end.

In today’s chapter, Zechariah envisions the death throes of human history. His vision dovetails with John’s visions in Revelation 16:14-16 and again at the end of Revelation 19. A final battle between good and evil, when God sets up rule and reign over the Earth.

Of course, all of this can be terribly confusing and even frightening. A couple of thoughts as I mull these things over this morning.

First, prophecy is not a science and there is no iron-clad understanding. I have learned to approach the prophetic humbly, recognizing that the most learned and scholarly of God’s people completely misinterpreted the prophets understanding of the Messiah. Even Jesus’ own disciples expected Him to become what the scholars and teachers of their day expected Him to be. Therefore, I assume that the most gifted and emphatic of today’s teachers claiming they know the truth about end-times prophecy is likely wrong about most of it. The most common truth I’ve come to accept about prophecy is that, in hindsight, it doesn’t end up happening the way everyone said it would.

Second, I believe that the important message is not in the details but in the theme. History moves towards a death of the way things are just as each of our lives ends with the death of our earthly journey. This death comes complete with the struggle and “death throes” associated with the human fight against our physical death. And then?

This is the critical piece to the Jesus Story. At the climactic, dark moment there is a eucatastrophe. Death does not have the final word. Resurrection. Life springs out of the depths. The phoenix rises from the ashes. The old order passes away and a new order comes.

Once again, I can’t help to see the layer of meaning. In the same way that I, as a follower of Jesus, believe that after death I will experience new life through the resurrected Jesus, so I believe that at the end of this Great Story of humanity there will be a death and a resurrection. As the end of Revelation envisions there is a new heaven, a new earth, a new Jerusalem, and a new order of creation. This is such a natural part of creation that I find the truth of it is hidden in plain sight. Here in Iowa the fields have yielded their harvest. The death throes have begun. I feel it in the chill as I got out of bed this morning. Death is coming when everything in this beautiful land will be dark, and cold, and colorless. But, a new year will come with new life, and warmth, and abundance, and vibrant color.

In the quiet this morning I find myself curious but scratching my head with regard to battles, and plagues, and rotting flesh, and earthquakes, and etc. What I find myself focused on is on the important conclusion: new life, safety, a flow of living water, and “The Lord will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one Lord, and his name the only name.

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Foreshadowing and Climax

Megiddo Valley of Armageddon

You will come from your place in the far north, you and many nations with you, all of them riding on horses, a great horde, a mighty army. You will advance against my people Israel like a cloud that covers the land. Ezekiel 38:15-16a (NIV)

The prophetic messages of Ezekiel in today’s and tomorrow’s chapter are part of a curious and mysterious niche of theological study known as eschatology, the study of prophecy and the end times. The vision and message in today’s chapter calls out a leader named “Gog” of the land of “Magog” from the “far north” who will gather a multi-national coalition of armies to march on Israel in a massive battle.

Most scholars agree that these chapters parallel the vision of John (Revelation 16) who names the location of this gathering of kings for a final great battle: Armageddon. The valley of Armageddon near the ancient town of Megiddo is in northern Israel which is now the site of an on-going archaeological study and a tourist center. I had an opportunity to visit several years ago and that’s the valley of Armageddon behind me in the picture above.

As fascinating as these prophetic matters are to ponder and discuss, I have come to a few conclusions about them along my journey. First, I have known many people who become so obsessed with these prophesies (it can be like solving a massive, unsolvable puzzle) that they get lost in it. I don’t quite see the point of getting so distracted by trying to understand these things that we ignore more important and current matters.

Second, in any story the idea of foreshadowing is to hint at what is to come in the climactic chapters without giving it away. As author of the Great Story being told in history, I think God intended these foreshadowing prophesies to give us a hint of climactic events to come but never intended us to actually understand all of these matters with certainty. No author wants us to know the details of the climax until we actually get to that point of the story.

Finally, I have come to believe that these foreshadowing prophetic messages are there to remind me that there is a bigger story being told in this life. When encountering the daily headlines and the ebb and flow of international events, I take solace in faith that things are being played out toward a prescribed chapter. We are not yet to that point of the story. And, I’m okay with that.

Believing Such Nonsense

Me standing on an ancient altar, the Valley of Armageddon behind me.
Me standing on an ancient altar, the Valley of Armageddon behind me.

Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.
Revelation 16:16 (NIV)

I had a chance to visit Megiddo and look out over the Valley of Armageddon while in Israel several years back. My trip to Israel impressed on me a number of things. I had always known that Jerusalem and the surrounding area is the biggest political “hotspot” on Earth, but while visiting I experienced it for myself on a number of occasions at different sites. Having experienced the conflict and having felt the underlying hatred I looked out over the Valley of Armageddon and pondered John’s vision with a new perspective.

We often speak of Armageddon as if it’s a place of fantasy fiction like Middle Earth or Narnia. Armageddon is the place of comic book battles and apocalyptic Hollywood movies. Perhaps that’s what prophetic writing feels like to a lot of us. But, Armageddon is a real place. According to John’s vision there will be “kings from the East” who march in for a great battle.

As I looked out over the valley and tried to envision what John saw. I tried to picture what it would look like. The writer in me wondered about how the story would unfold. Perhaps a better writer could weave a thriller of a story around it, but I couldn’t see through the fog of the prophecy. That’s the way it is with prophetic writing. It points forward and gives snapshots of a future spot on the timeline that don’t quite make sense in the context of the spot on timeline I find myself.

Nevertheless, I look back now with hindsight and read the prophetic visions of Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53. Before Jesus’ crucifixion, they probably made as much sense to the faithful as Revelation 16 does to us today. Now we can see clearly what David and Isaiah envisioned, and I marvel at the fact that they were penned hundreds of years before the events they foretold. And so, I stood and looked out over the Valley of Armageddon. Though I can’t see clearly how and when it will unfold, I do believe that a great battle will happen there in the end as surely as David saw the soldiers gambling for Jesus’ clothes.

Some, I’m sure, think me foolish to “believe such nonsense.” But, I do believe things which we do not see. My journey through God’s Message and capturing a glimpse of the larger story has led me to do so, even as it has led me to dismiss some of what the institutional, organized church has twisted it into. Does this make any difference in my day today? I think it at once makes little difference and all the difference. It does not change my task list nor the events of my day, but it changes my perspective on how this day and every day of my life fits into a larger, unfolding story.

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Chapter-a-Day Mark 13

“However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows.” Mark 13:32 (NLT)


I could not help this morning but be reminded of a few months ago when an obscure, quack pot preacher named Harold Camping predicted the end of the world on May 22 and,  because of a national billboard campaign, it became national news. He’d made the prediction before and was just as wrong. Just last year the news was all about the fact that the Mayan calendar ends in 2012 and, spurred on by a Hollywood movie that picked up on the storyline, everyone was predicting the world’s end.

Throughout my journey I’ve witnessed several doomsday predictions. Hal Lindsey‘s book 1983 Countdown to Armageddon was a big seller. I lived through 1984 when George Orwell‘s famous book of the same title created all sorts of doomsday talk. I lived through Y2K and the craziness of people stockpiling food and supplies for the apocalypse that was predicted. The Camping incident and the 2012 nonsense are just two more in a long string of doomsday predictions. As humans we tend to be obsessed with apocalypse. Knowing that, the news media loves to play into those base human fears.

Here is my easy three step guide for responding to end-of-the-world predictions. This is based on two very simple observations and one crucial teaching Jesus made:

  1. Doomsday will eventually happen. Don’t kid yourself.
  2. No one has inside information when it will be. Not even Jesus Himself. Period.
  3. We don’t need to be afraid: “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” John 14:26 (NLT) “Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matthew 10:28 (NLT)