The War of Armageddon
August 4th, 1985 @ 8:15 AM
THE BATTLE OF ARMAGEDDON
Dr. W. A. Criswell
8-4-85 8:15 a.m.
And we welcome the great throngs of you who share this hour on radio. This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas delivering the message from the Book of Ezekiel. Never in my life have I been more filled with wonder before the Lord God as I have this week in preparing the sermon for today. Because of its length I have broken it up into two parts. Next Sunday at this hour the message will be delivered from Ezekiel, and it will be entitled The End of the World, and this Sunday from Ezekiel, the final battle that closes this age, The Battle of Armageddon.
Ezekiel lived two thousand five hundred years before the events that he describes, that we read this morning and yesterday morning in our daily newspapers. That is why I say I have been overwhelmed, I have been prostrate in wonder before God, that a man, a mere man, under the power and aegis of the Holy Spirit, could say such things and outline such things two thousand five hundred years before we read them today in our magazines and in our newspapers.
Now you can easily follow the message because it is an exposition of chapters 38 and 39 [Ezekiel 38-39]. If you will turn in your Bible to those two chapters, you can easily follow what God has revealed in His Holy Word. Chapters 38 and 39 in Ezekiel, in verse 23 of chapter 39; verse 23 of chapter 39:
The pagan heathen Gentile nations shall know that the house of Israel went into captivity for their iniquity: because they transgressed against Me, therefore hid I My face from them, and gave them into the hand of their enemies: so fell they by the sword.
And He repeats that same thought in verse 28 of chapter 39: “So all of these nations of the world will know that I am the Lord God, which caused Israel to be led into captivity among the heathen” [Ezekiel 39:28]. God did that and God does all these things. And the announcement here from Ezekiel is that the captivity of Israel has been due to their sins against Him [Ezekiel 39:23].
Among the many incursions into Israel, there are four great invasions of the Holy Land and of the Holy City, four of them, all four prophesied in detail by God’s prophets. Number one of these great four invasions of the Holy Land, by the Chaldeans, by the Babylonians; they came in 605 BC [2 Kings 24:1; Daniel 1:1-6]; they came in 598 BC [2 Kings 24:10-16]. And they came the third time in 587 BC [2 Kings 25:1-21; Jeremiah 39:1-10, 52:4-30]. And they destroyed the nation; they destroyed the Holy City. They destroyed the temple, and they carried away into slavery and into captivity the inhabitants of the land. Except for the purview and purpose of God, it would have been the absolute end of the nation. Israel would have ceased to exist.
In that first captivity, as you know in 605, Daniel was taken [Daniel 1:1, 3-6]. In the second one, 598, Ezekiel was taken. And Ezekiel, when he writes these revelations from God, is a slave and a captive in the land of the Babylonians [2 Kings 24:10-16; Ezekiel 1:1]. That’s the first invasion, prophesied so distinctly in God’s Word by Isaiah [Isaiah 47:16]; in detail, page after page, by Jeremiah [Jeremiah 15:13, 17:3-4, 20:5], and by Habakkuk [Habakkuk 1:5-11]. The purpose of it Ezekiel announces here [Ezekiel 39:23]. Isaiah refers to the Assyrian invasion in 722 that destroyed the Northern Kingdom [2 Kings 17:18]. He refers to the Assyrians, speaking for God: “They are the rod of Mine anger, and the staff of Mine indignation” [Isaiah 10:5]. God did it.
Habakkuk says of the coming of the bitter and hasty Chaldeans, the Babylonians, “They are ordained for judgment, and they are established for correction” [Habakkuk 1:6, 12]. God did it. All of this is under the purview and review and purpose of the Lord God Almighty. When we look at things, they just look as though they happen; nothing just happens; all of it, under the eye and in the plan of Almighty God. That’s the first great invasion, prophesied for the Holy Land.
The second one concerns the Romans. Our Lord, seated on the Mount of Olives, when the disciples had showed Him the great stones of the temple, seemingly an enduring and everlasting monument to the Lord; there is coming a time when there will not be one stone left upon another [Matthew 24:1-2]. And He prophesies the dispersion of Israel all over the civilized world [Luke 21:24], and that invasion came in 70 AD. The war started in Galilee in 66 with Josephus as one of the generals, one of the great historians of Israel. And it culminated and climaxed in 70 AD when the Romans destroyed once again the city, the nation, the temple. And after 70 AD, the Jews were wanderers in this whole earth, according to prophecy [Leviticus 26:33; Ezekiel 36:19]. Could I make one detail? In that one seize of Jerusalem there were over one million Jews dead. That is more than all that America has lost in all the wars of the life and history of our nation. It was an awesome carnage. And once again, the Jews were dispersed, sold into slavery, made captives and buried in the nations of the earth; prophesied by the Lord [Ezekiel 37:1-3].
The next two are future. The third great invasion of the Holy Land is to be by Russia [Ezekiel 38-39], and the fourth great invasion of the Holy Land is the final rebellion against God described in Revelation chapter 20 [Revelation 20:8]. And those two great invasions, the last two, frame the millennium [Revelation 20:4-6]. One is before and the second is at the end, and in between is the millennium. It is framed, I say, by those two vast wars. It begins with the invasion of the Holy Land by Russia, and seven years later the war culminates in the final battle of Armageddon [Revelation 16:16, 19:21].
Then at the end of that war, the Lord comes from heaven [Revelation 19:11-20:6]. That’s the second coming of Christ. And at the end of that millennium, when the Lord has personally established His kingdom in the earth, there is once again a vast rebellion on the part of all the nations of the earth [Revelation 20:7-9], and that final and ultimate battle of rebellion introduces us to eternity [Revelation 21:1-22:21].
I cannot help but turn aside once again for a parenthetical statement. How is it, at the end of the millennium, there should be so vast a rebellion against God, and once again the gathering of the armies of the world in the Holy Land? [Revelation 20:7-9]. Why? It just emphasizes the innate, inborn, congenital, fallen nature of mankind. That rebellion at the end of the millennium is on the part of children, born in the families of the people of the millennium during that thousand years. Even though they have a perfect environment, and even though they live under the personal aegis and government of the Lord God King and Christ Himself [Isaiah 11:1-16], they are still fallen, they are still sinful, and they hate God and the rule of God, just as men do today. And that final rebellion [Revelation 20:7-9], ushers in the eternal state, and we’re introduced to the new heavens and the new earth [Revelation 21:1]. Those are the four great rebellions, invasion that are prophesied in the Bible.
Now this morning we’re going to take that third one: the invasion of the Holy Land on the part of Russia [Ezekiel 38-39]. My first amazement as I read all of this is the regathering of the nation in the land. When Ezekiel wrote this, prophesied this, when God gave the vision to him, the nation was destroyed, city was destroyed, temple was destroyed, people in captivity and slavery, and he was one of them. Yet when you look at Ezekiel 38, beginning at verse 8 and continuing through verse 14, Israel is in the land, and they are dwelling as a nation in prosperity [Ezekiel 38:8, 11, 14].
Oh, I wish I had hours to speak of these things! I don’t know whether I even have time to read the passages or not. In verse 8 they dwell safely, all of them [Ezekiel 38:8], in the land, and they are so prosperous that Russia, looking upon them, deigns to seize them and carry away as a prey what they have done. “That day will come,” verse 14, “when My people of Israel dwelleth safely in the land” [Ezekiel 38:14]. Now what does that say to us? That says to us that the nation of Israel over there wasn’t any such nation for hundreds and hundreds of years after 70 AD. In my day, I never thought I’d ever see a nation over there of Israel. I never dreamed of it, nor did anybody else. I’ve been in this ministry fifty-eight years, and as a little boy I went to church every Sunday of my life. I never heard any professor, I never heard any teacher say that in my day we were going to see Israel, the nation Israel. All these people, as the thirty-seventh chapter of Ezekiel says, are buried. The nation is buried in the graves of the earth, in the graves of the nations [Ezekiel 37:1-3]. And here Ezekiel says, “Israel is at home. They are in the land. They are dwelling in peace” [Ezekiel 38:8, 11, 14].
Now if I can pick it up after 1948, after the nation was organized—if I can pick it up, according to prophecy things are going to get better and better over there in Israel. They’re going to secure their borders, and they’re going to be a stronger nation and a stronger people. That’s what Ezekiel says [Ezekiel 38:8-14]. And it is while that they are regathered in the land that this thing that he prophesies comes to pass [Ezekiel 38:11].
So as I read the Book, I’m not fearful that tomorrow there’s not going to be any Israel over there. And I’m not anxious that those enemies of Israel are going to destroy her. They have tried it as we’re going to see in a minute. And they have tried it. And they have tried it. And the more they try it the less they succeed in it. They are ignominiously defeated. God says that nation is going to be regathered [Ezekiel 36:24]. God says it’s going to prosper in the land. And God says, “My blessings are going to be upon them.” Even though they’re there, as Ezekiel says, in unbelief [Ezekiel 36:24-28], Israel is there, and she is there until—and that is the prophecy of Ezekiel—the great invasion [Ezekiel 38-39].
All right, we’re going to look at what Ezekiel says. Let us begin at chapter 38, verse 1, “The word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man, set thy face against Gog,” that’s the leader of Russia, the successive leaders of Russia, “Set thy face against Gog, the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh,” in the King James Version you have a mistranslation there. “The prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him, And say, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I am against thee, O Gog, the prince of Rosh, the prince of Meshech, the prince of Tubal” [Ezekiel 38:1-3].
Now where are these people? Look at the fifteenth verse of chapter 38: “Thou shalt come from thy place out of the north parts, thou, and many people with thee” [Ezekiel 38:15]. All right, look again in chapter 39, verse 2: “I will cause thee to come up from the north parts, and will bring thee upon the mountains of Israel” [Ezekiel 39:2]. Well, put all of that together: Magog. Magog was the land up there beyond the Caspian and Black Seas, beyond the Caucasus Mountains. And Meshech and Tubal, of course, they discuss that world without end, but there are many, many wonderful scholars who say that refers to Moscow and Tobolsk [Ezekiel 38:3]. In any event, all of it is up there in the North, in what we call, today, Russia.
Now I say, I sit here and read these things and I’m overwhelmed in amazement at them, because when Ezekiel wrote that prophecy, there wasn’t any Russia up there. They didn’t know what was up there. Josephus says that the Greeks called all of those nomadic, rude, uncultured, uncivilized tribes up there Scythians. There were no nations there. There were no powers up there. There was no military might up there. There wasn’t anything up there except what nobody knew up there. And yet Ezekiel addresses a great and a mighty nation up there in the North [Ezekiel 38:1-3], and if you look on the map, Moscow is directly in a straight line north from Jerusalem.
So he is addressing the nation of Russia that has not even come into existence. Now, these people up there that we know today as Russians, these people are the enemies; the government of Russia is the enemy of the Jews. And I want to take time, if God will just give me a few minutes here before we have to close, I want to take time to follow that with you; and to me, this is an amazing thing!
The development of Russia as a bitter, sworn enemy of the Jew—Karl Marx, the father of communism, as you know, never dreamed that the country that would embrace communism first would be Russia—it never occurred to him—nor did he ever dream that when the communists seize Russia, they would continue to expand the Russian empire just as the czars tried to do.
Karl Marx was the London correspondent for the New York Tribune. He wrote for the paper, the New York Tribune, that czarist Russia meant to seize the Middle East. It was the design and plan of the czarist government to seize the Middle East, then controlled, at that time, by the decaying Ottoman, the Turkish Empire. And Karl Marx wrote in 1853, quote, “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 Karl Marx has no interest in Russia more than in the United States, more than anybody else. He never dreamed that communism would ever seize Russia; he’s just writing as a correspondent for the New York Tribune.
Now as Karl Marx warmed up to his job, he sounded more and more like the editorial pages of our daily newspapers. Quote from Karl Marx: “In all essential parts, Russia has steadily, one after another, gained her ends, thanks to the ignorance, dullness, and the consequent inconsistency and cowardice of Western governments.” Karl Marx is writing that. Now the communists picked up where the czar’s left on. I’m talking about in 1917 now. And finally when Joseph Stalin divided up the world with Adolf Hitler in the Nazi-Soviet pact of 1939, the Soviet Union—look at this—the Soviet Union, as a secret clause revealed later, staked out for itself the Middle East, “This is ours,” in the Hitler-Soviet-Stalin pact. Russia from the beginning has looked to the Middle East.
Now after World War I, the British governed Palestine under a mandate—now that’s the way it was when I was a little boy, beginning about six or seven years old: the British were given the Middle East, given Palestine. Now the communist Russians thought they saw an opportunity to oust the British and to make a communists ally in a Jewish state, if they could form it there. So Russia, from the beginning, tried to create a Jewish state in the Middle East. Now can you believe that? Now in that troubled area of Arab and Jew, they succeeded in ousting the British. They succeeded in creating a Jewish state. Russia did that; Russia did that. I can’t believe such a thing; Russia did that, believing that they’d have a communist ally and state in the Middle East. So they ousted the British, and they were the first to recognize the new government, both in Russia and in the United Nations.
Dr. Chaim Weizmann, father of Zionism, was born in Russia. Moshe Sharett, leader of the Jewish delegation, was born in Russia. David Ben-Gurion—my friend whom I admired so much and visited with several times—later first prime minister of the new nation; he was born in Russia. All was arranged for the Russian communist state in the Middle East, called Israel; it was Russian! Ousting the British and the Russians are going to take it over.
Then a miracle, I mean, a miracle! The Israelis say, “If you don’t believe in miracles, you are not a realist.” That’s God’s truth. The architects of the new nation, like Ben-Gurion, Sharett, and Weizmann, elected a parliament and built a democracy in that state, where the Russians thought they would take it over as a communist government. And to make matters worse, the perky little country had the chutzpah, the gall, to start a movement of religious liberation inside Russia itself. No sooner had Israel’s first minister and ambassador to the Soviet Union, Mrs. Golda Meir, no sooner had Golda arrived with her staff in Moscow than they begin to work for religious liberty in the Soviet Union.
Thousands of Jews flocked every Sabbath 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! To this present day, never was Russia so insulted as when little perky Israel said, “We’re not going to be communist. We’re going to be democratic, and we’re going to love and befriend our friends in the West.” Now, dear me. Countdown in the Holy Land is a book written by Lester Velie, an editor of the Reader’s Digest, and I just want to quote 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.
Now that’s exactly what we’re going to read here in the Bible. What you just heard in a book that’s just off the press, the concluding paragraph in it is what we’re going to read here in the Bible. That’s it.
Now what says here in the Bible—now look at chapter 38, verse 8; chapter 38, verse 8. Ezekiel says, “These things that I am prophesying here in these two chapters will come to pass after many days, after many days” [Ezekiel 38:8]. Then he refers to them as “in the latter years; in the latter years” [Ezekiel 38:8].
Now look at verse 16: “Thou shalt come up against My people of Israel, as a cloud to cover the land; it shall be in the latter days” [Ezekiel 38:16]. Now that is a euphemism; that is a term referring to the end time. At the end of end of civilization, at the end of the world, these latter days, these latter years, that refers to this that’s coming to pass; this great invasion from the north is coming to pass at the end time, and it introduces the tribulation [Ezekiel 38:16].
When Russia comes down to invade the Holy Land, that is the beginning of the last seven years of this dispensation. And the extent of that war precipitated by Russia—when she enters into the Holy Land, when she comes down to it—is unbelievable! There’s no such thing as a battle of Armageddon; it is a war of Armageddon, and it lasts seven years [Revelation 16:16].
Now let’s look, just a moment or two, at what the Revelation says about it. In Revelation chapter 9, verse 16, “The number of the army that comes over across the Euphrates River from the east” [Revelation 16:12], that’ll be from China, from over yonder, “is 200 million men: and I heard the number of them” [Revelation 9:16], 200 million, pouring into that land from one country over yonder. And then I had you read together:
There were three unclean spirits like frogs out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet.
And these are the spirits of demons, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.
And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.
[Revelation 16:13-14, 16]
The whole world, when Russia invades the Holy Land [Ezekiel 38:39], the whole world is going to be drawn into that maelstrom. It will be an awesome confrontation. It will be the great, final war of this civilized world [Revelation 16:13-16, 19:11-21].
Now, let’s turn to what happens to that war. It’s going to last seven years. It starts with the invasion of the Holy Land from Russia [Ezekiel 38:1-3], and it ends in what we call the battle of Armageddon [Revelation 16:16], at which time God interferes [Revelation 19:11-21]. Now it describes here in chapter 39 the defeat of Russia in that invasion. Now let’s look at it. Verses 4 and 5:
Thou shalt fall upon the mountains of Israel, thou, and all thy bands, and the people that is with thee:
I will give thee unto the ravenous birds of every sort, and to the beasts of the field to be devoured.
Then, from verses 8-12, he describes the defeat of Russia [Revelation 39:8-12]. So great is that defeat that in verse 9 it says, the weapons, it will take seven years to burn the wood in those weapons that are left [Revelation 39:9], and in verse 12, it says it will take seven months to bury the dead [Revelation 39:12]. That is a vast confrontation!
And I want to show you one thing about the allies of Russia in that war and how it’s come to pass in my day. In chapter 38, verse 5, chapter 38, verse 5, there is with Russia, Persia, Ethiopia and Libya [Ezekiel 38:5]. My sweet people, I have preached in those nations. It says here, there are confederate with Russia, Iran—that’s Persia—Ethiopia, and Libya; I’ve been in those nations, I have in my lifetime.
Do you think I could preach over there now? As brave as I am, I wouldn’t even dare go to those countries now; they’d decapitate me. Yeah! I wouldn’t do it. When I was there, I couldn’t believe my eyes when Ezekiel says Iran is going to be an enemy of us; Libya’s going to be an enemy of us; Ethiopia’s going to be an enemy of us. Today they are aligned against us, just as Ezekiel predicted [Ezekiel 38:5].
Now—man, the time’s gone! Let me close with just one thing. The defeat of Russia is an act of God. Look at 38:22; 38:22: “I will plead against him with pestilence and blood; I will rain upon him great fire and brimstone” [Ezekiel 38:22]. Sound like atomic war, doesn’t it?
Now look at 39:6 and 7; 39:6 and 7:
I will send a fire on Magog, and among them that dwell carelessly: they shall know that I am the Lord.
So will I make My holy name known in the midst of My people Israel; I will not let them pollute My holy name any more: and the nations of the world shall know that I am the Lord God.
That—and here with this I have to close—that is one of the everlasting revelations of the Word of the Lord: that God rules over life, nations, civilization, culture, the past, the future; God does it. Looks as though we do it; God does it, and that’s why always the people of the Lord can look up in encouragement. If a people will trust God, God will never let them down. He intervenes. He did in the days of Noah. Because Noah was righteous, God intervened and saved him [Genesis 7:1, 23]. He did so in the days of Israel, in the life of slavery of the Egyptians [Exodus 12:29-42]. He intervened; God delivered them, and when they came to the Red Sea, it was God that opened the way; God did it [Exodus 14:21-31].
It was God that destroyed Jericho and opened the way for His people to enter into the land of Canaan [Joshua 6:1-24]. It was God that worked with Gideon; he did not have but three hundred men against the Midianites that numbered like the sands of the sea; God did it [Judges 7:7-23]. It was God, when Hezekiah was shut up like a vise in Jerusalem [2 Kings 18:13-37], surrounded by Sennacherib and the Assyrians—Hezekiah bent and humbled himself before the Lord and laid open before God the awful threat that Sennacherib had written [2 Kings 19:8-13], and God spoke to Hezekiah, “I will defend the city” [2 Kings 19:20-34]. And the next day, the next morning, there were one hundred and eighty-five thousand soldiers that had died [2 Kings 19:35; Isaiah 37:35-36]; they were corpses, for an angel of death passed over them that night. God did it.
I wish I had time to recount the twentieth chapter of 2 Chronicles, when Jehoshaphat was faced by a vast multitude, a vast multitude of Moabites, Edomites, and Ammonites, and he stood before God, and he said, “O Lord, we have no might against this great host that cometh out against us, neither do we know what to do; but our eyes are upon Thee” [2 Chronicles 20:12]. And as they prayed before the Lord, the Lord God’s Spirit fell upon a member of the choir, Jahaziel—Jahaziel, one of the children of Asaph—and he prophesied, saying, “The battle is God’s” [2 Chronicles 20:14-15]. And they went to meet that great army with singing, singing, with singing, singing, praising God; not with armaments; singing, praising God [2 Chronicles 20:21]. And the Lord did it [2 Chronicles 20:22-24]. And the twentieth chapter says, “And they returned to Jerusalem with psalteries and harps and timbrels and with trumpets, praising God” [2 Chronicles 20:27-28]. And the eighty-third Psalm is written in keeping with that marvelous victory [Psalm 83:1-18].
That’s what Ezekiel says here. It is the intervention of God that delivers His people [Ezekiel 39:6-7]. He always does. If we just would trust Him, if America would be a righteous nation, a nation that feared God and loved the Lord, she would be impregnable and invincible and invulnerable! God would be our great Defender, if we would just turn to the Lord. Oh, that God would send a great revival among us!
We’re going to stand and sing us a hymn of appeal, and while we sing it, to give your heart to Jesus, “I have opened my heart heavenward and Christ-ward, and I want to avowal that faith in Him.” “I want to put my life in this dear church,” or “God has spoken to me and I’m answering.” On the first note of the first stanza, come and welcome. Do it while we stand and while we sing.