There is an interesting parallel involved with the term “Armageddon” in that the phrase “in Hebrew” only appears in one other instance within the book of Revelation. According to Alan Johnson, “It is better to understand the term [“Armageddon”] symbolically in the same manner as ‘in Hebrew’ in 9:11 alerts us to the symbolic significance of the name of the angel of the Abyss”[i] This is the angel of the bottomless pit, namely Abbadon in Hebrew or Apollyon in Greek. According to Kline, the technique of using a Hebrew term is called Hebraisti and was favored by John. It is also used four times in his Gospel, three of which are also place names (John 5:2; 19:13, 17). Because the book of Revelation is full of symbols, word plays, juxtapositions, and parallels, it is not too fanciful to postulate that the Holy Spirit was making a prophetic statement between these two Hebraisti.
The “Antipodal to the Abyss” argument offered by Kline further supports the “Mount of Assembly” hypothesis.[ii] This line of reasoning derives from the fact that both accounts juxtapose polar opposites in the cosmic scheme of things: the Mountain of God on one end and the pit of hell on the other. For example, the Isaiah passage contrasts the ambition, “I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God” (v.13) against “But you are brought down to Sheol, to the far reaches of the pit” (v.15). Similarly, we find in the book of Revelation’s two Hebraisti: the divine mountain and the bottomless pit—a perfect pairing of polar opposites, on the cosmic scale. This is a compelling correlation between the two accounts. Kline argues:
In short, then, we find that in Isaiah 14 and the book of Revelation there are matching antonymic pairings of har môcëd and har magedön with the pit of Hades. Within the framework of this parallelism the har môcëd of Isaiah 14:13 is the equivalent of the har magedön of Revelation 16:16 and as such is to be understood as its proper derivation and explanation. Accordingly, har magedön signifies “Mount of Assembly/Gathering” and is a designation for the supernal realm.[iii]
The evidence is compelling that the term “Armageddon” speaks well past the gathering of earthly armies for war and to a deeper supernatural battle for the cosmic Mountain of God.
The context of the assembling of the armies by demonic spirits (Revelation 16:14) is practically a word play to the “Mount of Assembly.” Furthermore, the allusion to the taunt song in Isaiah 14:12–15 creates astonishing parallels. The Hebrew phrase helel ben-shachar in verse 12, meaning “morning star, son of dawn,” has been interpreted to be varying entities, including the proper name Lucifer. Modern scholars agree that this most likely is related to Ugaritic mythology concerning Baal and Athtar.[iv] While Isaiah could be simply borrowing from local mythology for an illustration, it seems as if the prophet sees through the king of Babylon to the wicked spiritual power behind him. The book of Daniel suggests that earthly kingdoms have cosmic overlords (Daniel 10:13, 20) a paradigm that fits nicely with the Beast of Revelation who is similarly empowered by the great red dragon identified as Satan (Revelation 12:9; 13:2).
In Ugaritic lore, this usurper is argued to be Athtar, who was referred to as Venus (“morning star”), who seeks to displace Ba’al.[v] Other scholars relate this passage to an ancient Babylonian or Hebrew star-myth similar to the Greek legend of Phaethon.[vi] Even so, one can imagine that, in a cosmic sense, all of these myths stem from a common historical event, a shared memory. There was an angelic rebellion.
The New Testament is clear that angels rebelled (Matthew 25:41; Revelation 12:9), and the earth is currently under the power of a usurper (2 Corinthians 4:4; 1 John 5:19). While the king of Babylon could hardly hope to “ascend to heaven above the stars of God,” it certainly speaks to Satan’s extreme hubris. C. S. Lewis famously said, “It was through pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.”[vii] Helel Ben-Shachar’s frustrated divine ambition harkens the account of a war in heaven in Revelation 12:7–17 in which Satan is thrown to earth, suggesting “the man who made the earth tremble” (Isaiah 14:16).
In fact, this taunt song is where the popular name for the devil, Lucifer, is derived from “morning star” as it is rendered in the Latin Vulgate.[viii] During the intertestamental period, this account of the angel’s fall associated with the morning star was subsequently associated explicitly with the name Satan, as seen the Second Book of Enoch (29:4; 31:4). This association of Lucifer to Satan continued with the Church Fathers because he is represented as being “cast down from heaven” (Revelation. 12:7–10; cf. Luke 10:18).[ix] Because Peter ascribes “morning star” to Christ (2 Peter 1:19) and the fact that it is also a title John uses for Jesus (Revelation 22:16), it has been suggested that this could be pointing to the Antichrist’s parody of Jesus.[x] Accordingly, the prefix “anti” means “instead of” as well as “against”[xi]—a fact that led Luther and Calvin to the conclusion that the papacy’s claim to Vicar of Christ amounted to self-identifying with the Greek equivalent Anti-Christos. Paul expounds on him in 2 Thessalonians 2:3–5, writing, “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.” (2 Thessalonians 2:3–5). Of course, that “temple of God” would be on Mount Zion as well.
This Antichrist figure finds his counterpart in the Hebrew Bible as Gog in Ezekiel 38–39. Much has been written associating the Magog war of Ezekiel 38–39 with the Battle of Armageddon. There are demonstrable parallels, yet seemingly, the book of Revelation explicitly places it one thousand years after Armageddon (Revelation 20:8). Amillennialists like Kline attempt to conflate the battles described in Revelation 19 and 20.[xii] Yet this lacks coherence, as Heiser points out several insurmountable difficulties to this view.[xiii] Still, both Kline and Heiser agree that Gog can be but isn’t necessarily associated with the Antichrist. However, in Revelation 20, the Antichrist has been defeated, and what is described is the release of Satan. Heiser solves this by viewing Gog as both. He writes, “I have argued that Ezekiel 38–39 will be fulfilled in two events: (1) Armageddon, which also is the fulfillment of Daniel 11:40–45; and (2) the subsequent, separate battle of Revelation. 20:7–9.”[xiv] Thus, the satanically possessed Beast of Revelation is Gog in the Battle of Armageddon, and Satan himself is Gog in the later war. Heiser also connected this to the Watchers:
Not only will the second generation Watchers be permitted to attack the holy city of Jerusalem at Armageddon, but according to Revelation 13 another Beast—the Antichrist—emerges from the Abyss prior to Armageddon. This connection with the abode of the Watchers is significant for identifying him for what he is: the incarnation of the fallen sons of God, the Watchers, the false god-man, the consummate seed of the serpent—the ultimate nephilim descendant.[xv]
Many other scholars have speculated that the Antichrist is a Nephilim. In our previous work, Exo-Vaticana, we cited an Italian Franciscan theologian and advisor to the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition in Rome, Ludovico Maria Sinistrari (1622–1701), who shared the same notion:
Now, it is undoubted by Theologians and philosophers that carnal intercourse between mankind and the Demon some- times gives birth to human beings; that is how is to be born the Antichrist, according to some Doctors, such as Bellarmin, Suarez, Maluenda, etc. They further observe that, from a natural cause, the children thus begotten by Incubi are tall, very hardy and bold, very proud and wicked.[xvi]
While Heiser argues that the Magog war is fulfilled in stages of the “already but not yet” fulfillment scenario, this present treatment suggests a similar but novel solution.
One of the better arguments against placing the Magog war prior to the Tribulation as some dispensationalists do as well as the recapitulation view of amillennialists is that Ezekiel 38 describes Israel as already completely regathered in the land (vv. 8, 12) and dwelling securely without defenses (v.11).[xvii] Because he assumes the Magog war is necessarily prior to Armageddon, Tim LaHaye wrote:
The threat of an attack will terrify Israel into turning to God for help. And their cries will not be in vain, for the Almighty will put on a demonstration of power unequaled since the plagues of Egypt and the parting of the Red Sea. The result? Israel will continue in peace and the world will know there is a God in heaven.[xviii]
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That description certainly does not apply to Israel’s current situation or to the preconditions for the Battle of Armageddon. Today, Israel is under constant threat and has very real barrier walls. It is also inconsistent with Armageddon, because it is in the latter part of the Great Tribulation. Surely after enduring the trumpet and bowl judgments, they will not be together in a secure peaceful state. Furthermore, the dry-bones prophecy of Ezekiel 37 describes Israel’s rebirth contingent with the Messiah (vv.15–28). Only then will the diaspora be completely undone and the nation at peace. This only makes sense in light of it being post-Millennium as per Revelation 20. Thus, I completely agree with Heiser that Ezekiel 38 is the satanic battle after the Millennium. However, from this point forward, an alternative is offered.
It is the proposal here that Ezekiel 38 describes the battle of Armageddon which temporally precedes the Magog war of chapter 39. This makes the players Ezekiel 38 all the more interesting. Gog, Magog, Meshech and Tubal along with “Persia, Ethiopia, and Libya with them; all of them with shield and helmet: Gomer, and all his bands; the house of Togarmah of the north quarters, and all his bands: and many people with thee.” (Ezekiel 38:5–6)
Chuck Missler did a great deal of study on the Ezekiel 38 prophecy. He identified the players as such:
- Magog is the Southern Steppes of Russia (former Soviet-Bloc countries);
- Meshech and Tubal are Turkey;
- Persia is Iran;
- Ethiopia is Southern Egypt, Sudan, Somalia;
- Libya is Libya (but it may also include Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia);
- Gomer is North-Central Turkey;
- Togarmah is Eastern Turkey.[xix]
John Weldon identifies them accordingly:
—Gog (an unidentified leader of the invasion, of the land of Magog, “the prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal.”)
—Magog (Russia and/or Central Asian Muslim nations: Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan; Russians of Scythian origin just north of the Black Sea and Caucus Mountains)
—Meshech and Tubal (cities on the southern coast of the Black Sea, referring to modern Turkey, just south of Russia, a nation which recently supported Israel but is now increasingly Islamist, cooperating with Russia)
—Persia Iran and, perhaps ironically, its ancient territory included both Shiite Iraq and also Afghanistan
—Put (Libya – a few authorities include with her, Algeria, Morocco and Tunis); Somaliland or Somalia, which borders Ethiopia.) As Dr. Mark Hitchcock observes, “Libya would certainly jump at the chance to join forces with the Sudan, Iran, Turkey, and the former Muslim republics of the Soviet Union to crush the Jewish state.”
—Gomer (Eastern Europe or portions thereof, North Central Asia minor (Turkey), possibly the Ukraine; the identification as Germany is probably incorrect.) Again, Turkey is turning increasingly Islamist and definitely part of the Ezekiel 38 coalition.
—Togarmah (Southeastern Europe, or Turkey or the South East portion of Turkey near the Syrian border; also possibly Ukraine: separated by the Black Sea, both Turkey and Ukraine have a long chronology of geographic, cultural and historic contact.)
—Cush (The Islamic Republic of Sudan, one of the most militant Islamic nations on earth; and possibly Ethiopia.)
—The many nations with you—additional nations not cited who are allied with the Russian confederation.[xx]
This brief survey of the nations of the ancient world surrounding Israel and their modern political equivalents was designed to highlight two truths. First, that the modern Islamic states do correspond to Israel’s ancient enemies—nations that are the subject of yet unfulfilled prophetic oracles. Second, that we need not twist such prophecies to target modern political villains, like the former Soviet Union. The Israeli-Muslim feud is both more rational, and more biblical.[xxi]
While the traditional view is that chapter 39 is restatement of 38, this is a tacit acknowledgement that chapter 38 can stand alone as a complete battle. [xxii] Furthermore, chapter 39 is inaugurated with a new “thus says the Lord God.” This paper suggests that chapters 38–39 are two distinct wars for the following seven reasons: One, Gog and his armies are described as brought out to battle at the beginning of each chapter in unique circumstances (38:4–9; cf. 39:2). Two, chapter 38 clearly states that the land was restored from war (v.8). It is suggested that this refers to the Ezekiel 39/Armageddon war. Three, the chapter 38 war ties together with the post-Millennium release of Satan (Revelation.20:7–10; cf. Ezekiel 38:16, 22) and the White Throne judgment (Revelation 20:11–15) with “I will enter into judgment with him” (Ezekiel 38:22). Four, the nations will know that their defeat was by the Lord and that Israel will know the Lord from that day forward (39:21–22). This arguably convenes the inauguration of the Millennium. Five, the nations will understand why Israel was exiled and abandoned by God (39:23). This explains the Tribulation. Six, the Lord will restore and gather Israel (39:25–27). This seems to be concurrent with the return of Christ in Ezekiel 37:15–28 and Zechariah 12:9, and is necessarily a precursor to the chapter 38 war. Seven, Israel knows their God from that day forward and God never hides His face from them again (39:28–29 cf. Revelation 20:6). Consequently, the prerequisite “regathered and secure” status of Ezekiel 38 (Revelation. 20) is arguably the result of the previous Ezekiel 39 (Revelation. 19) war. All that is required for one to accept is that these are two oracles which are in a non-chronological order, a contention that is hardly unprecedented.
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Enemy from the Cosmic North
In the Ezekiel 39 war, it is also compelling that Gog is described as coming “from the uppermost parts of the North” and “against the mountains of Israel” (v.2). This language strongly concurs with the “mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north” interpretation of Armageddon. Brevard Childs’ scholarship on “the enemy from the north and the chaos tradition” suggests a possible connection:
Isaiah 14:12 is a taunt against the king of Babylon and not directly related to the enemy tradition. Nevertheless, it is quite remarkable that the king who dared to “sit on the mount of assembly in the far north” is described as the one “who made the earth tremble, who shook kingdoms.”[xxiii]
It may be helpful to view it as cosmic north referring generally to the supernatural realm rather than geography. In light of the case for supernatural warriors, it is interesting to note the distinction made between his hordes and people (39:4). In the aftermath, Gog falls on the mountains of Israel. There is a massive feast of carrion for the birds (39:4; cf. 17–20), which is correlated directly with Revelation 19:17–19. There is only one time on the prophetic timeline about which one could say that God will destroy the nations who attack Jerusalem, revealing Himself to all the nations and no longer tolerate His name being profaned (Ezekiel 39:7; Zechariah 12:9; cf. Revelation. 19:15). There is really only one day that he will regather all of Israel to their land while pouring out his spirit (Ezekiel 39:29; cf. Zechariah 12:10). Because these things are established “from that day forward’ (Ezekiel 39: 22), this war will necessarily conclude just prior to the Millennium (Revelation 20:4). That necessitates that the war described in Ezekiel 39 concurs with the “narrow sense” Day of the Lord, Armageddon, or the battle of Har Mô∙ʿēḏ.
This series offered an analysis of the term “Armageddon” as it relates to eschatology and the Old Testament. After offering a brief summary of the Day of the Lord concept, we sought to illustrate the superiority of the “Mount of Assembly” interpretation over the more popular plains of Megiddo assumption. The case for the “Mount of Assembly” view was made by demonstrating its linguistic plausibility, greater geographical likelihood, and superior explanatory scope. That scope was demonstrated through prophetic connections to the Mountain of God, the Antichrist figure, and the Magog wars. Finally, a novel reading of the Ezekiel 39 war’s conflation with Revelation 19 and Zechariah 14 was offered as a separate event from the previous chapter’s account, which arguably occurs when Satan is unchained at the end of the Millennium (Revelation 20:8 cf. Ezekiel 38). In the end, it seems that these points strongly support the notion that the Battle of Armageddon is indeed the battle for Mount Zion concurrent with the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
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[i] Johnson, “Revelation,” 551.
[ii] Kline, “Har Magedon,” 208.
[iv] Michael S. Heiser, “The Mythological Provenance of Is. XVIV 12–15: A Reconsideration of the Ugaritic Material,” Vestus Testamentum LI,3, ( 2001): 356–357.
[v] Heiser, “The Mythological,” 356–357.
[vi] Kaufmann Kohler, “Lucifer,” http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=612&letter=L, accessed March 5, 2011.
[vii] C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (NY: Harper Collins. 2001), 122.
[viii]G. J. Riley, “Devil,” in Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible, 2nd extensively rev. ed. K. van der Toorn, Bob Becking, and Pieter Willem van der Horst (Leiden; Boston; Grand Rapids, MI: Brill; Eerdmans, 1999), 246.
[ix] Tertullian, Contra Marcionem, 11, 17.
[x]M. Eugene Boring, Revelation, Interpretation, a Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching (Louisville: John Knox Press, 1989), 177.
[xi] L. J. Lietaert Peerbolte, “Antichrist” in DDD, 62.
[xii] Kline, “Har Magedon,” 219.
[xiii] Heiser, Islam, 98–101.
[xiv] Ibid., 102.
[xv] Ibid., 135.
[xvi] Ludovico Sinistrari, De Daemonialitate et Incubis et Succubis (Demoniality; or, Incubi and succubi), from the original 1680 Latin manuscript translated into English (Paris, I. Liseux, 1872), 53. (The 1879 English translation of the book is available in full and for free online in scanned format by the California Digital Library here [last accessed December 4, 2012]: http://archive.org/details/ demonialityorinc00sinirich).
[xvii] Heiser, Islam, 100.
[xviii] Tim LaHaye, The Coming Peace in the Middle East (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), 7.
[xix] Chuck Missler, Ezekiel an Expositional Commentary (Coeur d’alene, ID: Koinonia House, 2008), 248–255.
[xx] John Weldon, The Ezekiel 38 Psalm 83 Prophecies: Russia, Iran and Muslim Nations in Biblical Prophecy (ATRI Publishing: 2012), 30–34.
[xxi] Heiser, Islam and Armageddon, 73.
[xxii] Ralph H. Alexander, “Ezekiel” In , in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 6: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1986), 934.
[xxiii] Childs 1959, 196.