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Note: This blog post is part of a series titled "Studies in the Book of Revelation." To view all parts, click the link below.
Most prophecy teachers understand that the battle of Armageddon is to be fought over control of the city of Jerusalem. They connect this battle with Jesus’ end-time prophecies in Matthew 24 and Luke 21 about tribulation and war in Jesus’ warnings to the people of Jerusalem. Luke 21:20-22 is the most specific statement in this regard:
20 But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is at hand. 21 Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are in the midst of the city depart, and let not those who are in the country enter the city; 22 because these are days of vengeance, in order that all things that are written may be fulfilled.
Jesus wept over the city, knowing that it would be destroyed. Luke 19:41-44 says,
41 And when He approached, He saw the city and wept over it, 42 saying, “If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes. 43 For the days shall come upon you when your enemies will throw up a bank before you, and surround you, and hem you in on every side, 44 and will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.
The church in Jerusalem remembered these things when they saw the approaching danger as the Roman army began to subdue the Jewish Revolt (66-73 A.D.). The church left Jerusalem at that time, moving to Pella. Bishop Eusebius tells us this in his Ecclesiastical History III, 5,
“Furthermore, the members of the Jerusalem church, by means of an oracle given by revelation to acceptable persons there, were ordered to leave the City before the war began and settle in a town in Peraea called Pella. To Pella those who believed in Christ migrated from Jerusalem.”
Jesus’ prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem, after being surrounded by armies, was strikingly fulfilled when Rome began its siege on Passover morning of 70 A.D. The city and the temple were destroyed a few months later in the same year. But this was neither the first nor the last destruction of Jerusalem.
Jeremiah prophesied of Jerusalem’s destruction 600 years earlier by the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. In Jeremiah 19 he was led by the Spirit to compare the city to an old clay jar which, once smashed, could never be remade into a new vessel (Jeremiah 19:10, 11). It seems that very few prophecy teachers today take Jeremiah seriously or even know what he said.
They are confused by the earlier prophecy in Jeremiah 18:1-10, where we read of a second clay jar that was “spoiled in the hand of the potter, so he remade it into another vessel” (Jeremiah 18:4). This prophecy, however, was not about Judah and Jerusalem, but about the house of Israel. Judah and Israel were two distinct nations during the time of the Divided Kingdom. Jeremiah pictured each nation by a different jar, one of wet clay that could be remade, the other of hardened clay that could not be repaired once it was broken.
The wet clay was Israel (Jeremiah 18:6). The hardened clay was Judah and Jerusalem (Jeremiah 19:3). The misunderstanding comes when men think that the Jews are Israel, when in fact the English word “Jew” is short for Judah. The Israelites were taken to Assyria and became the so-called “lost tribes of Israel.” The Jews were taken to Babylon, and they returned seventy years later to the old land, so they were never lost.
The prophets never confuse Judah with Israel in their prophecies, for each had a different destiny to fulfill in the divine plan. In this case, the prophet gives great hope for Israel, but gives not one word of hope for Judah and Jerusalem.
So when Jeremiah tells us that Judah and Jerusalem were to be broken “even as one breaks a potter’s vessel which cannot again be repaired” (Jeremiah 19:11), we know this applies to the Jews, not to the Israelites, for the House of Israel was to be remade into another vessel. Such a prophecy is incomprehensible if one thinks that the Jews are Israel. When the Jews named their state Israel in 1948, this solidified the confusion in the mind of historically challenged Christians.
The fact is that the state of Israel is not the remade clay vessel in Jeremiah 18:4. It does not matter what they named their nation. All that matters is what God said would happen to it. It is instead a state and a city which must fulfill the prophecy of the hardened jar in Jeremiah 19:11. The destruction of Jerusalem and the devastation of Judah in the time of Nebuchadnezzar partially fulfilled the prophecy. If the city had never been rebuilt, then and only then could it be said that the prophecy was completed, but the city was rebuilt by Nehemiah.
The city and temple existed in Jesus’ time, but Jesus spoke of its destruction. Hence, the city was again destroyed in 70 A.D., but it was later rebuilt and exists even today. Therefore, unless we are willing to admit that Jeremiah was a false prophet, we can only conclude that Jerusalem and the land of Judah—which they now call Israel—will again be destroyed, but this time the destruction will be so complete that it will never again be rebuilt.
I believe that this final destruction of the earthly Jerusalem is necessary in order to break the blindness upon the church that has made them see Hagar-Jerusalem as their spiritual mother. The bondwoman must be cast out in order that Sarah and her son can inherit the earth. As long as there is an ongoing dispute in the divine court, the Isaac company cannot lay claim to the Kingdom, nor can Sarah—the heavenly Jerusalem—be its mother.
The final war called Armageddon cannot feasibly happen apart from the destruction of Jerusalem. The main confusion in the church today lies in their refusal to see that the earthly Jerusalem is Hagar and must be cast out. Christian Zionists are the lawyers for Hagar and Ishmael in the divine court, attempting to convince God to give their clients the Kingdom.
But God has already ruled against them, and they have refused to accept His ruling. Why? Because they are the evil figs of Jeremiah 24, who are called to bring about utter destruction for refusing to comply with the ruling of the divine court. Theoretically, if they would repent and accept the Court’s ruling and submit to the calling and authority of Sarah and Isaac, they could become part of the Kingdom along with all others who place their faith in Jesus Christ, the King. But Jeremiah indicates that most of their hearts are hardened clay and must be broken.
Isaiah 29:1-6 is another prophecy that relates directly to Armageddon. Isaiah 29:1 begins,
1 Woe, O Ariel, Ariel the city where David once camped! Add year to year, observe your feasts on schedule.
Ariel is a poetic name for Jerusalem, “the city where David once camped.” The name has a double meaning, which Isaiah uses in his prophecy. First, it means “lion of God,” taken from the ariy, “lion.” Referring to David and his mighty men, it was figuratively a City of Heroes.
Secondly, it means “hearth (altar) of God,” from arieyl, which is a variant of the Hebrew word har-el, “mount of God.” (See Strong’s #741 and #2025).
The word har, of course, is also in the word Har-Megiddo (i.e., “Armageddon”). This shows the link between Isaiah 29:1 and Revelation 16:16. As we will see shortly, Jerusalem was supposed to be the lion of God, the place of heroes and victorious conquerors. It was supposed to be the mount of God’s hearth, or altar, in the sense of being the place of sacrifice to God.
However, because Jerusalem, the “City of Peace,” refused to repent, it had become “the bloody city,” a city of violence, says Ezekiel and Nahum. For this reason, the city itself was to become the sacrifice, a place of burning, even as a burnt offering was completely consumed.
Isaiah 29:2, 3 continues,
2 And I will bring distress to Ariel, and she shall be a city of lamenting and mourning; and she shall be like an Ariel [“hearth of God”] to me. 3 And I will camp against you encircling you, and I will set siegeworks against you, and I will raise up battle towers against you. 4 Then you shall be brought low…
Notice that in this siege of Jerusalem, God Himself claims credit for leading the attack. In other words, God is on the side of the attackers, or rather, the attackers are on God’s side as He turns the city into “an Ariel,” that is, an altar of sacrifice.
Isaiah 29:5 then speaks of the enemies of the city—not the attackers, but those who have occupied the city.
5 But the multitude of your enemies shall become like fine dust, and the multitude of the ruthless ones like the chaff which blows away; and it shall happen instantly, suddenly.
Here is where most people become confused, thinking that God was speaking against His own army that He was leading in the attack against Jerusalem. It is easy to make that assumption, if we do not know the legal definition of God’s enemies that is set forth in the laws of Tribulation in Leviticus 26:40-42. Moses said that if Israel became hostile to God and refused to honor their covenant with Him, then God would act with hostility toward Israel. Isaiah himself confirms this later in Isaiah 63:10, saying,
10 But they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit; therefore, He turned Himself to become their enemy. He fought against them.
When Israel or Judah fights against God and remains hostile toward the One sent by God, then God becomes “their enemy” and fights against them! This is what is happening in Isaiah 29:3. God and Jerusalem are pictured as “enemies.” God has raised up His armies to fight against Jerusalem, and He is the One leading the armies as they lay siege to Jerusalem.
The same scene is given in Jesus’ parable in Matthew 22:7, where God lays siege to Jerusalem on account of the rejection of the invitation to the wedding feast.
7 But the king was enraged and sent his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and set their city on fire.
While this parable was primarily a prophecy about God’s Roman army destroying Jerusalem in 70 A.D., it sets forth the same scene in Isaiah 29 and, as Jeremiah 19:11 says, in the final destruction of Jerusalem at the end of the age.
Isaiah 29:6 continues,
6 From the Lord of hosts you [Jerusalem] will be punished with thunder and earthquake and loud noise, with whirlwind and tempest and the flame of a consuming fire.
Most people—by assuming that the “enemies” are those attacking Jerusalem—teach that God will turn and destroy His own army during the siege. But that is ludicrous, in light of verse 4, where God tells Jerusalem, “you shall be brought low… and your speech shall whisper from the dust.” This is not a scene where Jerusalem comes out victorious. It is scene of destruction. Further, the description of this destruction probably indicates a nuclear war, with people becoming “like fine dust” and “chaff which blows away.” This happens “instantly, suddenly” (vs. 5) and “with thunder and earthquake and loud noise, with whirlwind and tempest and the flame of a consuming fire” (vs. 6).
What better description could a prophet from that time period give of a nuclear explosion? And does this not also describe the scene in Matthew 22:7, where God “set their city on fire”?
Only after describing the city’s destruction does God then begin to speak about His army that was raised up against Jerusalem. Isaiah 29:7 says,
7 And the multitude of all the nations who wage war against Ariel, even all who wage war against her and her stronghold, and who distress her, shall be like a dream, a vision of the night.
Take note that God does not destroy these “nations who wage war against Ariel.” In fact, His words seem almost anticlimactic. It will only be “like a dream.” In what way? Isaiah 29:8 says,
8 And it will be as when a hungry man dreams—and behold, he is eating; but when he awakens, his hunger is not satisfied, or as when a thirsty man dreams—and behold, he is drinking, but when he awakens, behold, he is faint, and his thirst is not quenched. Thus the multitude of all the nations shall be, who wage war against Mount Zion.
In other words, these armies whom God has raised up to “wage war against Ariel” have been motivated by “hunger” and “thirst” in some way. Insofar as the Muslim nations are concerned, they are hungry to obtain the land for themselves and to push the Israelis into the sea. But their “dream” will not be fulfilled, for when they awake, they will still be hungry and thirsty.
Because of the utter destruction—which I believe is nuclear—no one will get the land. There will be too much radiation from the fallout for anyone to live there. In that way, Jeremiah 19:11 will be fulfilled. When the city is destroyed as an old earthen vessel that cannot be repaired, and when the land becomes “like Tophet,” which means “burning” (Jeremiah 19:12), it will not be habitable for anyone.
And so, the armies that God raises up in His siege of Jerusalem are motivated by the desire to own and inhabit the land itself. This is their “dream,” but when they awake, they will still be hungry and thirsty. If they had known that Jerusalem is Hagar, and that Hagar cannot be the mother of the Kingdom, they might have understood that the earthly Jerusalem must be cast out in favor of the heavenly Jerusalem, which is the true City of Peace.
This destruction of Jerusalem, I believe, will coincide with the overthrow of Babylon, because the citizens, sons, and supporters of the earthly Jerusalem—being carnal, rebellious, and hostile to Jesus Christ—“shall not be an heir with the son of the free woman” (Galatians 4:30).
The fate of Jerusalem is bound up in the fate of Babylon.
Note: This blog post is part of a series titled "Studies in the Book of Revelation." To view all parts, click the link below.