There are many indications in prophecies of end time warfare that
these involve spiritual struggles, and the saints. Most of the popular
interpretations by dispensationalists depict these events as physical
conflicts between nations, which usually involve the Jews in Palestine,
but that viewpont may be far from correct. This article examines
indications of the spiritual nature of the end time conflicts, in
several different prophecies.
In John's vision in Revelation 19, Jesus, who has the title The Word of God, and his armies ride on white horses, and all those in his armies are clothed in white, picturing the righteousness of saints.
11 And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.
12 His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself.
13 And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God.
14 And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.
15 And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.
The "sword" that John describes coming from the mouth of Jesus is not a literal one, made of steel, and is not intended for cutting the flesh of human beings, like literal swords. Jesus makes war with his Word, contained in the Bible. Isaiah said, "And he hath made my mouth like a sharp sword;" [Isaiah 49:2] Jesus speaks of "the sword of my mouth," in Revelation 2:16.
In Psalm 83, David's prayer was that the nations who have conspired against Israel would seek the name of God. How could they do that, if the people were all killed? The nations listed are the historical enemies of Israel, over the centuries of Israel's history. They were never united against Israel at the same time. And some of them have disappeared; Amalek, for example, was to perish for ever. [Numbers 24:20]
In Zechariah 12:9, God "seeks to destroy" the nations which come
against Jerusalem. But the context shows that a spiritual war is the
subject here. The spirit of God is poured on the house of David, which
of course, no longer exists, in the literal sense. Acts 15:16
identifies the tabernacle or house of David as the church. If the
nations that come against Jerusalem repent, and seek God, they will be
blessed with the house of David.
Zechariah 14:2 says God will fight against the nations which come against Jerusalem, but this must refer to a spiritual war. The same chapter speaks of "living water" flowing from Jerusalem. It is a metaphor of the Spirit and the word of God going forh from the church. The Jerusalem in this chapter is the holy city, the church, not the literal city.
The war in heaven of Revelation 12:7 is also a spiritual battle, as it is between angels, and is not a war in which Christians fight against one another in the flesh.
Paul wrote of this spiritual warfare:
10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.
11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;
15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:
18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;
As Paul said above, the Gospel is about peace, and those who have called for an attack of Iran by the USA are enemies of the Gospel, who don't know Christ! They are of the Antichrist. Similarly, those who support, and applaud the violence of the Zionist state of Israel against Palestinians, are Antichrist, and enemies of God!
In Revelation 16, where the nations gather at Armageddon, there are indications that this too is a spiritual battle, rather than a fleshly one. First, notice that it has to do with "unclean spirits."
And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are the spirits of devils, 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. Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.
Why would Christ warn us about "keeping our garments"? Especially in this context of the battle of Armageddon? I suggest it is because this is a spiritual war, and the "garments" mentioned here are not literal garments, but symbolic, and represent the righteousness and truth that comes from Christ. Paul spoke of "having your loins girt about with truth." If we defend false theories and interpretations, we may end up in the role of Antichrist! That is what the battle of Armageddon is about. And when Jesus warns us not to go back for our clothes, in Matthew 24:18, he means don't return to our old opinions, when he reveals the truth! His warning about those who are "with child," and who "give suck" is especially to those who teach others, and the organizations responsible for their spiritual well-being, such as the various denominations, sects, and cults, and other "ministries."
In Ezekiel 38, the invaders oppose the "prophets of Israel." [Verse 17] They are the hordes of Gog and Magog. They are rained on with rain, hail, fire and brimstone, etc. In Revelation 20:8-9, this prophecy is interpreted as an attack against the church, the "camp of the saints" and the "beloved city." So again, it pictures a spiritual war. The "horses" are those who lack understanding [Psa. 32:9].
Joel 2 pictures the invaders as locusts, that destroy the promised land. It is called "God's army" and "the northern army." The exhortation is for God's people to repent.
And the LORD shall utter his voice before his army: for his camp is very great: for he is strong that executeth his word: for the day of the LORD is great and very terrible; and who can abide it? Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil.
Copyright © 2010, 2011, 2013 by Douglas E. Cox
All Rights Reserved.