FOCUS OF CHAPTER
The events leading up to the war of Armageddon
1, 2. (a) What evidence shows that our King has been ruling since 1914? (b) What will we consider in this chapter?
IT HAS been faith-strengthening to review what God’s Kingdom has accomplished in the midst of its enemies. (Ps. 110:2) Our King has raised up an army of willing preachers. He has cleansed and refined his followers spiritually and morally. And despite all efforts of enemies of the Kingdom to divide us, we enjoy worldwide unity today. These and the many other Kingdom accomplishments we have considered provide overwhelming evidence that since 1914, our King has been ruling in the midst of enemies of the Kingdom.
2 The Kingdom will do even more amazing things in the near future. It will “come” to “crush and put an end” to its enemies. (Matt. 6:10; Dan. 2:44) But before that time arrives, other significant events will take place. What are they? Several Bible prophecies address that question. Let us examine some of those prophecies to see what events still lie ahead of us.
Precursor of “Sudden Destruction”
3. What is the first development that we are awaiting?
3 Proclaiming peace. In writing to the Thessalonians, the apostle Paul described the first development that we are awaiting. (Read 1 Thessalonians 5:2, 3.) In this letter Paul mentions “Jehovah’s day,” which will begin with the attack on “Babylon the Great.” (Rev. 17:5) However, just before Jehovah’s day begins, nations will be saying, “Peace and security!” This expression may refer to one pronouncement or to a series of notable statements. Will religious leaders be involved? Since they are part of the world, they will possibly join the nations in saying, “There is peace!” (Jer. 6:14; 23:16, 17; Rev. 17:1, 2) This proclaiming of peace and security will signal that the day of Jehovah is about to begin. Enemies of God’s Kingdom “will by no means escape.”
4. How do we benefit from understanding the significance of Paul’s prophecy about the proclamation of peace and security?
4 How do we benefit from understanding the significance of this prophecy? Paul states: “You are not in darkness, so that the day should overtake you as it would thieves.” (1 Thess. 5:3, 4) Unlike people in general, we discern where current events are heading. In exactly what manner will this prophecy about peace and security be fulfilled? We must wait and see how the world scene develops. Therefore, “let us stay awake and keep our senses.”—1 Thess. 5:6; Zeph. 3:8.
The Great Tribulation Begins
5. What will be the opening phase of the “great tribulation”?
5 Attack on religion. Recall that Paul wrote: “Whenever it is that they are saying, ‘Peace and security!’ then sudden destruction is to be instantly on them.” Just as a flash of lightning is closely followed by the crash of thunder, so the time of saying “Peace and security!” will be instantly followed by “sudden destruction.” What will be destroyed? First, “Babylon the Great,” the world empire of false religion, also known as “the prostitute.” (Rev. 17:5, 6, 15) This destruction of Christendom and all other false religious organizations forms the opening phase of the “great tribulation.” (Matt. 24:21; 2 Thess. 2:8) For many, this event will come as a surprise. Why? Because up to that point, the prostitute will think of herself as a “queen” who will “never see mourning.” But she will suddenly discover that her confidence is misplaced. She will be removed quickly, as if “in one day.”—Rev. 18:7, 8.
6. Who or what will carry out the attack against “Babylon the Great”?
6 Who or what will carry out the attack against “Babylon the Great”? A “wild beast” with “ten horns.” The book of Revelation indicates that this wild beast refers to the United Nations (UN). The ten horns represent all present political powers that support this “scarlet-colored wild beast.” (Rev. 17:3, 5, 11, 12) How devastating will the attack be? The nations of the UN will plunder the prostitute’s wealth, devour her, and “completely burn her.”—Read Revelation 17:16. *
7. How were Jesus’ words at Matthew 24:21, 22 fulfilled in the first century C.E., and what fulfillment will they have in the future?
7 Cutting short the days. Our King revealed what will occur at this point during the great tribulation. Jesus stated: “On account of the chosen ones those days will be cut short.” (Read Matthew 24:21, 22.) Jesus’ words were fulfilled on a small scale in 66 C.E. when Jehovah “cut short” the Roman army’s attack on Jerusalem. (Mark 13:20) That action allowed Christians in Jerusalem and Judea to be saved. What will then happen on a global scale during the coming great tribulation? Jehovah, by means of our King, will “cut short” the United Nations’ attack on religion so that the true religion will not be destroyed with the false. Thus, while all false religious organizations will be torn down, the one true religion will survive. (Ps. 96:5) Let us now consider what events will occur after this part of the great tribulation has passed.
Events Leading Up to Armageddon
8, 9. To what phenomena may Jesus have referred, and how will people react to what they observe?
8 Jesus’ prophecy about the last days indicates that several significant developments will take place during the time leading up to Armageddon. The first two events that we will consider are both mentioned in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke.—Read Matthew 24:29-31; Mark 13:23-27; Luke 21:25-28.
9 Celestial phenomena. Jesus foretells: “The sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven.” Certainly the religious leaders will not be looked to for light—they will no longer be identified as such. Was Jesus also referring to a supernatural manifestation in the heavens? Perhaps he was. (Isa. 13:9-11; Joel 2:1, 30, 31) How will people react to what they observe? They will be in “anguish” because of “not knowing the way out.” (Luke 21:25; Zeph. 1:17) Yes, enemies of God’s Kingdom—from ‘kings to slaves’—will grow “faint out of fear and expectation of the things coming” and will run for cover. Yet, they will find no hiding place secure enough for them to escape the wrath of our King.—Luke 21:26; 23:30; Rev. 6:15-17.
10. What judgment will be pronounced by Jesus, and how will supporters and opposers of God’s Kingdom react to it?
10 Pronouncement of judgment. All enemies of God’s Kingdom will then be forced to witness an event that will intensify their agony. Jesus states: “They will see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.” (Mark 13:26) This supernatural display of power will signal that Jesus has come to pronounce judgment. In another part of this same prophecy about the last days, Jesus gives more details about the judgment that will be pronounced at this time. We find that information in the parable of the sheep and the goats. (Read Matthew 25:31-33, 46.) Loyal supporters of God’s Kingdom will be judged as “sheep” and will “lift up [their] heads,” realizing that their “deliverance is getting near.” (Luke 21:28) However, Kingdom opposers will be judged as “goats” and will “beat themselves in grief,” realizing that “everlasting cutting-off” awaits them.—Matt. 24:30; Rev. 1:7.
11. What should we keep in mind as we consider coming events?
11 After Jesus pronounces his judgment on “all the nations,” several significant events are still to occur before the war of Armageddon begins. (Matt. 25:32) We will consider two of those events: the attack of Gog and the gathering of anointed ones. As we examine those two events, we need to keep in mind that God’s Word does not reveal the exact timing of these events. In fact, it seems likely that one will overlap the other to some extent.
12. What will be Satan’s all-out battle against the Kingdom?
12 An all-out attack. Gog of Magog will attack the remaining anointed ones and their other sheep companions. (Read Ezekiel 38:2, 11.) This attack against established Kingdom rule will be Satan’s last battle in a war that he has been waging against the anointed remnant since his expulsion from heaven. (Rev. 12:7-9, 17) Especially since the anointed ones began to be gathered into the restored Christian congregation, Satan has tried to destroy their spiritual prosperity—but to no avail. (Matt. 13:30) However, at the time when all false religious organizations are gone and God’s people are seemingly living “unprotected by walls, bars, or gates,” Satan will see a golden opportunity. He will incite his wicked enforcers to move in for an all-out attack on those who are Kingdom supporters.
13. How will Jehovah intervene in behalf of his people?
13 Ezekiel describes what will happen. Regarding Gog, the prophecy states: “You will come from your place, from the remotest parts of the north, you and many peoples with you, all of them riding on horses, a great assembly, a vast army. Like clouds covering the land, you will come against my people.” (Ezek. 38:15, 16) What will be Jehovah’s response to this seemingly unstoppable invasion? “My great rage will flare up,” declares Jehovah. “I will call for a sword.” (Ezek. 38:18, 21; read Zechariah 2:8.) Jehovah will intervene in behalf of his servants on earth. That intervention is the war of Armageddon.
14, 15. What other event will occur at some point after the beginning of Satan’s all-out attack?
14 Before we move forward in time to consider how Jehovah will defend his people during the war of Armageddon, let us pause for a moment and examine another significant event. This one will occur at some point between the beginning of Satan’s all-out attack and the beginning of Jehovah’s intervention at Armageddon. As noted in paragraph 11, this second event is the gathering of the remaining ones of the anointed remnant.
15 Gathering of anointed ones. Both Matthew and Mark recorded Jesus’ statement about the “chosen ones”—spirit-anointed Christians—as part of a series of events that will occur before the outbreak of Armageddon. (See paragraph 7.) Speaking about himself as King, Jesus prophesies: “Then he will send out the angels and will gather his chosen ones together from the four winds, from earth’s extremity to heaven’s extremity.” (Mark 13:27; Matt. 24:31) To what act of gathering is Jesus here referring? He is not speaking about the final sealing of the remnant of anointed Christians, which will occur just before the great tribulation begins. (Rev. 7:1-3) Instead, Jesus refers to an event that will take place during the coming great tribulation. Thus, apparently at some point after the start of Satan’s all-out attack on God’s people, anointed ones who still remain on earth will be gathered to heaven.
16. What share will the resurrected anointed ones have in the war of Armageddon?
16 How does this gathering of the anointed remnant relate to the event that will occur next, Armageddon? The timing of the gathering indicates that all anointed ones will be in heaven before God’s war of Armageddon begins. In heaven, the 144,000 corulers with Christ will receive authority to share with Jesus in wielding “an iron rod” of destruction against all enemies of God’s Kingdom. (Rev. 2:26, 27) Then, together with powerful angels, the resurrected anointed ones will follow Christ, the Warrior-King, as he sets out to confront the “vast army” of enemies that is closing in on its prey—Jehovah’s people. (Ezek. 38:15) When that violent confrontation takes place, the war of Armageddon is on!—Rev. 16:16.
The Grand Finale of the Great Tribulation
17. What will happen to “the goats” during Armageddon?
17 Execution of judgment. The war of Armageddon will be the finale of the great tribulation. At that point, Jesus will take on an added task. Besides being the Judge of “all the nations,” he will also become the Executioner of nations—that is, of all the people whom he had earlier judged as “goats.” (Matt. 25:32, 33) With “a sharp, long sword,” our King will “strike the nations.” Yes, all goatlike ones—from “kings” to “slaves”—“will depart into everlasting cutting-off.”—Rev. 19:15, 18; Matt. 25:46.
18. (a) How will the tables turn for “the sheep”? (b) How will Jesus complete his victory?
18 How the tables will have turned for those whom Jesus judged as “sheep”! Instead of being nearly trampled underfoot by Satan’s vast army of “goats,” “a great crowd” of seemingly defenseless “sheep” will survive the enemy attack and will “come out of the great tribulation.” (Rev. 7:9, 14) Then, after Jesus has conquered and removed all human enemies of God’s Kingdom, he will hurl Satan and his demons into the abyss. There they will be kept in a deathlike, inactive state for a thousand years.—Read Revelation 6:2; 20:1-3.
How to Prepare Ourselves
19 How can we prepare ourselves for the earthshaking events that are to come? The Watchtower stated some years ago: “Survival will depend on obedience.” Why is that so? The answer is found in a warning from Jehovah to the captive Jews living in ancient Babylon. Jehovah foretold that Babylon would be conquered, but what were God’s people to do to prepare themselves for that event? Jehovah stated: “Go, my people, enter your inner rooms, and shut your doors behind you. Hide yourself for a brief moment until the wrath has passed by.” (Isa. 26:20) Note the verbs in this verse: “go,” “enter,” “shut,” “hide”—all are in the imperative mood; they are commands. The Jews who heeded those commands would have stayed in their houses, away from the conquering soldiers out in the streets. Hence, their survival depended on obeying Jehovah’s instructions. *
20 What is the lesson for us? As in the case of those ancient servants of God, our survival of coming events will depend on our obedience to Jehovah’s instructions. (Isa. 30:21) Such instructions come to us through the congregation arrangement. Therefore, we want to develop heartfelt obedience to the guidance we are receiving. (1 John 5:3) If we do so today, we will be more inclined to obey willingly in the future and thus receive the protection of our Father, Jehovah, and our King, Jesus. (Zeph. 2:3) That divine protection will allow us to witness firsthand how God’s Kingdom will completely remove its enemies. What an unforgettable event that will be!
^ par. 6 It seems reasonable that the destruction of “Babylon the Great” refers mainly to the destruction of the religious institutions, not to a wholesale slaughter of all religious people. Hence, most of Babylon’s former adherents will survive that destruction and, at least openly, will then likely try to distance themselves from religion, as indicated at Zechariah 13:4-6.
^ par. 19 For more information, see Isaiah’s Prophecy—Light for All Mankind I, pages 282-283.