The End of the War
Based on the 3rd of 5 Messages on The War of Ages by Rev. Chris Coleborn at the 7th PCC Annual Conference, 6-10 Jun 2006
We continue with a panoramic view of the important Biblical theme: ‘The War’.
How will this war, the war deciding the issues of the universe, finally end? Do we know? Can we be sure?
Yes, we can know, and from the very beginning we have been able to glimpse of how it will end.
Let us consider our subject under the following headings:
The End Foretold and Pictured in the Old Testament
The End Seen in Jesus’ Time
The End Prophesied in the New Testament
1. The End Foretold & Pictured in the Old Testament
The great War of all Ages is not only a major theme of Scripture, but also the end of that war!
Consider Genesis 3:15. You will recall we read the Lord speaking, and foretelling what is to happen to the Seed of the Woman and to the Serpent – the two great antagonists in this war. The Seed of the Woman, the Lord says to the Serpent, "… shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel."
How is this statement a glimpse of how the enmity of the ages will draw to a close? Calvin points out that in the two parties at conflict here, they are shown as a superior and an inferior force. For the serpent can only seize the heel of the seed of the woman, (the promised man to come – Jesus of Nazareth), while that man can crush the head of the serpent (the one who is the head of all evil and darkness and the war against God). One wound is fatal, the other a wound that can be healed and from which the man will recover.
So, when the two antagonists finally engage in the crucial battle that decides the outcome of the war, the Lord promises that the Serpent and his seed will be fatally crushed, even though in doing it the promised Seed of the Woman will be hurt. Yet the Seed of the Woman will recover and live. Victory is clearly implied in this. The winning side is that of the Seed of the Woman.
The end of this war is also pictured in various ways in the wars that took place in the times of the Judges and Kings of Israel and Judah, and the victories they won.
We need to digress for a moment here to consider how you and I, who are Christians, can be certain that these wars are pictures for us of the final end of the conflict we are examining. Aren’t they just historical wars of ancient Israel? Aren’t we New Testament non-Jews? How do we know these ancient wars and their results are relevant for us? From the principle of the unity of the covenant we see there is one history of the church of Jesus Christ that began at the foundation of the world. There is one Saviour for that church of all ages. There is one faith in all ages. There is one way of salvation. This principle is taught in various places in Scripture.
For example, in Genesis 9:25-27 we read in part,
"Cursed be Canaan … Blessed be the LORD God of Shem … God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem …"
Japheth was the ancestor of the Indo-European people. Generally they were what are called the Gentiles in the Bible. It is said that Japheth will come and dwell in the tents of Shem. Shem is the ancestor of the Semitic people, from which the Israelites descend. To dwell in the tents of someone means to enter into their inheritance, adopt their history, beliefs, and life. This means that those of us who are Christians descending from Japheth, have come to dwell in the tents of Shem. Our faith is an inheritance from the children of Israel, the children of Shem. Our Saviour, Jesus Christ was a Shemite. Our Bible was written almost entirely by Shemites. Our religious thought-forms, vocabulary, sacraments, worship, and church-government – all have come to us, humanly speaking via Israel – the tents of Shem.
Thus the faith of the Japethite race is not indigenous to them [Ed. note: Neither is it indigenous to Chinese, whom many scholars believe to have descended from Shem, though not from Israel. We too were Gentiles, strangers to the Covenant]. We are adopted into the covenant people of God.
This principle is also taught in Romans 11:13-18. The Lord by Paul in Romans 11:13-18 uses the picture of us as wild olive branches being grafted into the root stock of the natural olive tree of Israel. Once we were not of that tree, but now by the wondrous grace and work of God, we are grafted onto that tree. Its life is our life. Its history is our history. Its fathers and mothers are our fathers and mothers. Its prophets, priests and kings are our prophets, priests and kings. By faith we are the seed of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob even if not by the flesh.
A similar teaching is found in Ephesians 2:11-22, where we, who were Gentiles once,
"… were without Christ, … aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world … are made neigh by the blood of Christ … who has made both (Israelite and Gentile in Christ Jesus) one … now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the … household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets …"
Now, how does this apply to seeing how this great conflict of the universe will end? J.G. Vos, in an article he wrote called, "Ashamed of the Tents of Shem", says,
"The objection is raised that these ancient persons (found in the Psalms and Old Testament) have no connection with us today. They are just a lot of dusty history from two or three thousand years ago. Why should we sing about Zeba and Zalmunna? (Psalm 83 & cf Judges 8) It sounds as if we were to sing about Hokus and Pokus … So runs the objection. But wait. After all, do Zeba and Zalmunna have nothing to do with us today? If we are attached to the Biblical (faith) we will realize that they have a lot to do with us today. Our (faith) did not drop to us out of the sky directly from God. He gave it to us through history, and that, the history of Israel. The history of Israel was a history of redemption by the almighty power of God; it was a history of overcoming powerful enemies by the almighty power of God. The enemies were real; they were contemporary manifestations of Satan’s kingdom. They were terribly real. But they were crushed by the wonder-working power of almighty God, the covenant God, Jehovah, the God of Israel. This was the importance of Zeba and Zalmunna.
Our (faith) today, if it is Biblical Christianity, is a religion of overcoming powerful enemies by the supernatural, almighty power of God. We should always think, when we read or sing about Zeba and Zalmunna, of how salvation is not by our might, nor by our power, but by the almighty power, the supernatural grace, of God.
The relevance of the Old Testament and its history for us today as Christians is clearly taught in Scripture, such as Romans 15:4—
"For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we thorough patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope."
So, it all means this. When we read in Judges 8, how the Midianites, and their kings Zeba(h) and Zalmunna invaded the land of the Messiah and devastated it, and Gideon fought them and won a great victory, it was a picture of the triumph of the cause of God over that of what was a manifestation of the kingdom of evil and Satan. It was a reminder of the final victory of the Lord over all His and our enemies. That is how it will end also in the matter of the great war of the cosmos. All the battles we read of in the Old Testament were witnessing to this fact and end.
Psalm 83 makes this clear too. The war between the Lord and His people and the opposing side is the gist of the song. Zeba and Zalmunna, among others, are seen as a type of the enemy, and their end a picture of the end of all the enemies of the Lord who is King over all.
So too, the Exodus out of Egypt (Ex, Lev & Dt) David and Goliath (1 Sam 17), Elijah and the prophets of Baal on the top of Mount Carmel (cf 1 Kgs 18), Daniel and his companions in captivity, (Dan) God’s people in the days of Esther (Esth), etc.
We can see too this principle of one history and how the Old Testament battles are relevant to New Testament believers illustrated in the matter of Armageddon. The term "Armageddon" is found in Revelation 16:16. It is connected with the end of the world and the great battles of heaven and earth between the forces of the Lord and the forces of evil. In the verses 13-16 we read in part,
"And I saw … unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon … for they are the spirits of devils …which go forth unto the … whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty. Behold, I come as a thief… And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon."
Most people, even unbelievers who know little of the Bible, realize this term Armageddon has to do with the end of the world, or a great battle of destruction.
But from where does this term come? The text says it is Hebrew, and so it is. Literally it is two words, Har & Megiddo. In Hebrew Har means mountain, and Megiddo, of course refers to a mountain and its valley in the land of Northern Israel. If you turn to a map of the land of Israel, (back of your Bibles), find Mt Carmel on the coast, and follow the river Kishon that flows into the Mediterranean just above Mt Carmel upstream, you come to the Plain of Megiddo just south of the River and Plain and to Mt Megiddo. A city, also called Megiddo was built there.
Now why does the Lord by the Spirit of Jesus move John the Apostle to write down in the last book of the Bible, about the last great Battle, that it is like Mount Megiddo? This! When you turn to Judges 4 and 5 we read of how Jabin king of Canaan and the general of his army Sisera (probably Egyptian), attacked the children of Israel, and mightily oppressed them twenty years.
The Lord then, by Deborah, His prophetess, called upon the armies of Israel and their general, Barak, to gather by the River Kishon, on the Plain of Megiddo, under the shadow of Mount Megiddo, (Judges 5:19), for a great battle with this enemy. God promised by her that He would grant His people a great victory over the enemy. And so it was, that the army of the Lord, and God Himself and His awesome Spirit beings – the angels- fought from heaven (5:20), which nicely illustrates the spiritual behind the physical. A great victory was won over seemingly impossible odds.
This Old Testament, historical battle, (you can still visit the battlefield today), was a type and picture of the last great battle. The result of this earthly battle, victory for God’s people under the Captain of the Lord’s armies, is going to be the result of the last battle of Armageddon too!
William Hendrickson in his commentary on the Book of Revelation puts it this way,
"…Har-Megedon is the symbol of every battle in which, when the need is greatest and believers are oppressed, the Lord suddenly reveals His power in the interest of His distressed people and defeats the enemy. When Sennacherib’s 185,000 are slain by the angel of Jehovah, that is a shadow of the final Har-Magedon. When God grants a little handful of Maccabees a glorious victory over an enemy which far out-numbers it, that is a type of Har-Megedon. …
That final tribulation and that appearance of Christ on clouds of glory to deliver His people, that is Har-Magedon." (More than Conquerors [Tyndale, 1969], 163).
So the end of the War of all Ages was prefigured in the results of various of the wars fought in the Old Testament, in which God granted a wonderful victory to His people. This is not a fantasy; it is rooted in the acts of God in history and reality, in time and space.
2. The End Seen in Jesus’ Time
Where in the Bible do we read of the most demonic activity? Where do we read of the most fierce and most appalling onslaughts of evil, spiritual beings, upon the souls, minds and bodies of people? It is in the day and hour that Christ Jesus appeared on earth and came among us. In the life and times of Jesus of Nazareth, our Saviour, we find the most acute and furious confrontation between the forces of light and life on one side and of darkness and death on the other side. It is at this point in history that the battle of all ages raged most furiously, and where the issues were decided.
When we read in the Gospels that Jesus confronted the powers and forces of darkness, and see what the results were, we truly get to see a preview of what the final end is.
Let us just consider a couple of incidents that show us something, from Jesus’ confrontation with evil in the War of all Ages, of how it is all going to end.
You recall how we noted from Revelation 12 where the war in heaven is described, and Satan is defeated and cast out of heaven? Well, this fall from heaven is also spoken of by Jesus while on earth. In Luke 10:17-18 we read of the return of the seventy sent out to take the message of His salvation and victory over evil and death to the people, and they report that "even the devils are subject unto us through Thy name."
Now note the significance of Jesus’ words in verse 18, "I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven."
The life and work of the Lord Jesus while on earth already shows us what the end will be. This truth is well expressed by the Bible commentator Norval Geldenhuys in his commentary on the Gospel of Luke. He writes:
"Here Jesus explains the reason why the demons submitted to the disciples: the might of Satan, the prince of all diabolical powers, is already broken. When Jesus utterly rejected the temptations of the devil (Luke 4:1-13), the victory over (the devil’s) power had already been won. Throughout the Saviour’s public ministry this victory was revealed in the liberation of those possessed of the devil and in other manifestations of His power. … Satan is a conquered enemy…" (Commentary on the Gospel of Luke [Marshall Morgan & Scott, 1965], 302).
Another way the end of The War can be glimpsed in the life and times of Jesus among us on earth, is found in the incident recorded in Matthew 8:28-34, Mark 5:1-20 & Luke 8:26-39. It is the incident of the Gadarene man possessed of demons. In the Matthew account, verse 29, the awful cry of the devils is recorded when Jesus cast them out of the man.
"Jesus, thou Son of God … art thou come hither to torment us before the time?"
And in Luke 8:31, we read that the devils…
"…besought (Jesus) that he would not command them to go out into the deep – the abyss or bottomless pit."
Isn’t this amazing? In the face of Jesus’ ministry, who He was and His power, the devils already concede defeat. Already they recognize that the great prison house of eternity await them. Surely this is a powerful witness and promise to how the great war of the cosmos will end. It will end in the defeat of all darkness, death and sorrow, and the evil and evil one and his seed that have brought it and lived by it.
Hendrikson, commenting upon the Mark passage says,
"The demonic world realizes that on the day of the final judgment its relative freedom to roam about on earth and in the sky above it must cease forever, and that its final and most terrible punishment is destined to begin at that time. … (They) know that right now (they) are speaking to the One to whom the final judgment has been committed, (they) are afraid that even now – ‘before the appointed time’ – Jesus might hurl (them) … into ‘abyss’ or ‘dungeon’, that is, into hell, …" (Commentary on Mark [BOT, 1975], 191).
We also read in Revelation 12 verse 12 these words:
"Woe to the inhabitors of the earth and of the sea! For the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time."
Remember this too, when Jesus cried out from the cross, "It is finished!" (cf John 19:30), it was not the gasps of defeat of a worn out life. It is a victorious cry in the universe of how at last the head of the serpent has been crushed, even at the cost of God in human nature being bruised in an infinite, but healable way.
Yes, truly in the life and times of Jesus of Nazareth, God in flesh among us, we see the pledge of the end of the war, and that of final victory for the Seed of the Woman.
3. The End Prophesied in the New Testament
In various ways the end of the war of the universe is foretold or prophesied in Scripture. Apart from the pictures and types in the Old Testament, and the promise of a new heaven and earth wherein dwells righteousness (cf Isa 65:17-15), there are the statements and prophecies of the New Testament.
Jesus clearly foretold of the end of the great war when there is going to be a great cataclysmic event resulting in the end of the world as we now know it. It will happen when He comes in great power and glory with His invincible army of angelic super beings. We read of this end in various places – in the Gospels especially. For example, in Matthew 24:29-31 & 25:31-34 & 41 we read:
"Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: and then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
"When the Son of man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory: and before Him shall be gathered all nations: and He shall separate them one form another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: and he shall set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on His right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: … Then He will say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: … "
Jesus and the apostles in the Gospels and the Letters of the New Testament specifically spoke of the end of the conflict in the universe and of the enemy, the Devil. (See for example, Matthew 24:14, Luke 21:9, 1 Corinthians 15:24, 1 Peter 4:7 etc).
In the letters of the New Testament we find the promise or foretelling of the end of the conflict too, and the victory of the Lord Jesus. One example can be found in 2 Thessalonians 2:7-9 where we read,—
"For the mystery of iniquity doth already work … until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of His mouth and shall destroy with the brightness of His coming: even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders …
The conclusion found in the letters of the New Testament, can be summed up in the words of Titus 2:13, "Looking for that a blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ …"
The end of this Great War is also clearly prophesied, as I am sure you realize, in many places of the book of Revelation. Time will only allow us to look briefly at the message here.
This is a book in many ways of the "Last Battle". In Revelation 18 we read of the Dragon and Beast and their kingdom which is called Babylon. (cf From the tower of Babel in Genesis – man in rebellion under the influence of the Dragon against God). In verse 14 we read how they make war with the Seed of the Woman, called here the Lamb.
"These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with Him are called, and chosen, and faithful."
In Chapter 18:2 & 20-21 the final end of the kingdom of darkness and of evil and the Evil one, called Babylon, is described.
"And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit …
"Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye holy apostles and prophets; for God hath avenged you on her. And a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying, Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all."
In contrast to Babylon and its king the Dragon, the kingdom of the Lamb, or Christ Jesus, called the New Jerusalem, comes down from God out of heaven, beautiful and victorious (cf Revelation 21).
The glorious victory of the Seed of the Woman, and the establishment of an everlasting kingdom of peace and righteousness is described in verses 3-4,—
"I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And He said unto me, Write: for there words are true and faithful."
The prophesied end of the war in the New Testament is outstandingly clear. Jesus as King of kings and Lord of lords is the winner. He and His are the winning side. His kingdom is that which shall be established for ever to remain. A kingdom of perfect life and happiness – a land of grace and glory where we are forever with the Lord.
There is another aspect of how the war may come to an end for the soldiers under the cross of Jesus. I should mention too, if the second coming of the Lord does not come in our life time, the war may end personally for us when the Lord calls us to glory. The war will end for us that day we are called to cross over the river from this wilderness and war zone into the Promised Land of the Messiah - Emmanuel’s country. There we enter the dominion of peace and rest forever more.
Something of this personal end of war for the Christian, of the day coming when the burden of responsibility to be a good soldier always on duty and fighting the good fight of faith, will at last be over. No more will there be the need to study the practice of war. We can lay down our heavy load at last and study war no more!
So it is that we may certainly know how and when this war will end. The Scriptures from beginning to end, and the whole course of history points to the victory of Jesus Christ.
This being so, how very important and precious it is to be on His side. How vital it is to belong in a real and sincere way to Him and His army. Are you a soldier of Christ Jesus? Are you fighting the good fight of faith under Him and His cause and kingdom to come that is truly worth living and dying for? Seek to make your stand under His banner then. Go to Him and enroll in His army in the way of faith and repentance and confessing your faith before men.
The word ‘sacrament’ is a term from the time of the early church. It is significant that ‘sacrament’ anciently meant pledge, oath or solemn engagement to your captain, as you enrolled in the army. It has a military context and significance.
History records how one of the persecuting Roman Emperors spent his whole life fighting to destroy with all his might and main the cause of Christ Jesus and His people. On his death bed, having failed to destroy it, he cried, "You have won Nazarene!"
Yes, in the Lord Jesus Christ and His good ways we are more than conquerors!