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It is in itself an event of unparalleled magnitude. It is the subject of prediction with the writers of the Old and New Testaments, in many, very many passages, several consisting of whole chapters. It is moreover one which will influence for good or evil every inhabitant of the earth, and overthrow those colossal fabrics of Civil and Spiritual Despotism, under whieh mankind have so long groaned. It is, again, a crisis in the history of the world, to which the signs of the times now evidently point. Whilst, more than all, the voice of the once crucified, but now glorified Redeemer, addresses his people in the language of warning and encouragement :
Behold, I come as a thief ; Blessed is he that watcheth and keepeth his garments,....and he gathered them together into a place called Armageddon."-Rev. xvi. 15.
If we consult the Commentaries on the Scripture, and the works of Prophetical Expositors, we shall find the subject now under consideration enveloped in gross darkness,--all is vague, uncertain, and unknown. Not a few of the ablest writers regard the explanation of the event impossible, and the attempt presumption.
Whilst some Expositors regard this Battle as figurative, and others literal, they universally agree in representing it as a tremendous and final conflict between the Anti-christian powers, and the adherents of the true faith. Bishop Newton regards the prophecy as “a sublime and figurative description, to shew the Downfal of Popery, and the triumph of Christianity." Fuller thinks the Anti-christian powers will direct all their force against God and His cause ; but says, “it is impossible to discover in what way their hostility will be manifested.” Archdeacon Woodhouse despatches this grand and unparalleled conflict in a few words :-" It is the grand and decisive conflict,” says he, “between the Christian and Anti-christian powers;" but regards “it as presumption to explain it particularly.” Jones remarks :—“ There is no necessity for supposing that Christ will marshal armies of his disciples, who will have literally to fight against those of the Beast and the Kings of the earth who support him ; but while they are following Him in spreading the everlasting Gospel, He as King of Kings and Lord of Lords may work the complete overthrow of their adversaries by placing them in collision with each other.” Jonathan Edwards, in his “ History of Redemption," calls it “the last great opposition against the Church,” and says, “ there will be some way or other a mighty struggle between Satan's kingdom and the Church ;” and Faber, in his “ Sacred Calendar,” thinks the opposite party to the Beast and False Prophet, “ are certain kingdoms,- symbolized by white horses,- animated and governed by sincere Christianity.”
In opposition, however, to these and other authorities, I would suggest that a general, well-concerted, and determined attempt, such as this confessedly is, on the part of the AntiChristian powers to crush the cause of Christ, is wholly at variance with the fact that the twelve hundred and sixty years are expired. It is acknowledged by all, that the twelve hundred and sixty years constitute the period of the reign of the Papal horn, and that of the power of the ten-horned Beast to practise against the saints. How then can it be consistently maintained, that the kingdoms constituting the Beast, as well as the kings of the whole world, at the instigation of “unclean spirits out of the mouth of the Dragon, the Beast, and the False Prophet,” should combine together against the Saints, and reduce them to such straits, that the miraculous interposition of God is necessary for their ultimate deliverance? Again, the battle of Armageddon occurs, as we all know, under the Seventh Trumpet. But one of the characteristics of the Seventh Trumpet is, “ to give reward to his Saints and them that fear Him, both small and great."
Rev. xi. 18. Surely, then, it is impossible to
believe that under this trumpet “a religious exterminating war," as Faber has it, should be undertaken by the kings of the whole world against the people of God.
I am greatly mistaken, however, if the previous chapter, in which was described 66 THE GREAT TRIBULATION," will not prove the means of throwing such a flood of light upon this difficult subject, as will render it one of the clearest predictions which the Scriptures of truth contain.
It will be remembered, that when considering that unparalleled period of suffering, it was distinctly shewn by many and striking coincidences, that the celebrated prophecy in the 3rd chapter of Joel, which describes a great gathering of nations in the valley of Jehoshaphat, and their universal slaughter,—was explanatory of the symbolical language of the two preceding chapters of that prophet, respecting an unprecedented attack of locusts upon the Jewish nation. From the exact identity of time in each,- from the judgments which accompany both,--and from the grand and important consequences represented as ensuing in both instances, it was there I think indisputably proved, that both predictions, that of the locusts, and that of the nations of the earth, relate to the same event. Hence it will follow as an undeniable consequence, that the attack upon Jerusalem, which formed the subject of the last chapter, as the cause of the great tribulation, is the same identical event as the Battle of Armageddon, or gathering together of the Beast and the Kings of the whole world, whose utter overthrow is described in the 19th chapter of Revelation.
This inference follows from the acknowledgment of all Commentators, that this 3rd chapter is unquestionably a description of the final contest of the Anti-christian powers at Armageddon. The images of the harvest and vintage, are employed by the Apostle John, as well as the Prophet Joel, to illustrate the judgments involved. The obscuration
of the sun, moon, and stars, are common also to both phecies. The shaking of heaven and earth, likewise is alluded to in Joel, and in most predictions of Armageddon, whilst in the place of the battle, and the period of its occurrence, the most entire agreement is observable.
On these grounds, therefore, it appears to me there can be no manner of question, that the attack of the nations of the earth upon the city of Jerusalem, described at such great length by Zechariah, Ezekiel, and other Prophets, which produces that dreadful tribulation, which is said to be absolutely unparalleled, is the same identical event as is described in the New Testament, under the appellation of the Battle of Armageddon. The only possible alternative, is either to reject the theory advocated in the preceding chapter of the Tribulation such as never was and never will be, or else to deny what I believe all Commentators have agreed in considering as undeniable, that the destruction of the nations of the earth assembled together to battle in the valley of Jehoshaphat, in the 3rd chapter of Joel, refers to the tremendous conflict described in the Apocalypse as taking place at Armageddon.
The Scriptures of truth contain another powerful argument in favour of the foregoing theory of the Battle of Armageddon. I refer to the famous prophecy of Christ delivered on Mount Olivet, contained in Matt. xxiv., and corresponding places. No portion of divine truth has presented greater difficulties to the Commentator than this, nor has any successful attempt yet been made to interpret it.
An attentive and repeated perusal of this chapter has fully convinced me, that the utter and uniform failure which has attended the efforts of the greatest men in this department, arises from the following three facts :-1st. That they have not recognized the palpable fact, that a double fulfilment of it must necessarily be admitted, ere we can reconcile the
inconsistencies which would otherwise abound in the prophecy. 2nd. That none has observed the remarkable and systematic variation in the language of one Evangelist, from the other two Evangelists in relating the prophecy. 3rd. That the remarkable call to reflection, with which the Saviour suddenly interrupts the narrative, on alluding to the prophecy of Daniel, has been passed by without the slightest notice by every Expositor up to the present day. On each of these I must enlarge a little before considering the prediction itself, and I am much mistaken if these particulars do not prove the key to this obscure and difficult chapter.
I. The most cursory perusal is sufficient to convince any candid reader, that the prophecy abounds with inconsistency and falsehood, unless a double fulfilment be admitted. In one passage (Matt. xxiv. 34), it is declared,—“This generashall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled,” and immediately after,—“ Of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only !” We cannot suppose for a moment, that the destruction of Jerusalem was such an important event, as to be thus a few years previous to its occurrence wrapt up in this obscurity; yet, the fact, that the present generation should witness a fulfilment of all that preceded, proves the destruction of that city was denoted. Hence an admission of the above proposition is absolutely necessary. Then, too, the well-known accomplishment of the leading particulars of the prophecy during the Jewish war ;-the invasion of Judea by the Roman armies ;—the escape of the Christian Jews to the mountains ;—the extreme sufferings of those who remained behind ;—the appearance of False Prophets, and Messiahs, &c.; all we know did occur at the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus; hence the prophecy plainly has received one accomplishment. There are, however, other parts of the prophecy, such as the fact of the distress of the Jews being unparalleled both in relation to the past and the future, immediately followed by the obscuration