Now in verse 17, “Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and he cried out with a loud voice, saying to all the birds which fly in mid-heaven,…” – this concept of birds or vultures coming to an eschatological battle is not something new in the Old Testament. In 1 Samuel 17:46, but most particularly in the Battle of Gog and Magog war of chapters 38-39 of Ezekiel. Now in Revelation 20 we’re going to have this battle of Gog and Magog after the Millennium, how these two battles relate is not always clear. As a matter of fact we have some New Testament allusions to vultures at an end-time battle in Matthew 24:28 and Luke 17:37. So the birds are going to come to God’s banquet. What an antithesis to the Messiah’s banquet, and they’re going to eat the flesh of kings, and generals. This was mentioned back in Rev. 6:15, which is also on the eschatological end-time setting, and so everybody who’s against God is going to be unburied, which is the height of shame in Near Eastern world. Then it says, “I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies assembled to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army.” – I think this is just a further development of the battle of Armageddon back in chapter 16:14-16. The word ‘assemble’ or ‘gather’ here is perfect passive that implies that Satan is behind it, but ultimately God is in control of all history including the activities of the evil one in verse 20. We have all three enemies mentioned, we have the beast which is mentioned in chapter 13, the false prophet which is also mentioned in chapter 13 “…who performs wonders in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone.” – notice that they’re conscious and alive. The lake of fire is the unique term in the book of the Revelation for the word ‘Gehenna’ used often by Jesus. Now, its Old Testament allusion Isaiah 30:32-33, and this concept in not unknown in apocalyptic Judaism about the ideal of the afterlife for those who do not know our God. the lake of fire is mentioned several time in the book of the Revelation chapter 20:10, 14; 21:8. The concept of the lake of fire is that ultimate state of the abyss or the Tartarus where these evil spirits will be totally and completely separated from God. Now, the idea of brimstone says not only of the metaphor of fire but of the stinking, putrid smelling place which is the ultimate destiny of those who rebel against God. Apparently the lake of fire was created for the fallen angels, but because men also rebel against Him and refused to worship God. Though God has tried to bring them to Himself through all of these plagues, being redemptive, their ultimate state will be in the lake of fire with the fallen angels. I really think it’s theologically more true to say that men send themselves to the eternal lake of fire, not that God sends them for God’s heart is that all men should be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth, but involves faith and repentance in the crucified Messiah. But alas, they still refuse to come to Him though they have some degree of knowledge about God.
We often think of the book of the Revelation as all being about the end-time and the 2nd Coming, but really the primary focus of the book of the Revelation is not the ‘How?’ and ‘When?’ of the 2nd Coming. The book’s primary focus is that God is in control of history, and it’s a word of comfort to hurting Christians, like God’s saying, “Hang in there. trust Me. It’s going to work out alright. I’m with you. I know what’s going to happen and it will be worth it all”. And that’s the major thrust of the book of the Revelation.
(TO BE CONTINUED)