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5.5. Grapes of Wrath

From the many passages in Scripture which provide insights into the Campaign of Armageddon1 , we have chosen those which are perhaps the most significant. A careful study of these passages, in their context, will show that aspects of what they describe have yet to be fulfilled. Isaiah describes a judgment against all nations which will take place in Bozrah, in the land of Edom.

Come near, you nations, to hear; and heed, you people! Let the earth hear, and all that is in it, the world and all things that come forth from it. For the indignation of the LORD is against all nations, and His fury against all their armies; He has utterly destroyed them, He has given them over to the slaughter. Also their slain shall be thrown out; their stench shall rise from their corpses, and the mountains shall be melted with their blood. All the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled up like a scroll; all their host shall fall down as the leaf falls from the vine, and as fruit falling from a fig tree. “For My sword shall be bathed in heaven; indeed it shall come down on Edom, and on the people of My curse, for judgment. The sword of the LORD is filled with blood, it is made overflowing with fatness, with the blood of lambs and goats, with the fat of the kidneys of rams. For the LORD has a sacrifice in Bozrah, and a great slaughter in the land of Edom. The wild oxen shall come down with them, and the young bulls with the mighty bulls; their land shall be soaked with blood, and their dust saturated with fatness.” For it is the day of the LORD’S vengeance, the year of recompense for the cause of Zion. Its streams shall be turned into pitch, and its dust into brimstone; its land shall become burning pitch. It shall not be quenched night or day; its smoke shall ascend forever. From generation to generation it shall lie waste; no one shall pass through it forever and ever. (Isa. Isa. 34:1-10)

This is not a judgment against the Edomites, but against all nations. It is attended by cosmic signs, “all the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled up like a scroll,” which brings to mind the cataclysmic convulsions which were previewed in the opening of the sixth seal (Rev. Rev. 6:12-14+). The reason for the slaughter is “recompense for the cause of Zion,” God will be defending His chosen nation in this time of the end. The destruction which comes upon Edom is described in the strongest possible terms, the land will become burning pitch, never to be quenched, and shall lie waste forever. Every reader of the text now has a choice: does God mean literally what He says? Or is He employing hyperbole and exaggeration for effect in these scenes of judgment?2 A related question: if God really meant to describe absolute devastation, how would it be portrayed differently? We believe this speaks of a final literal eschatological judgment. Mat. 25:31-46), Israel’s enemies (Rev. Rev. 16:13-16+), preceding the establishment of the Kingdom (Rev. Rev. 20:4-6+).”3 Micah speaks of a time of threshing, a theme of judgment throughout Scripture. The motive for the nations which shall be threshed is their desire to interfere in God’s plans concerning Zion:

Now also many nations have gathered against you, who say, “Let her be defiled, and let our eye look upon Zion.” But they do not know the thoughts of the Lord, nor do they understand His counsel; for He will gather them like sheaves to the threshing floor. “Arise and thresh, O daughter of Zion; for I will make your horn iron, and I will make your hooves bronze; you shall beat in pieces many peoples; I will consecrate their gain to the Lord, and their substance to the Lord of the whole earth.” (Mic. Mic. 4:11-13)

Notice the ignorance of the nations in regard to God’s plans concerning Zion: “They do not know the thoughts of the Lord, nor do they understand his counsel.” This is evident even in our own day. We study the book of Revelation and these related passages which make it abundantly clear that God has a future plan for the nation Israel and that plan includes her ownership of His land with Jerusalem as her eternal capital. Yet, the daily news indicates great confusion on the part of the nations as to the status of Jerusalem and the Promised Land in general. People the world over wonder what the big fuss is about the Jews and Jerusalem, but it is all so clear to any student of the Scriptures. Alas, the nations of the world are almost completely ignorant of God’s Word concerning the subject—as they will be in the day of their demise seen by Micah. “This prophecy envisioned Nebuchadnezzar’s armies that were composed of many nations, but it is to be fulfilled in the armed forces of the nations gathered at Armageddon (Rev. Rev. 16:13-16+), who will be determined to destroy Israel and do away with God’s plan and take over the earth.”4 Most puzzling of all are the preterist interpreters who twist clear passages so that instead of relating God’s overthrow of the nations in the defense of Jerusalem, they are said to indicate just the opposite: God’s judgment and overthrow of Jerusalem. Although it is true that Jerusalem will undergo great casualty and turmoil during the time of Jacob’s Trouble, ultimately, Jerusalem will be the victor with the help of God. Such passages can in no way be contorted to describe the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70:

The burden of the word of the LORD against Israel. Thus says the LORD, who stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him: “Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of drunkenness to all the surrounding peoples, when they lay siege against Judah and Jerusalem. And it shall happen in that day that I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all peoples; all who would heave it away will surely be cut in pieces, though all nations of the earth are gathered against it.” “In that day,” says the LORD, “I will strike every horse with confusion, and its rider with madness; I will open My eyes on the house of Judah, and will strike every horse of the peoples with blindness. And the governors of Judah shall say in their heart, ‘The inhabitants of Jerusalem are my strength in the LORD of hosts, their God.’ In that day I will make the governors of Judah like a firepan in the woodpile, and like a fiery torch in the sheaves; they shall devour all the surrounding peoples on the right hand and on the left, but Jerusalem shall be inhabited again in her own place-Jerusalem. The LORD will save the tents of Judah first, so that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem shall not become greater than that of Judah. In that day the LORD will defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem; the one who is feeble among them in that day shall be like David, and the house of David shall be like God, like the Angel of the LORD before them. It shall be in that day that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem. And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn. In that day there shall be a great mourning in Jerusalem, like the mourning at Hadad Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. And the land shall mourn, every family by itself: the family of the house of David by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Nathan by itself, and their wives by themselves.” (Zec. Zec. 12:1-12)

When interpreting such passages as this, we must bear two things in mind: (1) this is the time of Jacob’s Trouble, Israel is to be disciplined and refined so as to call out to Messiah Jesus; (2) nevertheless, God will judge the surrounding nations by defending Israel because of His eternal promises made to her (see commentary on Revelation 12:1). Zechariah’s passage opens as “the Word of the LORD against Israel,” yet in the midst of the passage, it is the nations gathered against Jerusalem who will “surely be cut to pieces.” In that day the LORD will defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem. If this was A.D. 70, then Titus overthrew our Almighty God! Hardly! And when did the Jews experience a national repentance and convert to Messiah Jesus, whom they pierced, as predicted here? No, this is yet future, during the Campaign of Armageddon. The battle involving Jerusalem involves several stages. During the first stage, the city is taken, the houses rifled, and the women ravished:

Behold, the day of the LORD is coming, and your spoil will be divided in your midst. For I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem; the city shall be taken, the houses rifled, and the women ravished. Half of the city shall go into captivity, but the remnant of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then the LORD will go forth and fight against those nations, as He fights in the day of battle. And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, from east to west, making a very large valley; half of the mountain shall move toward the north and half of it toward the south. Then you shall flee through My mountain valley, for the mountain valley shall reach to Azal. Yes, you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Thus the LORD my God will come, and all the saints with You. (Zec. Zec. 14:1-5)

But, before the smoke clears: “the LORD my God will come, and all the saints with you.” He will “fight against those nations” and stand upon the Mount of Olives. When this occurs, all His saints (holy ones) will be with Him. Again, this has not been fulfilled, but concerns the Second Coming (cf. Rev. Rev. 19:14+).

Notes

1 See [Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of Messiah, rev ed. (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 2003), 315-363].

2 “If any be deposed to ask why we look upon the present chapter [Rev. Rev. 16:1+] as literal when we have given rules for understanding previous chapters as symbolical, we would answer that the symbols always point to passages in the Old Testament which clarify them. The concordance takes us back to literal judgments, whether we look at ‘plague,’ ‘sore,’ ‘blood,’ ‘darkness,’ or other words in the passage while there will be two or three words which will take us back to symbolism.”—Donald Grey Barnhouse, Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1971), 288.

3 Merrill F. Unger, Unger’s Commentary on the Old Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2002), Isa. 34:1.

4 Ibid., Mic. 4:11.