spirits of demons
These are among the angels which fell from heaven and joined forces with Satan (Rev. Rev. 12:4+). Although they are unclean and in Satans domain, they have been used throughout history to affect Gods purposes. It is a deep mystery how in rebellion the creature has less freedom than in obedience. And so it is with Satan and the demons. Although they believe they are independent, in the end their rebellion is used by God for His purpose and glory. Although these demons evidently do the bidding of Satan to gather the kings, it is God Who ultimately allows their effectiveness to draw His prey to the slaughter.
Scripture records a lengthy pattern of service by evil spirits to God. God sent a spirit of ill will between Abimelech and the men of Shechem (Jdg. Jdg. 9:23). A distressing spirit from the LORD was sent upon Saul (1S. 1S. 16:14; 1S. 18:10; 1S. 19:9). In response to Hezekiahs prayer for help, God sent a spirit upon Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, so that he would hear a rumor and return to his own land (2K. 2K. 19:7).1 A lying spirit, in the mouth of Ahabs prophets persuaded Ahab to go up, that he may fall at Ramoth Gilead (1K. 1K. 22:10-23; 2Chr. 2Chr. 18:21-22). Most frightening of all, Paul records that God will send strong delusion so they should believe the lie (2Th. 2Th. 2:11). God, who is not the author of evil, utilizes evil, turning and manipulating it so that in its rebellion it ultimately brings about that which is sovereignly His will. This fact of Scripture is both impossible to avoid and impossible to fully apprehend.
Unclean spirits play a major role in the events recorded in the gospels. The blasphemy of the Holy Spirit was attributing an unclean spirit to Jesus (Mark Mark 3:30). Jesus healed a man in a synagogue who had an unclean spirit (Mark Mark 1:23-27). Legion of the country of the Gadarenes had many unclean spirits which Jesus cast out into a herd of pigs (Mark Mark 5:2-13). When Jesus sent his disciples out two-by-two, He gave them power over unclean spirits (Mark Mark 6:7, Mark 6:12). Many other events recorded in the gospels indicate the reality of the demonic realm.2
The major role of demons in the time of the end is to serve as deceiving powers to influence men away from the faith:
Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron. (1Ti. 1Ti. 4:1-2)This is seen in our own day in the abundance of earthly wisdom which elevates the fallen understanding of man above the inerrant revealed word of God. Such wisdom, according to James, is sensual and earthlydemonic in origin (Jas. Jas. 3:15).
During the Millennial Kingdom, it appears that demons will be concentrated in the inhabitable wasteland which was at one time the city of Babylon. Then it will be a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird! (Rev. Rev. 18:2+).
Jesus predicted false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See I have told you beforehand (Mtt. Mat. 24:24 cf. Mark Mark 13:22). This is the unrighteous deception among those who perish which Paul wrote of (2Th. 2Th. 2:10). The False Prophet performed great signs in order to deceive (Rev. Rev. 13:13-14+; Rev. 19:20+). Signs themselves may be legitimate miracles, but this is immaterial if they do not witness to God and His truth (Deu. Deu. 13:1-5). See commentary on Revelation 13:13.
This deception is so powerful that it is irresistible by those who lack Gods protection by way of regeneration. No amount of sophistry, education, power, or wisdom will prove adequate to resist. The manipulation of the kings will be so complete that they themselves will think they are following their own will, but it is the demons who drag them forward. Even then, every step has been determined by God.
to the kings of the earth and of the whole world
World, is οἰκουμένης [oikoumenēs] : The inhabited earth.3 The same word describes this time of testing which shall come upon the whole world (Rev. Rev. 3:10+). It is the inhabited world over which the gospel is preached by the first angel (Mtt. Mat. 24:14 cf. Rev. Rev. 14:6+). The demons gather kings from nations all around the globe. This includes the ten kings who are allied with the Beast and go to war against the Lamb (Rev. Rev. 17:12-14+). In a similar way to how God leads Gog to come against Israel to his own doom, so too these unclean spirits will influence the kings in such a way that they do not realize their self-inflicted folly:
I will turn you around, put hooks into your jaws, and lead you out, with all your army, horses, and horsemen . . . Thus says the Lord GOD: On that day it shall come to pass that thoughts will arise in your mind, and you will make an evil plan. . . . It will be in the latter days that I will bring you against My land. (Eze. Eze. 38:4, Eze. 38:10, Eze. 38:16)The MT and NU texts omit of the earth.
gather them to the battle of that great day of God
The place where they are gathered is Armageddon. The great day of God is none other than The Day of the Lord. See commentary on Revelation 6:17. While the kings are being gathered by unclean spirits (unclean and hated birds, Rev. Rev. 18:2+), an angel gathers wild birds in readiness for their feast on the kings (Rev. Rev. 19:17+). Battle is πόλεμον [polemon] , which more correctly denotes an extended engagement rather than a single battle. The difference between polemos and machē is the same as that between the English words war and battle: ho polemos Pelopannēsiakos is the Peloponnesian War; hē en Marathōni machē is the battle of Marathon. 4 See Campaign of Armageddon.
1 The spirit provided a rumor, an untruth. Hence we can conclude that it was not the spirit of an elect angel. Moreover, elect angels are not portrayed as disembodied spirits.
2 Concerning demons as unclean spirits: Mtt. Mat. 8:16; Mat. 10:1; Mat. 12:43; Mark Mark 1:23, Mark 1:26, Mark 1:27; Mark 5:2, Mark 5:8, Mark 5:13; Mark 6:7. Mark 7:25. Mark 9:25; Luke Luke 4:33, Luke 4:36; Luke 6:18; Luke 8:29; Luke 9:42; Luke 11:24; Acts Acts 5:16; Acts 8:7; Rev. Rev. 16:13+; Rev. 18:2+.
3 Frederick William Danker and Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 561.
4 Richard Chenevix Trench, Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 1861), 337.