Wednesday, 28 July 2021
They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them. Revelation 20:9
The words now are referring to those of the nations who have been deceived by Satan and who have been gathered together for battle, specifically called “Gog and Magog.” Of them, John now says, “They went up on the breadth of the earth.”
The deception will be so great that vast hordes of people will be involved. The previous verse spoke of the deception going out to the “four corners of the earth.” People will stream from all directions and be “as the sand of the sea” so that they will cover everything. The terminology is similar to that which described the Chaldeans coming against Jerusalem at the time of Habakkuk –
“For indeed I am raising up the Chaldeans,
A bitter and hasty nation
Which marches through the breadth of the earth,
To possess dwelling places that are not theirs.” Habakkuk 1:6
Of these vast multitudes, John next says, “and surrounded the camp of the saints.” The word translated as “camp” is a compound noun coming from two words signifying “a throwing beside.” It is a word that can mean a castle, a barracks, an army in battle array, and so on. The context determines the meanings. In this case, it is the layout of space allocated for the saints.
In Ezekiel 45:1-8, land is specifically set aside in exacting measurement in relation to the sanctuary. It seems likely that this is what is being referred to here. It is the place where the saints minister to the Lord in the temple. That designated area is inclusive of, and surrounds, Jerusalem, of which John next says, “and the beloved city.”
Without a doubt, this is referring to Jerusalem. It is a literal attack coming against it, not a spiritualized battle where the foes of the church rally against her. The idea of Jerusalem being the beloved city is found in Psalm 78 –
“But chose the tribe of Judah,
Mount Zion which He loved.
69 And He built His sanctuary like the heights,
Like the earth which He has established forever.” Psalm 78:68, 69
This great army, one not unlike the one prophesied in Ezekiel 38 and 39, will be gathered together, repeating the same pattern that occurred a thousand years earlier. The same results will occur at that time as well. As John next says, “And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them.”
This was prophesied for Gog and Magog in Ezekiel–
“I will call for a sword against Gog throughout all My mountains,” says the Lord God. “Every man’s sword will be against his brother. 22 And I will bring him to judgment with pestilence and bloodshed; I will rain down on him, on his troops, and on the many peoples who are with him, flooding rain, great hailstones, fire, and brimstone. 23 Thus I will magnify Myself and sanctify Myself, and I will be known in the eyes of many nations. Then they shall know that I am the Lord.” Ezekiel 38:21-23
“And I will send fire on Magog and on those who live in security in the coastlands. Then they shall know that I am the Lord. 7 So I will make My holy name known in the midst of My people Israel, and I will not let them profane My holy name anymore. Then the nations shall know that I am the Lord, the Holy One in Israel. 8 Surely it is coming, and it shall be done,” says the Lord God. “This is the day of which I have spoken.” Ezekiel 39:6-8
The thought here is that the same groups will repeat the same mistake, thus demonstrating that man will refuse to learn to trust in God’s word. Instead, he will inevitably believe the lies of Satan. It is the wickedness of the human heart that is on display here. As Solomon says –
“That which has been is what will be,
That which is done is what will be done,
And there is nothing new under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 1:9
Life application: It is believed that, throughout history, Jerusalem has been destroyed partially or entirely approximately forty times. It has been the center of the nations, and even today the world’s eyes are focused on this teeny piece of property in the little country known as Israel.
There are such weighty claims to it that no one is sure how to resolve the matter. So heavy and burdensome is the stone known as Jerusalem in today’s world that as Zechariah prophesies, “…all who would heave it away will surely be cut in pieces, though all nations of the earth are gathered against it” (Zechariah 12:3).
History, at the beginning of the tribulation period, will recapitulate history at the end of the millennium. Apparently, after the devil is released, he will deceive the people in some way once again. He is an inciter to violence, and he tempts people in his three consistent ways – by the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and by the pride of life. This was his mode of corruption in Eden, it is what John warns about in his first epistle, and it is the way he tested Jesus in the wilderness as is recorded in the gospels. He will use his power to tempt one last time to take as many souls as possible to hell along with him.
He knows that the book is written, and the outcome is already known to God. He knows that God’s word will be fulfilled. Despite this, he will make his final move. However, the move will be brought to an abrupt end. Unlike the tribulation period which encompasses most of chapters 4-19 of the book of Revelation, this battle takes up a few sentences. Unless there is a battle where the details are simply brushed over, when armies are gathered against the city and the people of God, the Lord will act, and the rebellion will be over immediately.
There are numerous times that fire comes from heaven in the Old Testament. It is in a way that demonstrates God’s power to God’s people. And so, it will be one final time at the end of the ages. God will show Himself holy, in the presence of, and on behalf of, His people, protecting them and consuming those who would harm them. “‘For I,’ says the Lord, ‘will be a wall of fire all around her, and I will be the glory in her midst’” (Zechariah 2:5).
The Lord will act because He is the Lord – great, powerful, and covenant-keeping. He is JESUS!
Heavenly Father, knowing that You have already determined to protect Your people who will live even a thousand years from now assures us that You are completely in control of all things in all ages. We can know that we have nothing to fear because You have, do, and always will tend to the needs of those who have called on You. Thank You for this wonderful assurance. Amen.