Given for the Saints at Medicalodge, Neosho, MO, on 9/8/02
"But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (I Corinthians 15:57, RSV).
In the sixteenth chapter of Revelation, in the midst of the terrifying account of the seven bowls of God's wrath poured out upon the earth, there is a passage which either thrills Christians or scares them to death, depending on what they've been taught, "Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon. The seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and out of the temple came a loud voice from the throne, saying, "It is done!" Then there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder and a severe earthquake. No earthquake like it has ever occurred since man has been on earth, so tremendous was the quake. The great city split into three parts, and the cities of the nations collapsed. God remembered Babylon the Great and gave her the cup filled with the wine of the fury of his wrath. Every island fled away and the mountains could not be found. From the sky huge hailstones of about a hundred pounds each fell upon men. And they cursed God on account of the plague of hail, because the plague was so terrible" (Rev. 16:16-21, NIV). The most popular interpretation of this is that Armageddon will be the final battle between good and evil, between God and Satan, where the forces of evil will ultimately be defeated. Christ will come again to reign triumphantly from the throne of David in Jerusalem (assuming anything is left standing after the great earthquake); the good will be rewarded for their faithfulness and the evil ones will be thrown into hell forever and ever, and God's people will enter an eternity of glory and blessedness. If you think you belong on the good side of the force, you will rejoice, but if you think you might belong to the dark side, teachings like this could keep you awake nights.
Trying to make logical sense out of that which is clearly symbolic leaves the reader frightened and confused. In Rev. 1: 1, the Apostle explains what the book is about: "The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must SOON take place." In this first chapter, John gives us the clue to the whole book, because what he saw was not what it was. An angel, or messenger from God, told him, for instance, that the seven golden lampstands represented the seven churches and the seven stars were the angels or messengers of those churches. As Lenny is quick to point out, "In the book of Revelation, what you see is NOT what you get." In spite of this key to meaning given in chapter one, some Christians still insist on making everything literal in this book, which simply IS, THE REVELATION OF JESUS CHRIST.
About the timeline of the book, John writes, "And the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must SOON take place" (Rev. 22:6). Most Evangelical Christians have projected the events in Revelation out into the future somewhere. Countless books have been written trying to set forth a date when these events will happen. Self proclaimed prophets like Hal Lindsey and others have made predictions about the time of the return of Christ, none of which have come true. Yet in spite of multiple past errors, they continue to try, and their followers seemingly are oblivious to the fact that they have never been right about anything so far! Since the time of Christ, doom sayers and seers have predicted the end of the world based on current events. Famines, floods, earthquakes, wars and rumors of wars are all grist for the mill as they spin out an eschatalogical scenario based upon what they interpret with their natural minds. The Spirit says, "blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near." It amazes me that anyone could read those words and think the angel is speaking of a time 2000 years in John's future! Paul wrote to the Philippians that he planned to send Timothy to them, and added, "and I trust in the Lord that shortly I myself shall come also" (Phil. 2:24). Surely no one reading that thinks that he may delay his trip 2000 years, so why would we think that events which John saw will be delayed 2000 years? Religion has played on our fears. Fear is very good for business in the world and in the church as well.
No one can interpret scripture except the Holy Spirit, and I pray that our spiritual eyes and ears will be opened to hear the truth. The book of Revelation was written to Christians, probably Jewish Christians, who were undergoing severe persecution, possibly by Nero, the mad emperor of Rome (AD 54-68). The book was meant to be a comfort to them in their tribulations and a sure promise of victory over their enemies. Had John meant to say that these events would not happen until 2000 years in the future, what possible comfort could have been received from it by those being thrown to the lions, beheaded, or boiled in oil, as many were then?
The book is the Revelation of the One on the white horse who had a bow and a crown, and who "went out conquering and to conquer" (Rev. 6:2); the One who "is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war" (Rev. 19:11). Is Jesus Christ in your life now? Then the book is for you now. Have you trials and temptations? The book is to encourage you today, to let you see that He is faithful to the end. Victory is already ours in Christ! Hallelujah!
The word Armageddon comes from a corrupt spelling of the Hebrew word, "Har-megiddo," meaning "mountain of Megiddo." The ancient city of Megiddo was located in a strategic location on the trade route from Egypt to Babylon and other middle eastern countries. It was situated in a mountain pass, easily defended, so that the country who possessed it, controlled traffic and trade from one part of the ancient world to another. A major Egyptian base in the fifteenth century BC, it was one of the Canaanite cities in the valley during the period of the Judges, (Jud. 5:19). Later King Solomon made it one of his chief administrative districts (I Kings 4:12). During our trip through Israel in 2000, we visited Tel Megiddo, and saw the magnificent ruins dating from Solomon's reign. From there, he could stand off his enemies and survive a siege by means of an underground cistern bringing water inside the walls, and a huge silo he had constructed to store grain.
The Apostle John knew that his readers would understand what he was saying because they knew the history of the place, which most Americans do not. The battle of Armageddon is symbolic of the struggle between good and evil which still plagues some Christians today. The reason we suffer so is because our eyes have not been opened to see that we already have the victory in our Lord Jesus Christ. When King Jehoshaphat of Judah was being besieged by the Moabites and Ammonites, and some of the Meunites, he cried out to the Lord for deliverance. The Spirit of God came upon Jahaziel who prophesied, "Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the LORD says to you: 'Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God's. ...... You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the LORD will give you, O Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the LORD will be with you'" (II Ch. 20:15,17, NIV).
When David, a shepherd boy, went up against Goliath, the formidable giant representing the Philistine army, he said to him and his army, "All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle is the LORD's, and he will give all of you into our hands" (I Sam. 17:47). And that is exactly what happened. The battle and the victory belong to God! Fast forward the tape to the days of the Apostle Paul, and listen to his advice, "Therefore take the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand" (Ephesians 6:13, RSV). We are told to stand upon the finished work of Christ, because our faith is the victory that overcomes the world (I John 5:4). Jesus said, "In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world" (John 16:13). Do we believe Him?
About trials and tribulations, the Apostle James wrote, "Count it all joy, my brethren, when ye fall into manifold temptations; Knowing that the proving of your faith worketh patience" (James 1:1-3, ASV). It's as far from our natural minds as the moon is from the earth to rejoice when troubles come upon us, and yet, James equates trials with the development of patience in us. Most of us who have been walking with the Lord for some time have discovered, that praying for patience is sure to bring tribulation right on the heels of the prayer, because that's the instrument God uses to work out His perfect will in us. There are those who tell me the first thing they do at the first sign of trouble is to praise God. To them I say, "Great, if it's real and not just a formula for success, an attempt, in other words to manipulate God." To be honest, it usually takes me a little time to get through the protesting, whining stage, past the feelings of rejection that God has let this come upon me, until I get to the place where I can see the wondrous results He produced from it. There's a poem at the end of this writing that the Lord gave me in October of 1996, when our financial tribulations in California were raging. You will see from reading it that I was not a bit cheerful about events in my life then. No amount of pleading, praying, or praising could change God's plan for us. The end result of that horrendous, glorious trial, was the perfecting of our faith to see that our God reigns! Or as the kids say, God rocks! He is in charge of absolutely everything that happens to us, and no matter what it looks like at the time, He will use the situation to bring glory for Himself and growth for us. I wouldn't take anything for the experience, and the victory that came out of it, so hard fought and finally won. That lesson taught me that it is "not by might, not by power, but by my Spirit says the Lord" (Zech 4:6).
Through this trial, I saw that the more capable you are, the more goal oriented you have become, the more survival skills you possess, the more pressure it takes to crack open your chrysalis of flesh and set your spirit free. I want to share another confirmation of this from Pat Savas, whom I quoted last week. In a recent e-mail, she wrote that when she was undergoing some severe personal trials, she heard the word, "Armageddon," and she concluded, "I knew that is where I am. The external signs in the world are just symbols for what He is doing within each of us, i.e., battling and overcoming the enemies within.
"Although the battle has been fierce, I have been encouraged when I remember: THE BATTLE IS THE LORD'S and it is Joshua, Jesus within, Who is the Overcomer. I have been casting myself upon the Faithful One within and living by HIS faith (the real meaning of Gal. 2:20), and asking Him to rise up and crush all those enemies.
"I am coming to the TOTAL END of myself, even my human love and compassion, and crying out to Father for a new heart and a new mind, HIS, to be established in me...
"About a month ago, in the middle of the night, I heard a voice say, "In order to establish My divine nature in you, I must first destroy all of your self life." I realize that this work was completed in the Lamb of God from before the foundation of the world, but it is being experientially wrought out in us now. The Lord also showed me that He is bringing us to the place where, in the Pattern Son, we can say, "The enemy has nothing in me."
"As excruciating as this fire has been, and there are times where I would have preferred physical death to this slow annihilation of self, if I would have been given a choice, I ask for the grace to embrace it, because I know our God IS a consuming fire.
"I take courage in the completed work of my Savior, Who has saved us, "To the UTTERMOST." "It is FINISHED." Loving Him because He first loved me, Pat Savas." End Quote.
In this hour, when the elect are being purged of the remaining vestiges of self, pride, ego, and flesh, testimonies like Pat's are very encouraging to us. We need not fear or fret, or even fight, for to Him belongs the battle and to Him the victory, as the sweet singer of Israel said so long ago, "Who is the King of glory? The LORD, strong and mighty, the LORD, mighty in battle!" (Psalm 24:8).
God appears to us in different ways depending upon our stage of growth. John does a magnificent job of showing how we perceive God: "I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his sake. I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, children, because you know the Father" (I John 2:12-13, RSV). When we are children, we know Him as Savior and as our Father. When we are teenagers, young men and women, we know Him as Almighty God, because He has given us power to overcome the evil one. In that stage, many of us went around fighting Satan and casting out demons, because it felt so good to exercise our spiritual muscles. Eventually, He let us wear ourselves out with that, and when we were exhausted, panting for breath on the combat field, He quietly showed us that He is all there is and we became like little children again who know and rest in their Father's care. We do NOT live in a two power universe, with God and Satan battling for final victory. There is only God, who in order to help the elect grow in grace and knowledge of Him, uses Satan to do His bidding, as the book of Job clearly shows. When we see that God is all there is, we are fathers, knowing Him who is from the beginning. This is the place of rest, the place of knowing that Armageddon is not a battle to be feared, but a victory already won in Jesus Christ our Lord. Hallelujah! That is VERY GOOD NEWS indeed. May God open our eyes to see Him as He is, that we may be like Him (I John 3:2). Amen. Jan Antonsson.
Following is the poem, Armageddon, written in the heat of my personal battles with darkness and doubt in my life at the time. Remembering where we have been, lets us see where we are now, standing on Mount Zion!
The battle grows hotter. The arrows are flying. All around me I hear, the screams of the dying. Where is the one with scepter and sword? Where is the King? Where is the Lord? My courage is fading, my faith fled away. Is there no one able to save me this day?
I labor for the rest God has promised to me. I long for the day, when He sets me free. I can't go on, and continue to fight. Take me home now; bring me into the light. Let me lie down in the bosom of God. Cover my body with daisies and sod. And there, I will sleep till the trumpet shall sound, when with all of the saints, I am heaven bound.
Sorry, Lord, I can't be your son. I'm too tired to believe. It's over. It's done. Why did you call me? Why did you bother? How can I endure till your judgment is over? My spirit is willing, but my flesh is so weak, I barely have strength your face to seek. I pound on your door. I knock and I knock, but I feel like I'm beating my head on a rock. Open Yourself up to me, I implore. I need your help. I can't take any more!
Grant to me that I should see your vast plan, of investing yourself in a weak, mortal man. To share your glory? Surely, you jest. You'll give me your life? You'll grant me rest? Then, open my eyes, Lord, that I may see, what you have planned eternally for me. Speak to me, Lord. Let me hear you say how you are helping me, to survive this long day. Show me your purpose. Take away my fright. Hold me in your bosom, throughout this long night. And when I awake, at the break of day, I'll rejoice greatly. My fear's fled away.
But still, I don't think I can be your son. I see too much work here that needs to be done. There's no one to turn to but you, only you. So, I guess I'll "hang in there" until you are through. And when you are finished, and I'm gleaming like gold, You'll say, "Look what I made from that lump of coal."
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
"Struggling to get free, Part I"
"Transformation, Struggling to get free, Part II"
The Glory Road
We always enjoy hearing from you!
This page was uploaded to the web on 8/29/02
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister
and last edited on 10/7/08