Part 3/5: The Great End-Time Gathering (part 1)

Post Series: Jesus’s Olivet Discourse Framework
1/5: Laying out Jesus’s Olivet Discourse Framework – posted 1/12/2018
2/5: The Critical Role of the Old Testament – posted 2/10/2018
3/5: The Great End-Time Gathering (part 1 of 2) – posted 6/4/2018
4/5: The Great End-Time Gathering (part 2 of 2)
5/5: Lining up the Major and Minor Prophets with Jesus’s “Gold Standard” Framework

The Great End-Time Gathering
Apart from the actual return of Jesus Christ, the great end-time gathering could be considered one of the most monumental events in all of history. In context of the day of the Lord being “nigh at hand” (Joel 2:1), the prophet Joel says a time is coming unlike anything that has ever occurred in the history of mankind, or that will ever occur (Joel 2:2). I find this type of pronouncement remarkable. Likely, this unique characterization of the event’s status is due to its size and scope. Evil will gather toward Jerusalem from the ends of the earth (Zechariah 12:3). This horde of evil will be greater than any gathering. . . ever! Quite amazing and sobering.

The Great Climax
But now take a step back. What is the most powerful, significant, and single-greatest event to come? The Lord returning in power and glory! On the day of the Lord, the fire of the LORD’s wrath will suddenly come upon the evil, the pride of man will be thrust asunder, the splendor and greatness of the LORD will be vibrantly displayed, and the Lord will make Himself known in the eyes of the nations. Scripture describes the day of the Lord as great and notable—exceedingly magnificent, strong, and memorable.

So what do we have here? The climax of this age! A great gathering of evil, unlike any in the history of the world, that will be met by the greatest response of power. . . ever! Yet again, incredibly amazing and sobering to ponder.

Anti-Christian behavior, deception, betrayal, apostasy, persecution of the saints, iniquity, and general ungodliness will abound and grow in intensity. Prophetic events will occur as stated by Jesus (Olivet Discourse) and as seen by John (Book of Revelation). Ultimately, the bitter rage of evil will peak with this gathering toward Jerusalem, along with a great travail and time of distress for Jacob/Israel. Then “when the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him” (Isaiah 59:19–20) and this grand finale of evil will experience defeat at the battle we know as Armageddon.

Seeing the Big Picture
How is it possible that Satan could bring about a massive gathering at the end of this age? Why are we headed toward such a peak of evil rage against the plans of God? Didn’t Satan experience his defeat when Jesus died on the cross? I admit, it is easy to envision a brutal footprint on the back of Satan’s neck as C.S. Lewis once wrote.

On the back of Satan’s neck is a nail scarred footprint. ― C.S. Lewis

It seems popular to hear that “Satan’s head was crushed” long ago at the cross—a complete fulfillment of Genesis 3:15. In part there is truth to this statement because Jesus indeed wields power and offers us an escape from Satan’s pursuits and ultimately from the curse of death. Christ’s sin-bearing sacrifice is available for mankind to receive the forgiveness of sins and the enemy can be conquered with the Holy Spirit, strength, grace, and wisdom from God. However, the statement isn’t totally accurate. We cannot obfuscate the distinct purposes of the first coming and second coming, and in turn miss the big picture.

Jesus is fully qualified and worthy to one day rule the world as King. But the time when Jesus is firmly seated on the throne of David (Luke 1:32) is not here yet. Today Jesus is at the right hand of Almighty God. . . waiting to return at the appointed time set by the Father (Acts 17:31). One day the time for judgment and restoration will come to pass according to the testimony of the prophets (Acts 3:21; Matthew 19:28). At that time, in the “day of His power”, Jesus will “strike through kings in the day of His wrath” and “judge among the heathen” (Psalm 110). Then, Jesus will reign gloriously over the kingdom of God from Zion (Luke 21:31; Acts 1:6; 2 Peter 1:11; 2 Timothy 4:1; Revelation 11:15; Psalm 2:6; 72:8; Isaiah 2:2–3; 66:19).

Meanwhile, we are called to pick up our cross every day for the battle at hand. Who and what are we fighting? Satan, of course, in an ultimate sense. He, we must say candidly, is the current “ruler” of this world.

Why is there so much evil today? And why will evil continue to rage until defeated by Jesus at the battle of Armageddon? It is critical that we understand the following basic scriptural truths.

  • Satan is the present-day “god of this [age] world” (2 Corinthians 4:4)
  • Satan is the “prince and power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2)
  • As a result of this, we live in “a present evil [age] world” (Galatians 1:4)

The blessed hope for which we yearn (Titus 2:13) is that one day the Son of man will come to crush Satan, defeat the ungodly, restore all things, and establish His kingdom in power and glory. The Apostle Paul clearly states that the crushing of Satan had yet to occur in his day.

And the God of peace shall bruise [crush] Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen. (Romans 16:20)

Never lose sight of the living power of Jesus, but please don’t underestimate and under-appreciate Satan’s position and power today, both in the air and on earth. Our acknowledgment of Satan’s present reign as “god of this world” is biblical. It forces the humble Christian into a greater dependence in the grace and power of Almighty God. Further, it builds our hope in the day of the Lord and the glory and salvation to come! The first coming of Jesus brought a sin-bearing offering through love, suffering, and death. The second coming will not find Jesus bringing an offering to deal with sin, but rather He will come to save those who are ready, prepared, and waiting for Him in eager anticipation (Hebrews 9:28)!

Our acknowledgment of Satan’s present reign as “god of this world” is biblical. It forces the humble Christian into a greater dependence in the grace and power of Almighty God. Further, it builds our hope in the day of the Lord and the glory and salvation to come!

Now that I have that off my chest, let’s return to our subject!

Understanding the End-Time Gathering
Seeing the “day of the Lord” profusely mentioned throughout Scripture is no surprise to any bible student in tune with the forthcoming return of Jesus. Although much less frequent, I believe we can find similar repetition pertaining to the evil end-time gathering. Being such an epic event in all of history, it is reasonable to expect the prophets to clearly speak about this gathering of a vast and strong people against Jerusalem. This is confirmed by Scripture because the great end-time gathering led by Antichrist is an oft-repeated refrain of the prophets (Ezekiel 38:17). With that said, let’s review its meaningful characteristics.

The Purpose:
It will happen for reasons much deeper and broader than my mind can process. Some of the purpose is severe discipline and chastisement to soften the hearts of the house of Israel for the moment they behold the Redeemer with their eyes. Some of the purpose is to gather the tares of the earth for burning and the grapes for crushing. Some of the purpose is for the divine holiness of the great “I AM”. God knows the end from the beginning and the monumental gathering unto the day of the Lord and the end of this age will come to pass accordingly. I summarize the purpose as follows:

  • To bring chastisement and discipline upon the house of Israel which then leads to them knowing the LORD their God from that day and forward (Isaiah 59:21, 62:12; Jeremiah 23:6, 30:7–9, 31:33, 32:39-40; Ezekiel 36:27; 39:7, 22, 25–29; Zechariah 9:16, 12:10, 13:8–9; Joel 3:16; Romans 11:26).
  • To gather the heathen together into one place, like sheaves are gathered for the threshing floor (Micah 4:11–13); to gather the “kings of the earth” together as prisoners so they can easily be cast into the pit (Isaiah 24:21–22); and to gather together the ripe clusters of grapes from all over the earth so they can be crushed in the great winepress of the wrath of God (Revelation 14:18–19; Joel 3:13).
  • So that the LORD may vindicate the holiness of His great name and make the nations know that “I am the LORD, the Holy One in Israel” (Ezekiel 36:23; 38:16, 23; 39:7).

The Place:
In Micah 4:10–11, what is the focus when the nations are gathered? It is Zion in Jerusalem. And in Zechariah 14:1–3 what is the focus? The eyes of the gathering in the last days are upon Jerusalem.[1] Several other passages help bring the location of Armageddon into focus. In my opinion, it becomes quite clear after reviewing these passages that Jerusalem (and Mount Zion in particular) is in view at the end of this age where evil climaxes in a rage toward Mount Zion, only to be met on the day of the Lord by the mighty right arm of God, the Lord Jesus.

  • Isaiah 10:12 Wherefore it shall come to pass, that when the Lord hath performed his whole work upon mount Zion and on Jerusalem, I will punish the fruit of the stout heart of the king of Assyria, and the glory of his high looks.
  • Isaiah 31:4–5 For thus hath the LORD spoken unto me, Like as the lion and the young lion roaring on his prey, when a multitude of shepherds is called forth against him, he will not be afraid of their voice, nor abase himself for the noise of them: so shall the LORD of hosts come down to fight for mount Zion, and for the hill thereof. (5) As birds flying, so will the LORD of hosts defend Jerusalem; defending also he will deliver it; and passing over he will preserve it.
  • Jeremiah 4:6, 16–17 Set up the standard toward Zion: retire, stay not: for I will bring evil from the north, and a great destruction. (16) Make ye mention to the nations; behold, publish against Jerusalem, that watchers come from a far country, and give out their voice against the cities of Judah. (17) As keepers of a field, are they against her round about; because she hath been rebellious against me, saith the LORD.
  • Jeremiah 25:17–18 Then took I the cup at the LORD’S hand, and made all the nations to drink, unto whom the LORD had sent me: (18) To wit, Jerusalem, and the cities of Judah, and the kings thereof, and the princes thereof, to make them a desolation, an astonishment, an hissing, and a curse; as it is this day;
  • Zechariah 12:2–3 Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem. (3) And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it.

The Provocation:
In the latter days (Ezekiel 38:16), a provocation, as caused/allowed by the Lord, will sweep across the world in a moment of time. All who have aligned with the beast kingdom will blindly heed the stimulating force and in a short period of time armies of people will head toward and eventually surround Jerusalem. I cannot imagine the intensity of the spiritual force that will create such unification of evil, all with a focused resolve toward the city of God (Jeremiah 33:16; Psalm 48:1–2). In my opinion, the following Scriptures indicate that the Lord is the One who ultimately stimulates the evil gathering: Isaiah 10:5–6; 42:13, 24; Jeremiah 4:6; 25:29, Ezekiel 38:4, 39:2; Joel 3:2, 11–12; Micah 4:11–12; Zephaniah 1:7, 3:8; and Zechariah 12:2, 14:2.

The Scope:
I started off this post by noting the historically unprecedented nature of the gathering. The worldwide scope is a staggering thought, but this fact is supported by Scripture. Each of the following scriptures lend support to the vastness of the gathering which develops from “all the ends of the earth”: Isaiah 10:14, 13:4–5, 14:9, 24:21–22, 34:1–2; Jeremiah 25:26, 29, 31–32; Micah 4:11; Zechariah 12:3, 14:2. This “all-nations” aspect or worldwide scope is very important to consider.

The Presence of the Lord:
I’m sure there are more, but from my count around twenty-one passages in the Old Testament directly refer or make inference to this end-time gathering of nations. What becomes evident is that the gathering occurs very quickly. It is like the sudden appearance of storm clouds (Jeremiah 4:13, Ezekiel 38:9, 16). And, the gathering is met directly by the presence of the Lord. For reference and study purposes, some of the more explicit examples are as follows:

  • The gathering in Isaiah 13:4–5 is met by the presence of the Lord in Isaiah 13:9–13.
  • The gathering in Jeremiah 4:6, 13, 17 is met by the presence of the Lord in Jeremiah 4:26.
  • The gathering in Ezekiel 38:4–11, 15–16 is met by the presence of the Lord in Ezekiel 38:18–23.
  • The gathering in Joel 2:1–2, 20 is met by the presence of the Lord in Joel 2:11, 20.
  • The gathering in Zephaniah 1:7, 3:8 is met by the presence of the Lord in Zephaniah 1:15–18, 2:4–15, 3:8.
  • The gathering in Zechariah 12:2–3, 14:2 is met by the presence of the Lord in Zechariah 12:4–9, 14:3–4, 12–15.
  • The gathering in Psalm 18:3–5 is met by the presence of the Lord in Psalm 18:7–18.
  • The gathering in Psalm 118:10–12 is met by the presence of the Lord in Psalm 118:13, 16, 26.

Let’s review a few of these end-time gathering passages.

Zephaniah 3:8
(8) Therefore wait ye upon me, saith the LORD, until the day that I rise up to the prey: for my determination is to gather the nations, that I may assemble the kingdoms, to pour upon them mine indignation, even all my fierce anger: for all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy.

Gathering of the nations:
. . . for my determination is to gather the nations, that I may assemble the kingdoms

Direct response of the LORD:
. . . to pour upon them [i.e. the gathered nations] mine indignation, even all my fierce anger

Zechariah 12:2–4, 8–9
(2) Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem. (3) And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it. (4) In that day, saith the LORD, I will smite every horse with astonishment, and his rider with madness: and I will open mine eyes upon the house of Judah, and will smite every horse of the people with blindness. . . (8) In that day shall the LORD defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem; . . . (9) And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.

Gathering of the nations:
. . . all the people round about (v2)
. . . though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it (v3)
. . . all the nations that come against Jerusalem (v9)

Direct response of the LORD “in that day”:
. . . defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem (v8)
. . . seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem (v9)

In addition, Jerusalem will be like a “cup of trembling” to all the nations round about her. The picture is a large, shallow basin filled with intoxicating drink (i.e. cup of “reeling”) from which the nations are enticed to drink. Ultimately this is a word picture of judgment and correlates to the “wine of the wrath of God” and the “cup of indignation” poured out upon the followers of Antichrist (see Revelation 14:9–10). Finally, another method of judgment caused by the LORD is internal confusion, conflict, and madness. This theme, where the nations turn against one another is unsurprisingly found in other last days passages like Isaiah 10:26, Ezekiel 38:21, and Zechariah 14:13. In the chapter of my book on “The Egyptian Corollary of the End Times” I wrote about a similar parallel when the Lord “troubled” the host of Egyptians into a confused state just prior to the waters returning in strength and overthrowing all who were in the sea.

Zechariah 14:2–3
(2) For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city. (3) Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle.

Gathering of the nations:
. . . I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle (v2)

Direct response of the LORD:
Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations (v3)

The Abrupt Halt to the Travail
A tight chronological connection is evident between the gathering and the day of the Lord (i.e. the presence of the Lord). I see a direct response by the Lord to this gathering of evil. In other words, the gathering is “unto” the return of Christ.

Jews will be expelled, the city will be run over, and people will experience terror, anguish and death (Isaiah 13:7–8; Jeremiah 30:5–7; Zechariah 14:2). This is a picture of sudden destruction (I Thessalonians 5:3) that comes when Jerusalem is overrun by a massive force of evil. What if the force of the gathering is not stopped? What if Jesus doesn’t put an end to the rampage? What if Jesus doesn’t return to defend Zion and the remaining inhabitants?

We read in the Olivet Discourse that “except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved”. So what do we find prophesied in Zechariah 12:8? The LORD will defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem! The Lord will put a stop to the great travail caused by the gathered armies. Otherwise, no human being in and around Jerusalem would be saved from the destructive force of the gathered enemies of God!

Jesus uses the birth pain analogy in His discourse, and what we see that the “great tribulation” is the climax of pain and sorrow in the last days—a direct result of this evil gathering. Following the analogy, the coming of the Lord to defend Mt. Zion is equivalent to the delivering of the baby. After a peak period of excruciating agony and travail, pain subsides quickly and joy erupts!

Word Pictures—Bees, Grapes, Tares, Wheat, and Shining as the Sun
The Scripture describes relief coming from the Lord when the land of Israel is being flooded with the presence of the enemy (Isaiah 59:19–20). We must consider the vastness of the gathering. Many will be within the city of Jerusalem causing destruction while others are gathered outside the city and others still making their way toward Jerusalem. The enemies of God will be “within and without” the city at this time.

Like swarming bees
According to Psalm 118:10–12, hordes of people will still be surrounding Jerusalem “like bees” when the fire of the Lord falls upon them.

All nations compassed me about: but in the name of the LORD will I destroy them. (11) They compassed me about; yea, they compassed me about: but in the name of the LORD I will destroy them. (12) They compassed me about like bees; they are quenched as the fire of thorns: for in the name of the LORD I will destroy them. (Psalm 118:10–12)

Like grapes assembled into the press
The gathering is for the purpose of bringing together the ripe clusters of grapes from all over the earth so they can be crushed in the great winepress of the wrath of God (Revelation 14:18–19).

The bundling of tares
Jesus taught a parable about this in Matthew 13:24–30, 36–43. The context is the harvest at the end of this age. Both the wheat and tares grow together until the end! Verse 30 says that when the time for harvest has come, the first thing that occurs is the gathering and bundling of the tares (i.e. Antichrist and his followers gather around Jerusalem).

The wheat is put in the barn
Next, Jesus comes with the angels, and the faithful dead in Christ are resurrected and the faithful living in Christ are raptured. This is the harvest of the righteous (Revelation 14:14–16). From Luke 17 we understand that this will occur much like Noah and his family escaping the flood in the ark or Lot fleeing Sodom prior to its destruction by fire and brimstone.

Burning of the tares
Third, the Lord dispenses His wrath and judgment against the ungodly. This is the harvest of the wicked (Revelation 14:18–20). The tares are “bundled” through the provocation to head toward one single geographic location on the earth, the city of Jerusalem. The gathered tares are then burned in the fire (Psalm 68:2, 97:3; Isaiah 9:19, 10:17, 24:6, 30:30, 31:9, 34:9, 64:2, 66:15; Ezekiel 38:22, 39:6; Nahum 1:5; Habakkuk 3:5; Zephaniah 1:18; Zechariah 12:6; Malachi 4:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:7; Revelation 14:10).

Shining as the sun
The unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God (I Corinthians 6:9–10; Galatians 5:21). However, once the tares are burned and the battle of Armageddon is over, the righteous (the resurrected and raptured, along with redeemed remnant of Israel) will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of God! The restoration of the earth begins as does Jesus’s glorious reign from Zion!

A Wrap-up
We have reviewed the purpose for, the place of, and the provocation that spurs the gathering from all the ends of the earth. This leads to the climax of labor pains—a very great travail—which is then halted by none other than the Lord Himself at the end-of-the-age harvest of the righteous and wicked. We’ll continue to explore this remarkable subject next time.

 

 

[1] These passages all reference Zion and/or Jerusalem as the place of the gathering for the great battle between evil and the LORD (Isaiah 10:12, 31:4–5; Jeremiah 4:6, 16–17; 25:17–18; Micah 4:10–11; Zechariah 12:2–3, 14:1–3). Due to the Lord’s personal participation in the battle, we know this great, final battle is Armageddon. Where is Armageddon? Armageddon is har megiddô, or “mountain of Megiddo”. Megiddo is a city located within the valley of Jezreel, nearly 70 miles north of Jerusalem. While Megiddo was the site of several historical battles because of its strategic location, how is it possible for the battle of Armageddon to occur at Megiddo when there is no mountain at Megiddo? This is confusing, and something seems amiss. The most reasonable explanation of Armageddon that I have come across is that the Hebrew phrase underlying the Greek is not har megiddô (“the mountain of Megiddo”) but har moed (“the mountain of assembly”). Thus, “Armageddon” would mean “Mountain of Assembly,” which is a reference to the assembly at Mount Sinai, and to its replacement, Mount Zion. The issue stems from translating Hebrew to Greek where it is common for the letter gamma to represent the Hebrew letter ayin. This is taught effectively by Michael S. Heiser, and according to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armageddon, other scholars also argue that the word is derived from the Hebrew moed (מועד‎), meaning “assembly”.

I could be wrong, but the “mountain of Megiddo” doesn’t make sense based on reality (there is no mountain at Megiddo) and based on scripture to scripture comparison. Scripture works together and surveying a host of relevant passages is the best way to make a conclusion about the location. The verses cited above all point to Jerusalem as the focus of the great gathering at the end of the age, and more specifically Mount Zion. This is congruent with the big picture of God’s plans. God has a Holy Hill in Zion destined for glory and Satan wants to annul the plan of God. Further, this “mount of the assembly” is referenced in Isaiah 14:13. Satan wants to “be like the most High” and as part of that desire the Scripture states that he also aims to “sit upon the mount of the congregation [assembly—Strong’s H4150]”. But, will Jesus Christ or the Evil One rule from Zion in glory and righteousness? Praise God we know the answer.

And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD’S house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. (3) And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. (Isaiah 2:2–3)

2 Replies to “Part 3/5: The Great End-Time Gathering (part 1)”

  1. Thank-you, Brandon, for this part of your series. I have been anticipating it, and look forward to the next two. Your showing that Armageddon is basically the Temple Mount in Jerusalem (I assume) is helpful also.

    Blessings as we continue to watch how the times ahead of us unfold.

    1. Shalom Howard,
      Appreciate your thoughts. Yes, the Temple Mount seems to be the ultimate focal point of the great day of God battle. You know better than me, but the Temple Mount has historical connection with more than one name – Mount Zion and Mount Moriah. I think the location of “Mount Zion” in the context of Armageddon truly is the Temple Mount.
      Blessings,
      Brandon

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