Alfred Jones, from Armageddon

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On July 19, 1870, Otto von Bismarck (1815–1898), architect of German unification, provoked France into declaring war against Prussia. The Prussian army was well-prepared, (while the French army was not), and under the brilliant leadership of General Helmuth von Moltke (1800–1891) the prussians won a series of shattering victories, culminating in that at Sedan on September 2 in which the French emperor, Napoleon III, and 100,000 of his men were captured. This precipitated the fall of the Second Empire in France and was followed by the proclamation at Versailles, on January 18, 1871, of a new German Empire.

This convulsive change in the balance of power in Europe led to the reorganization of the British and other armies and navies, an arms race between rival nations, and a multitude of "voices prophesying war" in both fiction and nonfiction.

On Advent Sunday 1870 (the last Sunday in November, less than three months after the Battle of Sedan), the Rev. Alfred Jones preached a sermon entitled Armageddon in Aske's Hospital Chapel, London, that well conveys the terrors and tensions of the time. The sermon's fixation on recent military battles and its evocation of the terrible vengeance of an Old Testament God suggest that Jones regarded himself as the mouthpiece of a Church Militant, whose mission it was to alert the faithful to the late-nineteenth-century fulfillment of the prophecies of the Old Testament, in the form of widespread war and moral decay.

 

"Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame. And he gathered them together in a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon." Revelation xvi. 15, 16

Our Church calls upon us today to look for the second Advent >> note 1 of Christ: and this solemn season has never dawned upon the church amidst such wonderful political convulsions as are taking place in the world at the present moment.

A few months ago there was nothing in the political horizon to alarm the sons of men: but how changed is the face of the world now! "They chose new gods, then there was a war in the gates." >> note 2

[Click on image to enlarge] On the 18th of July a decree was promulgated by the Council of the Roman Catholic Church in Rome, declaring it to be a divinely-revealed dogma, that whenever the Roman Pontiff speaks ex cathedra, >> note 3 and defines what is to be held by the Church in matters of faith or morals; he is indued with the Infallibility which the Redeemer bestowed on His Church in such matters, and that therefore the determinations of the Roman Pontiff in such matters are irreformable, by their own virtue, and not by reason of any consent of the Church.

This impious dogma was read by the flashing light of one of the most terrific thunderstorms that ever rolled over the City of Rome, >> note 4 with an anathema >> note 5 on all who oppose it. We may not draw any argument from the thunderstorm against the papal usurpation of the attributes which belong to God alone; but we believe that the blasphemous proclamation was an insult to the majesty of God, and we cannot help remembering that this deed of spiritual wickedness was done during a tempest which is said to have exceeded any known within the memory of man.

[Click on image to enlarge] But there is still another remarkable coincidence connected with the promulgations of the dogma of Papal Infallibility. On the same day, imperial France, the protectress of Rome, decided to declare war against the greatest Protestant power on the continent of Europe, and the day after, at Berlin, publicly declared, "from this moment France considers itself as being in a state of war with Prussia;" and in a moment the world was convulsed with the gathering together of peoples and nations in battle, and such gathering together as the world has never before seen. More than a million of men were gathered together with almost superhuman rapidity, with all their terrible scientific appliances for modern warfare, and hurled against each other in fearful conflict. The result is, France is paralysed and crushed as though "the stars in their courses had fought against her as against Sisera of old." >> note 6 Napoleon, "the eldest son of the Church of Rome," and the chief supporter of the Roman Pontiff, is now a prisoner of the Protestant King of Prussia, together with nearly 500,000 soldiers, while Paris is encompassed with armies; and the Roman Pontiff himself, who so blasphemously deified himself as God, has been stripped of his temporal sovereignty, and is now a prisoner in the Vatican. >> note 7 Rome and Paris are encompassed with armies! Surely this is the finger of God!

[Click on image to enlarge] With such startling events happening around us, we are called by our Church today to look for the second coming of Christ. He himself has told us in our text that he will come as a thief. His advent will be when men least expect it. It will be when nations are gathered together for war, as the nations of Europe now are, only it will be a universal war, when the millions of Europe and Asia, Africa and America, will be gathered together in an unholy alliance against God and His Church. What alliances will be made by this country, God, who knoweth all things, only can foretell; and the time when the second Advent will take place, he alone, who knows the end from the beginning, can declare. In our times it is very difficult to divine what alliances may not be formed, even by this Christian nation, for the sake of unrighteous Mammon. In 1854 we made an alliance with France to fight the battles of the Beast of the Apocalypse in defence of the False Prophet of the Apocalypse; >> note 8 and in 1857 we reaped the fruits of it, >> note 9 when the followers of the false prophet in India rose up against us and shed the blood of our fellow-countrymen like water on every side, and there was no one to bury them. We have defended the false religions of India, >> note 10 and preserved sacredly their revenues; while at home we have degraded the ancient and primitive Church of Ireland, and robbed her of millions of money, at the command of the Beast of the Apocalypse, the Papal Power. These things are grave political errors, and are sins against the Most High God, which He will certainly punish. And, moreover, during the last few days the world has been startled by the threatening attitude of Russia, >> note 11 while all nations are rising to arms, and the whole world is like an armed camp. And what will the end be? We know not; but these marvellous events to which I have referred are signs of the times, indeed, signs full of meaning, which we should earnestly pray for wisdom to read and understand, and take timely warning, and watch for the second Advent of Christ, lest we be found without a wedding garment, >> note 12 when He shall come again with power and glory, for blessed is he that watcheth and keepeth his garment, i.e. does not cast it away by apostacy. >> note 13

"Behold I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame. And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon."

These words of our text contain the most important subjects which can occupy the thoughts of men. We will consider briefly-

I. The second Advent of Christ.
II. The meaning of Armageddon.

I. The second Advent of Christ.

The second coming of Christ is the one subject of the Word of God. To quote passages of Scripture in proof would be to begin with the first revelations of God in Genesis, and close with the last verses of the Apocalypse, where He Himself declares, "Behold I come quickly," >> note 14 The end is in the beginning of things. When man fell, through the subtlety of Satan, >> note 15 the second advent of Christ commenced; and the glorification of man, through the coming of the Messiah, was laid in the ruin of man by sin. When the ground was cursed because of sin, the foundations of the new heavens and the earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness, were laid, and that glorious kingdom, against which the gates of hell shall never prevail, was set up.

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We believe the second Advent of Christ will be when all nations are rising to arms against the Lord and His anointed. He will then gather them 'together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.'

II. The meaning of Armageddon.

Now, in order to understand this passage of Scripture, it will be necessary for us to know what this name really means. There are many opinions about the etymology and interpretation of it. It is a name composed of two Hebrew words; but, owing to the fact that it occurs but once in the Bible, and then only in Greek letters, and never in Hebrew, interpreters have fallen into a mistake, as it appears to me, about the first part of the name. It is generally interpreted "Mount of destruction," as though a compound of the appellative har, a mountain, and giddon, intransitive from gadhádh, to cut, to break in upon. There can be no doubt that the derivation of the latter part of the name is from gadhádh, but I am led to believe that the former part of the name ought not to be derived from har, a mountain, but from arÁm, to be gathered together [...] and, moreover, the meaning of this root is in harmony with the subject in the New Testament seer's mind, the gathering together of the wicked to undergo the righteous judgment of God. Indeed the words immediately preceding this name contain the etymology and interpretation, "And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon." Nor are the words in the fifteenth verse of our text to be lost sight of, namely, "lest he walk naked, and they see his shame," for the primary sense of the root arÁm is to make naked, to be naked. Hence we conclude that Armageddon will not only be a place of gathering together for slaughter, but also, it will be a place of trial, and those who are naked, i.e. without the wedding garment of Christ's righteousness, will be set apart, and delivered over for execution, and will be bound hand and foot, and will be cast into everlasting torments.

In considering, however, the divine mystery of the Apocalypse, we ought to look back on the Old Testament prophecies, and contemplate the New Testament Apocalypse by the light of the Old Testament prophets.

How clear and significant are the words of the prophet Joel contained in the third chapter, from the ninth verse to the end of the chapter. The spiritual eye of the Old Testament seer beheld the Armageddon of the latter days, and his words reflect a glorious light on the apostolic vision. What a sublime description of the gathering together of the rebels against the Lord and His anointed, and of their final destruction! "Proclaim ye this among the Gentiles: >> note 16 prepare war, wake up the mighty men, let all the men of war draw near; let them come up. Beat your plough-shares into swords, and your pruning hooks into spears; let the weak say, I am strong. Assemble yourselves, and come, all ye heathen, and gather yourselves together round about: thither cause they mighty ones to come down, O Lord. Let the heathen be wakened, and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat: for there will I sit to judge all the heathen round about. Put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe: come, get you down; for the press is full, the vats overflow: for their wickedness is great: Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision; >> note 17 for the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision. The sun and the moon shall be darkened, and the stars shall withdraw their shining. The Lord also shall roar out of Zion; and utter his voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake: but the Lord will be the hope of his people, and the strength of the children of Israel." >> note 18

In this passage there is an historical reference to the signal and miraculous overthrow and slaughter of the enemies of God in the valley of Jehoshaphat, as there is also to the multitudes gathered together, and the slaughter of them in the name of Megiddo, for this latter name means multitudes gathered together for destruction, and the former the judgment of the Lord. And no doubt the gathering together of the nations in the valley of Jehoshaphat is the same as the gathering together to Armageddon.

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[Click on image to enlarge] Have we not had in modern times an Armageddon and a Valley of Jehoshaphat? Let the slain from their graves dug in the broad plains of Waterloo >> note 19 and on the heights of Sebastapol >> note 20 along the sterile shores of the Black Sea give the answer. And, if we turn our eyes across the Channel, we see millions of men gathered together for slaughter.

But what are these in comparison of the final gathering together of the nations in the end of the world? Only as a drop to the ocean. The army of Xerxes, >> note 21 for all its multitudes, has always appeared till lately a miracle in warfare: but that will be as the dust of the balance compared with Armageddon; for it will be the final and grand effort of the powers of darkness to crush and annihilate the Church of Christ. They will try to accomplish this, with all the fierce inhumanity of the rebellious Sepoys of India in 1857, but it will be as vain as it will be diabolical, for it is written, "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." >> note 22

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At the present time there are "signs in the sun, and the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth." >> note 23 Throughout the world preparations are going forward for war, and by the application of modern science even distant nations may be brought together in a few days to Armageddon, the valley of the judgment of God. >> note 24 And when this gathering together takes place, "the seventh angel will pour his vial into the air, and a voice shall come out of the temple of heaven from the throne, saying, It is done." >> note 25

This will be the consummation: the cup of the world's iniquity will be full; and, the wrath of the Lord no longer restrained, divine vengeance will be hurled into the earth to destroy all obnoxious to its influence; and there will be voices, and thunders, and lightnings. The Lord will go forth out of his place to shake terribly the earth. Cities and nations will fall. To great Babylon will be given the cup of the wine of the fierceness of His wrath; "every island will flee away, and the mountains shall not be found;" >> note 26 and then the wicked will be tormented for ever; but those who have watched, and loved, and longed for the coming of their Lord, shall be blessed for ever in the kingdom of their Father.


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