March Toward Armageddon
It accounts for over 60 percent of the world’s population and roughly 25 percent of its land mass—containing four of the top ten largest countries and seven of the top ten most populous countries. For all the physical space it takes up and the people it includes, could the Asian continent be ignored in Bible prophecy?
Thankfully, it is not. For perhaps nowhere else in the world is there as much uncertainty about the future than in Asia. Prophetic Bible guidance is desperately needed to know what lies ahead for this region and its peoples.
A Disoriented Continent
“Asia is the cauldron of civilizations,” Samuel P. Huntington wrote in The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. Culturally, Asia can be broken down into seven civilizations: Orthodox, Sinic, Buddhist, Japanese, Hindu, Muslim and Western.
“East Asia includes one stable democracy, several new and unstable democracies, four of the five communist dictatorships remaining in the world, plus military governments, personal dictatorships, and one-party-dominant authoritarian systems” (ibid.). “The seeds for conflict among [Asian] states are plentiful in East Asia,” particularly the two Koreas and the “two Chinas” (China and Taiwan), according to Huntington.
China brings up a plethora of issues: its relations with Taiwan; its historic rivalry with Japan; the potential of an enemy in India; its claim to Tibet and Mongolia possibly resurfacing; its dispute over the Senkaku Islands (southwest of Okinawa) with Japan and Taiwan. Then there is the complex dispute over the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea with Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam. And while China occupies the Paracel Islands in the same vicinity, Vietnam and Taiwan also claim them.
Boundary issues are tender at the moment between nations of the Indochinese area (Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam). India, in addition to the natural disasters it has had to put up with over the past couple of years, is facing several border disputes with Bangladesh and, more notably, Pakistan.
Japan turned a lot of heads among its Asian neighbors in the latter half of 2001—from the prime minister’s controversial August visit to a war shrine considered to be the symbol of Japanese right-wing militarism, to its refusal to change history books which currently gloss over atrocities of the Second World War. Then there is Japan’s recent decision to send its military westward to assist its American ally in the war against terrorism—an unconstitutional first for the country’s military since World War ii.
Domestic disputes also rock the region—from a fractious Indonesia to Maoist uprisings and a troubled monarchy in Nepal.
Then there is Russia: One of the world’s largest countries, it sits astride two continents—the Ural Mountains dividing its European portion, where Moscow resides, and its vast Asian portion to the east. The great Bear has always vacillated politically between the West and the East. It currently seeks to strengthen its strategic partnership with the European Union. Yet, because of its loss of European satellites at the end of the Cold War, it still has found greater friendship in the East. In Asia, however, Russia has transnational issues to deal with, particularly a dispute with Japan (with whom it has never formalized relations since World War ii) over the Kuril Islands.
This current situation in Asia sets the stage for us to understand what the Word of God predicts will become of this region toward the end of this last hour. The Bible is boldly specific about where Russia and the other Asian countries will stand in end-time events.
Asia in Prophecy
According to the Bible, Asia eventually will unite into one massive power bloc. And despite the marginal disputes that pepper the region with unease, many current events now point to the future alignment of these large, populous countries.
Even if you are not fully schooled in the ins and outs of Bible prophecy, you have probably heard the most popular word in prophecy: Armageddon. It appears only once in the Bible—Revelation 16:16: “And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.”
Just prior to its mention is this account: “And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared” (v. 12).
Armageddon is a gathering place for man’s armies, one of which is described as the “kings of the east.” Who are these kings of the east?
Ezekiel 38 specifically names the players of this alliance of nations. “Son of man, set thy face against Gog, the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal …” (v. 2).
The term “chief prince” is more appropriately translated the “prince of the chief” or the “prince of Rosh.” In the original Hebrew, Rosh is intended to be a proper name and refers to the leader of the white Russians. Meshech and Tubal are the modern cities of Moscow and Tobolsk in Russia.
About Gog, apparently a tribal subdivision of Magog, students of prophecy generally agree that it refers to the vast regions of northern Eurasia extending from the Baltic to the Pacific.
The descendants of Magog, in addition to dwelling in the northern countries, also came to settle in the eastern parts of the continent and some dwell “[confidently] in the isles” (Ezek. 39:2, 6—the Bible gives directions as they relate to Palestine). Magog, therefore, refers to Mongolia, China, Korea, Japan and other islands of the Pacific.
These countries, along with Russia, are the main players of the Asian combine. Other countries will be “Persia, Ethiopia, and Libya with them; all of them with shield and helmet” (v. 5). Ethiopia and Libya should be translated Cush and Phut. Though some of Cush and Phut migrated to African nations, some of these settled in parts of India and Pakistan. Though Persia would seem to indicate Iran’s membership in this alliance, this Islamic country will lead a different biblically prophesied power bloc—the king of the south. Persians were also known to settle in India, which this verse is likely referring to. “They are among the wealthiest class in India, where they are called ‘Parsees’” (Plain Truth, July 1957). So we have Russia, China, Korea, Japan and now the Indian subcontinent—some of the most populous areas in the world!
Also, there is “Gomer, and all his bands; the house of Togarmah of the north quarters, and all his bands: and many people with thee” (v. 6). Gomer’s descendants settled in southeast Asia—the Indochinese peninsula and the southern archipelagos of the region. “Togarmah of the north quarters” includes the Siberian Russians and the people of Tibet.
Put these peoples together, and a remarkable, almost incomprehensible prophecy regarding this power bloc begins to seem less unlikely: that the army of this alliance of nations will amount to 200 million men! “And the number of the army of the horsemen were two hundred thousand thousand: and I heard the number of them”(Rev. 9:16).
Consider it: All the citizens of these countries right now account for over half of the world’s population!
Sequence of World War III
Identifying these nations is not enough, however, to grasp what lies ahead for Asia. Neither does the Bible stop here at revealing things about this alliance.
We must backtrack from the time of “Armageddon” to the events leading up to it. The outline of these events is given at the end of Daniel 11.
Daniel 11:40 describes the conflict that starts it all—between the “king of the south” and the “king of the north”: the Muslim-Arab confederacy of nations and a united Europe. This conflict begins a war that will last 3½ years (Dan. 12:7; Rev. 11:2). It is critical to understand this time sequence, as it tells us when the kings of the east come into play.
After completely overcoming the king of the south, the European powers will march into “the glorious land” or Israel (Dan. 11:41-43). This time of suffering lasts 2½ years, until God sends what are known as His trumpet plagues upon the Earth—a period called the “day of the Lord” in many Bible passages (a “day” indicating a full year of God’s wrath—the final year of this 3½-year period).
The first four of these trumpet plagues are supernatural in design. The fifth trumpet, however, involves another military clash.
Daniel 11:44 foretells of this clash: “But tidings out of the east and out of the north shall trouble him: therefore he shall go forth with great fury to destroy, and utterly to make away many.” The king of the north is troubled by news reports or rumors from the east and north—those countries to comprise the Asian hordes! For 2½ years-plus, this king of the north will have enjoyed unchecked dominance of the West and Middle East—that is, until Asia unifies into one bloc to offset the European empire.
Out of fear, the king of the north will make a preemptive strike against the Asians. This strike deals death to millions. But it will be followed by an Asian counterstrike where the king of the north “shall come to his end, and none shall help him” (Dan. 11:45). The European power bloc will be utterly overwhelmed by the massive Eurasian force. This battle is described as the sixth trumpet (Rev. 9:13-19). The casualties from this battle amount to a “third part of men” (vv. 15, 18).
The Bible is not scarce on details about the fall of Babylon (another term for the king of the north) at the hands of the Asians: Jeremiah 50-51, Isaiah 13 and Revelation 18 describe these events in graphic detail. The book of Nahum is devoted to the punishment that Germany (Europe’s leading nation) will receive from these Asian armies (write for our free booklet on Nahum).
“Behold, a people shall come from the north, and a great nation, and many kings shall be raised up from the coasts of the earth. They shall hold the bow and the lance: they are cruel, and will not show mercy: their voice shall roar like the sea, and they shall ride upon horses, every one put in array, like a man to the battle, against thee, O daughter of Babylon” (Jer. 50:41-42). The Eurasian hordes “spare no arrows” (v. 14) and do unto Babylon as they did to others (v. 15), rewarding it double according to its works (Rev. 18:5-6).
The biblical narrative now comes to the infamous march to Armageddon. But before we get to this, let us analyze the current setting of Asia in light of these prophecies.
How This Is Developing Now
Yes, we know what is ahead for Asia in the next world war. But what about the more immediate future? Are there any signs that such a powerful unification could occur? If so, then we can know that Armageddon is near!
Imagine, if you can, the geopolitical situation created by the events of Daniel 11:40-43. At that point in prophecy, the “West” really will only comprise Europe. The U.S. and Britain will be completely out of the picture. Imagine an Asia with no American presence. Asia is already on its way to complete self-reliance economically and militarily.
What is most remarkable about this global situation is that the next world war is essentially a war between religions—Islam in the south and Catholicism in the north.This is important to consider as we understand Asia’s participation. This crusade of all crusades will capture the attention of Asia and its various religions, as the “Holy” Roman Empire conquers Islam.
Religious Unification in Asia?
Since the Bible foretells Asia will unite, what could unite such a region? Throughout the 20th century it appeared it would be communism. But a decade of perspective since the Cold War’s end should show that this ideology, in addition to having failed the East, would still not have been enough to unite several key countries into this coalition—though communism may be represented within it. But if we look at current trends in Asia in light of what the Bible reveals, some strong indications of uniting factors can be seen.
Will it be religion? This would seem impossible, because there is no one religion to champion, as in Europe and the Middle East. But one religion may not be necessary.
Religion has seen an increase within formerly communist states since the end of the Cold War. Orthodoxy has had a major resurgence in Russia. This cannot be ignored, because, as Huntington writes, “The Orthodox countries of the former Soviet Union are central to the development of a coherent Russian bloc in Eurasian and world affairs” (op. cit.; emphasis mine throughout).
Orthodoxy is likely what will rally to their mother the Russian satellites: those peoples of the world identified in the Bible as Elam (today inhabiting areas from the Adriatic to the Baltic seas) and Madai or Media (inhabiting Ukraine and surrounding areas). Both Elam and Media are mentioned as part of the armies that will be used to punish Babylon (Isa. 21:2, 9; Jer. 51:11, 28), indicating that Ukraine, at least the eastern and Orthodox half, will ultimately reunite with mother Russia. Huntington comments, “The Russian-Ukranian relationship is … the core essential to unity in the Orthodox world.”
Religion is also growing in influence in East Asia. Lee Kuan Yew, who led Singapore to independence and reigned as the first prime minister until 1990, explained, “If you look at the fast-growing countries—Korea, Thailand, Hong Kong, and Singapore—there’s been one remarkable phenomenon: the rise of religion” (ibid.).
“Singaporean leaders trumpeted the rise of Asia in relation to the West and contrasted the virtues of Asian, basically Confucian, culture responsible for this success—order, discipline, family responsibility, hard work, collectivism … —to the self-indulgence, sloth, individualism … responsible for the decline of the West” (ibid.).
The bottom line is, a single, overarching religion that binds all of Asia together will almost certainly never come into being. But religion may unite smaller, otherwise disparate units within the larger whole.
Consider, also, a quality of these East Asian religions that may smooth the unification process: East Asians put a great deal of cultural emphasis on collectivism over individualism.
And, despite many differences among countries, what the Asian nations have in common, in addition to collectivism, is an emphasis on non-Westernism.
Asia’s embracing of things Asian because they are non-Western could be the common ground its countries find when threatened by a “Christian”-run Western behemoth. It is possible that the one unifying factor that all of Asia will see, from Orthodoxy to Confucianism to Hinduism, will be an anti-Western, anti-Christian movement, especially at a time when a dominant Catholic regime has just conquered a massive Islamic movement.
Coalitions have formed for much less. For example, what unites the coalition fighting the current war on terrorism? What do any of these nations have in common other than being against terrorism? All the religions of Asia would have as a common enemy the European “Christian” union.
Huntington states that nations will “bandwagon” with other nations based on the context of the world situation. “A younger boy will bandwagon with his older brother when they confront other boys; he is less likely to trust his older brother when they are alone at home” (p. 233). Despite conflicts of interest between Asian states, a common foe would undoubtedly unite them.
This was not out of the question a few years ago, when nato involvement in Yugoslavia caused Russia, China and India to consider a tripartite axis to balance what appeared to be an emerging unipolar world. How will Asia react when the world is more blatantly unipolar during a nuclear World War iii?
In the context of this anti-Christian sentiment, consider also the percentage of Asians who subscribe to Islam. Much of the Indian subcontinent adheres to it. It is popular among the Asian satellites of Russia. Then there is Islam’s most populous country: Indonesia.
Might a Catholic victory in the Mideast cause Indonesia and other Muslims of the Orient to unite with their Asian brothers to strike back at those who defeated the Muslims to their west?
A good example of how Asia is becoming less “Western” is in the economic arena. Asians see the West not as the model for economic development but as a competitor. They see themselves eventually surpassing the West economically. And with good reason.
The economic development of East Asia has been an outstanding phenomenon, starting in Japan, then moving into Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and South Korea, and finally China—which officially entered the World Trade Organization on December 11, 2001. Also India, after the Soviet Union’s collapse, joined the world economy by embracing capitalism—and its economy has grown steadily ever since. “The exception is thus no longer just Japan, it is increasingly all of Asia,” Huntington observes (ibid.).
Asia’s economic rejection of the West is most visible in China—a country predicted by some to have the world’s largest national economy early in this 21st century. Three of the economic “tigers” are Chinese entities—Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore. Asia’s economy is becoming more Chinese-centered and Chinese-dominated. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (asean) has worked at establishing an East Asian Free Trade Area, and a summit last November saw asean+3 (China, Korea and Japan) leaders agree to establish an asean-China Free Trade Area.
China is also turning its economy north and west, as is evidenced in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization—a grouping of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan that aims to bring economic stability, development and increased trade relations to the region, not to mention greater security to a region threatened by terrorism and separatism.
Why consider this economic strength? Because money is power. If the Bible prophesies of the largest army in the world, it is implicity prophesying of the largest economy in the world—one that can feed, clothe, arm and mobilize 200 million soldiers!
So what will unite Asia? Though religion may have a lot to do with uniting the Russian side of Asia with Russia and Chinese side with China, it will most likely be a common religious, economic and military enemy that will unite the whole region.
Finally, let us turn our attention then to two major areas to watch: 1) Asia’s military buildup, and 2) the increasingly good relationships among Asian countries.
The Arming of Asia
An arms buildup is already occurring in Asia, and the infrastructure is in place for these societies—some largely agricultural—to turn to war.
With countries like Korea, Taiwan, India and Pakistan standing as formidable forces in Asia—several of them possessing nuclear capabilities—probably the region’s most remarkable military currently is Japan’s. Its industry-driven economy is dependent upon steady manufacturing of military equipment.
While Japan will undoubtedly contribute a modern naval force to the Asian alliance (its navy is second in size only to the U.S.’s), China will contribute endless manpower and vast geographic reach—through the Little Chinas and the myriad of seaports China claims throughout the world. Nonetheless, China too has sought to modernize its military and upgrade its maritime forces. Along with other Asian countries—like Japan, Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia—it has heavily increased military spending. As of March 2000, it had seen 11 straight double-digit percentage increases in defense spending. India increased its spending in 2000 by more than 20 percent—its largest hike ever.
In the north, Russia—with a great stockpile of weapons since the Cold War ended—has helped supply its Asian neighbors. It recently signed a defense cooperation agreement with Myanmar and India, making India the largest purchaser of defense equipment from Russia.
Despite the plentiful seeds for conflict in Asia, efforts at building good neighborly relations among Asian countries are increasing. China is seeking better relations with India, despite a long history of tension. In June 1999, Beijing and New Delhi began a security dialogue and resumed border talks. China insists this will not harm ties with Pakistan.
Asian countries, notably China and Japan, are interested in contributing help to and settling issues facing Indonesia.
India’s economic relations with Japan are improving. Though Japan condemned India and imposed severe economic sanctions in response to its nuclear display in 1998, relations are turning more friendly. When each country was visited by the other’s prime minister, the head of state did not stop at the other’s political capital first, but its technological and commercial hub. This is indicative of a strong economic relationship which would not only offset overdominance in the region by China at the present, but eventually would add muscle to a coming Asian union.
And despite the historic Kuril Islands dispute between Japan and Russia, Russia’s president made it clear over a year and a half ago that “Japan must be a strong factor in international and regional policy. This is in Russia’s interests” (Interfax Russian News, July 4, 2000).
Watch for greater collusion between the Asian giants: Russia, China, India and Japan.
Finally, of course, there are the developing relations between Russia and China, perhaps more visible than any other bilateral relations discussed to this point. Watch this situation as well (as expounded in our booklet Russia and China in Prophecy).
In the near future, a culturally and religiously diverse Asia will ignore its differences, celebrate its similarities and join economically and militarily to form the most gargantuan army in history. Challenged by the European powers to its west, it will strike back with the most devastating force ever unleashed on one entity—ultimately annihilating that church-state union once and for all.
This will lead to the march to Armageddon. The blast of the seventh trumpet angel announces the return of Jesus Christ, coming just in time to save mankind from nuclear annihilation (Matt. 24:22) and to take the reins of rulership on Earth (Rev. 11:15). Of course, unrepentant mankind will not be happy about this (v. 18). The nations will be so angry toward Christ, in fact, that what is left of the beast power and the kings of the east will form an alliance of their own—a reaction to the greatest power and army of the universe, God’s army—to fight the coming King of kings! This is when the river Euphrates will be dried up, to prepare the way for the kings of the east to gather in this valley just northwest of Jerusalem.
This 3½-year war will conclude with Christ utterly wiping out man’s futile efforts to maintain control of the world (Zech. 14:12), at which time Christ will set up His perfect, peace-producing, world-encompassing government.