In view of the three unclean spirits (teachings or ideologies) that motivate men to fight against God at the battle of Armageddon, Jesus interrupts the narrative and interjects His own warning in Rev. 16:15,
15 (“Behold, I am coming like a thief. Blessed is the one who stays awake and keeps his garments, lest he walk about naked and men see his shame.”)
In other words, if one wants to avoid being led by one of these three unclean spirits, he must stay awake and keep his garments. Conversely, this implies that those who “walk about naked” are the ones who are led by the false ideologies to fight in Armageddon or to urge others to fight in that battle.
Watchmen on the Walls
The metaphor of keeping one’s garments is described by Alfred Edersheim in his book, The Temple, pages 142, 143,
“Perhaps one of the most striking instances of this kind is afforded by the words quoted at the head of this chapter—‘Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments.’ They literally describe, as we learn from the Rabbis, the punishment awarded to the Temple-guards if found asleep at their posts; and the Rabbinical account of it is curiously confirmed by the somewhat naïve confession of one of their number, that on a certain occasion his own maternal uncle had actually undergone the punishment of having his clothes set on fire by the captain of the Temple as he went his rounds at night.”
Edersheim was referring to a story told by Rabbi Elieser ben Jacob (Middoth, i. 2), whose uncle’s clothing had been burned by the captain.
Rev. 16:15 applies not only to temple guards, but to all who claim to be believers. Rev. 3:2, 3 admonishes the church of Sardis to “wake up,” or to be watchful. All share in some responsibility as watchmen on the walls, though only a few have that specific calling in life. In this metaphor, Jesus is the Captain of the Temple making his rounds at night. Those guards who have fallen asleep—not in death, but in failing to be watchful—will be found “naked.” While they sleep, Jesus will burn their garments, so to speak.
Isaiah 56:10 prophesies of blind (sleeping) watchmen, comparing them in the same verse to “dumb dogs unable to bark.”
10 His watchmen are blind, all of them know nothing. All of them are dumb dogs unable to bark, dreamers lying down, who love to slumber.
Dogs are normally good watchmen, as they bark when potential danger approaches. But Israel’s watchmen were blind, knowing nothing, much like dumb dogs and dreamers who love sleep. Isaiah 56:11, 12 continues,
11 And the dogs are greedy, they are not satisfied. And they are shepherds who have no understanding; they have all turned to their own way, each one to his unjust gain, to the last one. 12 “Come,” they say, “let us get wine, and let us drink heavily of strong drink; and tomorrow will be like today, only more so.”
Isaiah identifies these watchmen as “shepherds who have no understanding.” When danger of divine judgment approaches, they do not recognize the danger and therefore do nothing to enlighten the people. The true prophets of God in Scripture all understood that Israel and Judah were in danger on account of their lawlessness, their disobedience, and their rebellion against the covenant. But most of the leaders in Isaiah’s time were part of the problem and were not fulfilling their calling as watchmen or shepherds.
Jesus’ warning in Rev. 16:15 shows that this problem has persisted to the present time, and this is the reason that so many people are led to support the battle of Armageddon.
Most Bible teachers today would probably agree that the battle of Armageddon is fought over control of the “Holy Land.” Jews want it, Islamic people want it, and Christians want the Jews to own it, thinking that Jesus will rule the coming Kingdom from a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem. All three are motivated by Old Covenant religion, whether they realize it or not.
Jews obviously want to reestablish Old Covenant religion, and certain groups have already prepared the materials to rebuild the temple and have trained Levitical priests to offer animal sacrifices again.
Islamists want the site, for they say that Muhammed ascended to heaven from “the farthest mosque” (Masjid al-Aqsa), which was interpreted by his biographer to mean the temple mount in Jerusalem.
Christians have come to support the Jewish effort, since the 1800’s, when Dispensationalist teachings of Darby and Scofield deceived believers into thinking that the “age of grace” would end and the “age of law” would resume. The “age of law” was a misleading label, of course, because they had no understanding of the law and its place in the Kingdom. To them, it meant that sacrifices would resume, and Old Covenant worship would be reinstated.
They also taught that Jesus Christ would become the high priest over Levitical priests, complete with all of the Old Covenant rituals set forth under Moses and Aaron.
Of course, we know that Jesus was of Judah, not Levi, and was therefore not eligible as a priest—much less a high priest—of that order (Heb. 7:14). The Melchizedek Order has permanently replaced the Levitical Order, even as Christ’s death on the cross has permanently replaced all animal sacrifices.
Darby and Scofield essentially taught that New Covenant Christianity was a temporary interruption of the Old Covenant where the Age of Grace was to last about 2,000 years. They believed that the physical children of Abraham (whom they identified as the Jews) temporarily lost the right to rule the earth, but that this right would be restored to them in the Kingdom Age.
Along with this came the belief that the Jews would soon repent and then return to the old land as believers in Christ. Of course, the return took place, but without their repentance. So Dispensationalism has been modified from its original tenets in order to induce Christians to support Zionism as a fulfillment of Bible prophecy.
The Dispensationalist support of Zionism has served to create Christian Zionists who feel compelled to support the rebuilding of a physical temple and the reinstatement of animal sacrifices. They also support the most rabid and cruel policies against the Palestinians, treating them as if they were ancient Canaanites that must be killed or expelled from their homeland. Somehow they think that this is what Jesus would do.
Furthermore, Christian leaders often support the most radical Jewish leaders and even criticize the Jewish state for not exterminating the Palestinians. They take Joshua’s conquest of Canaan as their model, rather than Jesus’ method of conquering the world.
Dispensationalism tends to make a distinction between Jews and all others, even giving each its own moral standard. For Jews, morality is thought to be based on the Old Covenant and its interpretation of the law. For Christians, morality is thought to be based on lawlessness which they mistakenly believe is a feature of the New Covenant. This doctrine of two moral systems only creates a double standard in the Kingdom of God. Jews are allowed to establish their own standard of morality, based on what is good for Jews, while “gentiles” must be more loving among themselves, while supporting Jewish interests, however ungodly these interests may be.
Some Dispensationalists went so far as to separate the Christian inheritance from the Jewish inheritance. Christians were to inherit heaven, while Jews were to inherit the earth. This was their way of explaining and justifying the double standard which they had created in the Kingdom of God. Virtually all of them seemed to forget that Christ had come to abolish the dividing wall that had been erected in the temple, separating people into racial categories as “chosen” or “non-chosen” people (Eph. 2:15, 16).
Worse yet, many Christian Zionists do all in their power to provoke Armageddon in the mistaken belief that they can force Christ to return to save the Jews from extinction. Jews are happy to accept Christian support and money, but they resent the Christian motive.
Dual Covenant Theology
Christian Zionism is now evolving into a movement where Christians are beginning to think that Jews are saved apart from Christ. Their salvation, they say, is based on adhering to Judaism and its Old Covenant religion. This is known as Dual Covenant Theology.
John Hagee has written a book, In Defense of Israel, saying that Jesus did not come the first time to be the Messiah (Christ), which seems to make Peter’s confession pointless when He proclaimed, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:16). Such a view attempts to defend the Jews’ rejection of Jesus as the Messiah. If Jesus did not really come the first time to be the Messiah, then somehow the Jews were justified in rejecting Him, and this lessens their accountability before God.
If John Hagee had lived in the time of David, his book would have been entitled: In Defense of Absalom. His "defense" would have been that it was in the divine plan for David to be overthrown, so Absalom should be supported by all the people. Further, he would have argued that David was not really the "anointed one" (Messiah) until he returned to the throne—which pictures the second coming of Christ. And then, of course, his book would have ended with Absalom and his followers ruling the Kingdom as honored officials in David's court.
We know from the biblical account that this is not what happened—nor will it happen when Christ returns to reclaim the throne that was usurped. John Hagee, and others like him, simply do not understand the biblical story of Absalom, nor does he know how to apply it in the conflict over the right to rule. This is how preachers end up supporting the wrong side, betraying Jesus who they claim as their friend.
There are many aspects of Christian Zionism that play into this lack of understanding. All of these things have their role in causing Christians to support the move toward the battle of Armageddon. I am not so concerned about unclean spirits that motivate Jews and Muslims to fight this battle, but I am concerned about the role of Christians. All men are in need of the truth, but Christians ought to have a better understanding of the New Covenant and of biblical prophecy.
The Judas Factor
Judas betrayed Jesus, not because he hated Jesus, but because he wanted to force Him into a position where He would perform a great miracle to prove that He was the Messiah. He hoped that if Jesus were condemned to be crucified, it would force Him to do a great miracle that would show forth His power and majesty, convincing the people that He was indeed the Messiah. Judas did not understand His prophetic role as Ahithophel, who had betrayed King David a thousand years earlier when Absalom overthrew him (2 Sam. 15:12, 31).
Judas did have faith in Jesus, but his lack of understanding caused him to betray Jesus. When his plan backfired, and the realization came to him that Jesus was not going to come off the cross, he was so remorseful that he hanged himself (Matt. 27:3, 4, 5). He followed the prophetic example of Ahithophel, who also hanged himself (2 Sam. 17:23 KJV).
Absalom’s revolt against David with the help of Ahithophel prophesied of the chief priests overthrowing Jesus with the help of Judas. Judas was Jesus’ “friend” (Matt. 26:50; John 13:18), even as Ahithophel had been David’s friend (Psalm 41:9). Yet Judas betrayed Jesus. Why? Because he had no understanding, even though he, along with the other disciples, had worked miracles in the name of Jesus (Luke 10:9, 17).
This story of betrayal, which started with Ahithophel and was fulfilled in the story of Judas, is again being fulfilled in our time in the context of the second coming of Christ. This time Christ is coming as Joseph (with His robe dipped in blood—Rev. 19:13), and we know that Joseph had been betrayed by his brother Judah (Greek: Judas). It was Judah’s idea to sell Joseph as a slave (Gen. 37:26).
In Christ’s first coming as the Lion of the tribe of Judah, He was betrayed in the dispute over His right to take the throne of David. Today, however, as we prepare for Christ’s second coming, the same story of betrayal is playing out again, but this time the dispute is about the birthright that was given to Joseph (1 Chron. 5:1, 2).
Who is Jesus’ “friend” today who will betray Him? Is it the Jews? No, it is Jesus’ disciples—Christian people. Specifically, it is the Christian Zionists who are playing the role of modern Judas, and they are betraying him by siding with those claiming the birthright who hate Jesus Christ. The birthright name is Israel, the name given to Jacob by the angel in Gen. 32:28), which he passed down to the sons of Joseph (Gen. 48:16).
In 1948 the Jews officially and nationally laid claim to the name Israel, even though they did not represent the tribes of Joseph. Ephraim and Manasseh had been the leading tribes of the House of Israel in the Divided Kingdom. When Israel was deported to Assyria, Judah did not have the right to claim the name Israel, nor did it until 1948. In doing so, they usurped the birthright of Joseph with the help of modern Judas, the Christian Zionists. Once again, Jesus has been betrayed in the house of His friends.
Christians who assist the Jewish Zionists, through their lack of prophetic understanding, betray Jesus by pushing the Jews—and, indeed, the whole world—toward Armageddon. For a fuller study of this betrayal, see Dr. Luke: Healing the Breaches, Book 8, The Climax.
See also my book, The Struggle for the Birthright.
While I recognize the inevitability of this insofar as the divine plan is concerned, it is equally true that we are admonished by Jesus Himself to stay awake and to keep our garments. The day will come when great remorse will strike the church—especially Christian Zionists—and they will recognize their betrayal. This, I believe, will fulfill the Day of Atonement in our time.
How much better is it, though, to be compliant with the will of God, rather than just to be swept up in the plan? Armageddon is the plan, but those watchmen who are awake will not awaken to find their garments “burned,” as it were. Those who remain awake will receive their new garments at the time of the First Resurrection.