Please explain the biblical metaphors of animals used to describe the powers prophesied to fight and destroy the modern tribes of Israel.
We know from prophecy that just prior to the return of Jesus Christ, the ancient Roman Empire will be revived one more time in continental Europe. It will attack and destroy the modern descendants of the ancient houses of Israel and Judah, and it will be subsequently involved in warfare with other Gentile nations.
The last European revival will consist of ten nations or groups of nations who will give their power and authority to a charismatic political and military leader. This leader is referred to as the beast, the king of the North, and the king of Assyria, named King Jareb. He will be of German or Austrian descent, and he will work in conjunction with the leader of a worldwide religious power. That leader is called the false prophet, the man of sin and the prince of Tyre. The political, economic and military power which the “beast” represents, is also referred to as the “beast,” as well as the “Chaldeans”; and the religious power which the false prophet leads, as the “image of the beast” and as the “harlot” or fallen woman riding the beast. That harlot is also described as “Mystery, Babylon the Great, the Mother of Harlots,” and the entire political and religious system of the last revival of the Roman Empire is also referred to as (modern) Babylon.
In addition, especially the last revival of the ancient Roman Empire and its political leader are quite often described with metaphors depicting animals. In most cases, those animals are depicted as blood-thirsty ferocious beasts; at other times, they would not be wild per se, but they can cause tremendous damage, or they are being used as a comparison for certain attributes and characteristics.
In this Q&A, we will mainly discuss the Bible’s metaphors of lions and locusts when describing the future European power bloc, its leader and their military might.
In Revelation 13:2, we are introduced to the ancient Roman Empire, which had emerged from previous powers such as ancient Babylon, Medo-Persia and Greece; and which would be revived ten times after its fall. That peculiar-looking beast had a mouth “like the mouth of a lion,” with which it would speak great things and blasphemies against God and His holy angels (verses 5-6). In Daniel 7:4, the ancient Babylonian Empire (which had been absorbed by the Roman Empire) was depicted as a lion as well, and we might recall how Nebuchadnezzar spoke proud words for which God punished him.
Additional passages compare the final revival of the Roman Empire and its end-time leader with a lion or lions. In Revelation 9:1-21, John sees in a vision the European power as fighting in war with the powers from the East. The weapons used are described as “teeth… like lions’ teeth” (verse 8). Prior to that event, the European power bloc under the beast will attack the modern houses of Israel and Judah—the USA, Great Britain and other nations of the British Commonwealth, as well as the state of Israel. Note how the Bible is picturing the end-time European power bloc:
“… ‘The lion has come from his thicket, And the destroyer of nations is on his way, He has gone forth from his place to make your land desolate. Your cities will be laid waste, Without inhabitant… Lament and wail, For the fierce anger of the LORD Has not turned back from us. And it shall come to pass in that day (“in that day” ALWAYS refers to end-time events),’ says the LORD, ‘that the heart of the king shall perish, And the heart of the princes; The priests shall be astonished, And the prophets shall wonder’” (Jeremiah 4:7-9).
With a similar metaphor, God continued to say in Jeremiah 5:6 that “‘a lion from the forest shall slay them… Because their transgressions are many… Your children have forsaken Me’” (Jeremiah 5:6-7).
In Jeremiah 50:17, references are made to ancient and modern Assyria (Germany) and Babylon (United Europe under Assyrian rule). We read: “Israel is like scattered sheep; The lions have driven him away. First the king of Assyria devoured him; Now at last this Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon has broken his bones.” Verse 20 makes clear that this is [also] a prophecy for the end–time, indicating that a modern king of Assyria and a modern “Nebuchadnezzar” will arise on the world scene.
Isaiah 5:29-30 adds that the “roaring” of the future Babylonian army attacking Israel (verse 25) will be “like a lion, they will roar like young lions; Yes, they will roar And lay hold of the prey… And no one will deliver. IN THAT DAY they will roar against them Like the roaring of the sea. And if one looks to the land, Behold, darkness and sorrow; And the light is darkened by the clouds.”
But after modern Babylon has brought havoc on this earth, God will deal with her as well. This is vividly told in the book of Nahum, describing the destruction of ancient Nineveh, but this prophecy is clearly meant for the future as well: “Where is the dwelling of the lions, And the feeding place of the young lions, Where the lion walked, the lioness and lion’s cub, And no one made them afraid? The lion tore in pieces enough for his cubs, Killed for his lionesses, Filled his caves with the prey, And his dens with flesh. ‘Behold, I am against you,’ says the LORD of hosts, ‘I will burn your chariots in smoke, and the sword shall devour your young lions; I will cut off your prey from the earth, and the voice of your messengers shall be heard no more” (Nahum 2:11-13).
As an end-time prophecy about modern “Nineveh,” the following comments about the future king of Assyria are noteworthy: “Your shepherds slumber, O king of Assyria… Your injury has no healing, Your wound is severe… For upon whom has not your wickedness passed continually?” (Nahum 3:18-19). In Nahum 1:15, it says: “O Judah, keep your appointed feasts, Perform your vows, For the wicked one shall no longer pass through you…” This is clearly a prophecy for the future, as at first, the wicked one (the modern king of Assyria and his armies) will pass through Judah one more time (compare Daniel 11:40-41).
We also read in chapters 2 and 3 of the book of Nahum that modern Nineveh, the “bloody city,” will be utterly destroyed through “horsemen with bright sword and glittering spear” (Nahum 3:1,3) and through “chariots” “with flaming torches,” which “run like lightning” (Nahum 2:3-4). These are clearly descriptions of modern weapons. But God continues to tell us in Nahum 3:4 that the destruction will come “Because of the multitude of harlotries of the seductive harlot, the mistress of sorceries, Who sells nations through her harlotries, And families through her sorceries”—a clear reference to modern Babylon’s harlot or fallen woman and her daughters in the book of Revelation, chapters 17 and 18. The harlot of modern Babylon and her sudden destruction are also described, for example, in the 47th chapter of the book of Isaiah, and in chapters 50 and 51 of the book of Jeremiah.
In the book of Joel, destruction of modern Israel and Judah is likewise prophesied just prior to the end-time “day of the LORD” (compare Joel 2:1, 11; 2:31; 3:14). Many regard the description of this coming destruction in the first chapter of the book of Joel as a literal invasion of locusts which will devour the produce of the land. It is however very possible that that “great army” of locusts (Joel 2:25) refers to the weapons of modern Babylon. We read in Joel 1:6 about this army of locusts that “… a nation has come up against My land. Strong, and without number; His teeth are the teeth of a lion, And he has fangs of a fierce lion. He has laid waste My vine, And ruined My fig tree; He has stripped it bare and thrown it away; Its branches are made white” (Joel 1:6-7).
Deuteronomy 28:42 may include another reference to the modern European army overtaking Israel as an army of “locusts,” stating, “Locusts shall consume (Margin: possess) all your trees and the produce of your land.” Notice the context in verse 36: “The LORD will bring you and the king whom you set over you to a nation which neither you nor your fathers have known, and there you shall serve other gods—wood and stone.”
We also find that in Revelation 9, describing the beast power’s war with the kings of the East, its weapons are pictured as locusts associated with smoke, which were not to devour the grass or any green thing or any tree (clearly, these are not literal locusts), but they were to torment people for five months (Revelation 9:3-5). The “shape of the locusts was like horses prepared for battle” (verse 7), and they were very noisy and had tails like scorpions with stings in their tails to hurt people with them (verses 9-10). We see that modern weapons and military equipment, including helicopters, are described which will cause such torment. But as we have seen, God will deal with modern Babylon as well. Nahum 3:15-17 tells us that fire will “eat [them] up like a locust” so that they “flee away,” even though they had multiplied their army and the commanders and generals of their army ”like locusts.”
Returning to Joel 2:2-3, we also read that the modern Babylonian army at the time of or just before the day of the LORD is depicted as a “people… great and strong, The like of whom has never been; Nor will there ever be any such after them, Even for many successive generations. A fire devours before them, And behind them a fire burns… nothing shall escape them.”
Why would God compare the Babylonian system with ferocious lions? First of all, we read that Satan “walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Even though God allows it, it is actually Satan who will give his power and authority to the beast (Revelation 13:4). Also, the “locusts” in Revelation 9 “had as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon (Destruction), but in Greek he has the name Apollyon (Destroyer).” That angel is none other than the great Destroyer, Satan the Devil, who brings destruction wherever he goes. (Compare Luke 9:55-56.)
The lion is described as “mighty among beasts And does not turn away from any” (Proverbs 30:30; compare Judges 14:18 and Amos 3:8). Likewise, the final European revival of the ancient Roman Empire will become a mighty military power (compare again Joel 2:2-3) which will not turn away from fighting the USA and the UK, as well as the state of Israel and other countries in the Middle East, and also the kings of the East. Satan, the Destroyer, will give the Babylonian system and the final leader power to destroy—remember that the modern king of Assyria is referred to in Jeremiah 4:7 as the destroyer of nations.
We also read that God compares Himself with a powerful lion (Jesus is referred to as the Lion of Judah, Revelation 5:5), especially when dealing with and judging His enemies. We are told that God will become a lion to modern Israel and Judah. Hosea 5:14 quotes God’s words as follows: “I will be like a lion to Ephraim (Great Britain, by extension including the USA as well), And like a young lion to the house of Judah (the state of Israel and the modern Jews). I, even I, will tear them and go away; I will take them away and no one shall rescue…” He also says in Hosea 13:8 that He will “devour them like a lion…”
Even though Satan will give his power to the beast, it will nevertheless be God who will allow it and who will actually use the modern king of Assyria to punish Israel. God will behave as a lion by using the “lion king” of Assyria and his followers to defeat Israel in war. We read in Isaiah 10 that God will send this future king or European military leader “to an ungodly nation And against the people of My wrath” (Isaiah 10:6). He describes this ungodly nation (mainly the USA and UK, as well as Judah) as “a sinful nation, A people laden with iniquity, A brood of evildoers, Children who are corrupters” (Isaiah 1:4). He speaks of its leaders as “rulers of Sodom” (Isaiah 1:10) and of the people as “people of Gomorrah” (same verse). God also warns that those “who lead” the people of the USA, the UK and Judah “cause you [the people] to err, And destroy the way of your paths” (Isaiah 3:12; compare Isaiah 9:16). God also asks those in America’s, Britain’s and Israel’s legislative bodies “who decree unrighteous decrees” (Isaiah 10:1) what they will “do in the day of punishment” (verse 3).
It is also noteworthy that God will behave as a lion towards Israel because Israel’s princes “are roaring lions” (Zephaniah 3:3). God had compared Israel and some of its tribes with a lion, to show its potential strength (Numbers 24:9; compare Genesis 49:9; Deuteronomy 33:20, 22; Micah 5:8). But with false pride and self-reliance, Israel used its strength and abilities to turn against and forsake God, similar to Lucifer who became proud of his beauty and turned against his Maker. God wants Israel to repent, but most will refuse to do so, and great punishment will be the consequence. Destruction is decreed, and the modern Babylonian system under the “beast” will be used as a roaring, devouring lion to bring this punishment on the roaring lions of the nations of Israel and Judah.
However, true Christians need not be afraid. God promises them angelic protection so that they “shall tread upon the lion… the young lion… [they] shall trample underfoot” (Psalm 91:13). This can refer to protection from Satan and his demons (Romans 16:20), as well as protection from people and worldly powers (Psalm 22:20-21; 57:4).
Finally, a remarkable transformation will take place in the Millennium and during the Great White Throne Judgment. The wild nature of lions and people and nations behaving like ferocious lions will be changed. Isaiah 11:6 says that the “calf and the young lion” shall lie down together, and that “a little child shall lead them.” Isaiah 11:7 says that the “lion shall eat straw like the ox,” and Isaiah 65:25 tells us that formerly wild animal, including the lion, “‘shall not hurt NOR DESTROY in all My holy mountain,’ Says the LORD.” Isaiah 11:9 states the same, but adds an important component: “They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, FOR the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.” Men and worldly powers had become hateful and destructive under Satan’s influence. But once God’s Kingdom is ruling this earth, they will learn of God’s ways and embrace true knowledge. As a consequence, their mindset and nature will change so that “Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, Neither shall they learn war anymore” (Isaiah 2:4). For instance, Israel and Assyria will become a “blessing in the midst of the land” (Isaiah 19:24). Assyria will be called “the work of [God’s] hands” and Israel will be referred to as “[God’s] inheritance” (Isaiah 19:25).
(To Be Continued)
Lead Writer: Norbert Link