I found five Scripture passages from Joel, Zechariah, Daniel, and Revelation that speaks of the gathering of armies (or nations). Interestingly, I found from my reading that there is not one clear purpose for the gathering. There will actually be four different purposes or goals. As we read from the following passages, I’m sure we will be able to see the different intentions.
Joel 3:1-3, 9-16
1″For behold, in those days and at that time,
When I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem,
2 I will gather all the nations
And bring them down to the valley of Jehoshaphat.
Then I will enter into judgment with them there
On behalf of My people and My inheritance, Israel,
Whom they have scattered among the nations;
And they have divided up My land.
3 “They have also cast lots for My people,
Traded a boy for a harlot
And sold a girl for wine that they may drink.
9 Proclaim this among the nations:
Prepare a war; rouse the mighty men!
Let all the soldiers draw near, let them come up!
10 Beat your plowshares into swords
And your pruning hooks into spears;
Let the weak say, “I am a mighty man.”
11 Hasten and come, all you surrounding nations,
And gather yourselves there.
Bring down, O Lord, Your mighty ones.
12 Let the nations be aroused
And come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat,
For there I will sit to judge
All the surrounding nations.
13 Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe.
Come, tread, for the wine press is full;
The vats overflow, for their wickedness is great.
14 Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision!
For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision.
15 The sun and moon grow dark
And the stars lose their brightness.
16 The Lord roars from Zion
And utters His voice from Jerusalem,
And the heavens and the earth tremble.
But the Lord is a refuge for His people
And a stronghold to the sons of Israel.
It seems here, from verse three, that the nations will be coming to raid Israel—to take their “fortunes.” But the rest of the passage tells a different story. God will be using their greed to gather them together in order to judge them for their sins against Israel.
Behold, a day is coming for the Lord when the spoil taken from you will be divided among you. 2 For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city will be captured, the houses plundered, the women ravished and half of the city exiled, but the rest of the people will not be cut off from the city. 3 Then the Lord will go forth and fight against those nations, as when He fights on a day of battle.
Here is a similar situation. The nations will gather to capture and plunder Jerusalem; but the Lord will take advantage of their greedy gathering, to judge and destroy them.
“At the end time the king of the South will collide with him, and the king of the North will storm against him with chariots, with horsemen and with many ships; and he will enter countries, overflow them and pass through. 41 “He will also enter the Beautiful Land, and many countries will fall; but these will be rescued out of his hand: Edom, Moab and the foremost of the sons of Ammon. 42 “Then he will stretch out his hand against other countries, and the land of Egypt will not escape. 43 “But he will gain control over the hidden treasures of gold and silver and over all the precious things of Egypt; and Libyans and Ethiopians will follow at his heels. 44 “But rumors from the East and from the North will disturb him, and he will go forth with great wrath to destroy and annihilate many.
In this passage, which is describing the final conflict, the objective in battle seems to be to gain power. And for the most part, it will be the Antichrist and his forces against the rest of the world. Here we see that the Antichrist is winning—until the end (see verse 45).
Revelation 16:12-14, 16
12 The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river, the Euphrates; and its water was dried up, so that the way would be prepared for the kings from the east.
13 And I saw coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs; 14 for they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them together for the war of the great day of God, the Almighty.
16 And they gathered them together to the place which in Hebrew is called Har-Magedon.
In this sixth bowl judgment the gathering of the nations of the world are demonically engineered through the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet. I wonder what the message will be that the demons will send. We don’t know whether it will be a clear, direct message like, “Let’s all gather together to destroy the Jews.” Or perhaps there won’t be any clear message; perhaps the demons will put them in a mindless trans, and by demonic power they will be pulled to the place of war with a great hook in their jaw (see Ezek. 38:4).
And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies assembled to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army.
20 And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone. 21 And the rest were killed with the sword which came from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse, and all the birds were filled with their flesh.
These three verses describe what happens at the very end of the Battle of Armageddon and the Tribulation. Here we see a fourth purpose for the gathering, to make war against Christ.
To review the different purposes: 1) coming from the nations, to raid and destroy the Jews; 2) again, from the nations, to gain power over other nations; they will gather to fight each other; 3) the purpose of God will be to judge the nations for their sin; and 4) from the nations, to make war against Christ.
As it appears from the text, the nations will probably not think that Christ will show up. But when they see Him coming, riding on a white horse, they will stop fighting each other; and verse 19 says that “their armies assembled to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army.”
Can you imagine it? You know, there is nothing like the ultimate enemy (Christ) to make you shake hands with the ones you are fighting with. That is what will happen. All the nations—the beast and the kings of the earth (v. 19)—will come together and make peace with each other, and thus combine forces, in order to destroy their real enemy—Christ. Of course, it will happen the other way around!