Does China have a role in the end times?

Many students of Bible prophecy consider Revelation 16:12–16 to possibly refer to China in the end times:

“The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up to prepare the way for the kings from the East. Then . . . demonic spirits that perform signs . . . go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty. . . . Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon” (Revelation 16:12–16).

This passage predicts a massive, climactic conflict known as the Battle of Armageddon. It occurs at the end of the tribulation, after the sixth bowl judgment. At that time, the Euphrates River will be dried up, allowing the “kings from the East” to invade the Near East and march toward Israel. It is the “kings from the East” identification that many associate with China. The Chinese army, or a Chinese-led coalition, will take advantage of the removal of a natural barrier and sweep westward to meet up with the forces of the Antichrist.

When the end-times’ force from China joins with the armies of the Antichrist, the seventh and final bowl judgment will be poured out. The Lord Jesus will return, the most violent earthquake ever will shake the world, and the forces of the Antichrist and the armies of the East will be destroyed (Revelation 16:17–20; 19:11–21).

It is impossible to know for sure if the Eastern confederacy of the end times will include China; however, it seems likely that China will be involved. Recent years have seen a dramatic rise in China’s power and influence. The development of enormous military strength; intimidation of Hong Kong, Tibet, Taiwan, and other regions; pursuit of global economic dominance; aggressive rhetoric on the world stage; and, of course, the persecution of Chinese Christians—all this has been characteristic of China. It is not hard to imagine that the “kings from the East” who one day march into Israel will include China.

Some people identify another battle, mentioned earlier in Revelation, as a prophecy of China in the end times. The association hinges on the mention of an army of 200 million (Revelation 9:16) and occasional reports of China’s capability of equipping such a vast army. There are a couple problems with this view. One is that Revelation 9 says nothing of an army from the East; rather, it speaks of a demonic horde that destroys a third of mankind. The “horses” these beings ride are definitely not normal horses (verse 17). Also, the battle of Revelation 9 occurs after the sixth trumpet judgment; the battle of Revelation 16 involving the kings of the East occurs after the sixth bowl judgment, probably about three and a half years later.

In the end times, many nations, likely including China, will try their hand at conquest. Ultimately, their fight will be against God. The tribulation will be a tumultuous time of warfare, disasters, and divine judgment. But God has it all under control, as Psalm 2:2–6 assures:

“The kings of the earth rise up
and the rulers band together
against the Lord and against his anointed, saying,
‘Let us break their chains
and throw off their shackles.’
The One enthroned in heaven laughs;
the Lord scoffs at them.
He rebukes them in his anger
and terrifies them in his wrath, saying,
‘I have installed my king
on Zion, my holy mountain.’”

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