Armageddon, biblical scene of the world’s last great battle that will usher in the return of Jesus Christ, is no fictional location. It is a real place at Megiddo in northern Israel that has witnessed conflicts going back several millennia, but which has also inspired a series of priceless paintings.
The works are the legacy of Lady Barbara Brassey, who died in her 99th year in 2010, and have been left in the custody of Wrexham-based TV and radio executive Gareth Littler
Lady Brassey actually played a part in the little remembered 1939 Battle of Armageddon (the Greek name for Megiddo, which overlooks the Plain of Jezreel) that was won without a shot being fired and which paved the way for the birth of modern Israel.
Yet if the Islamic jihadists who fled from the British forces at Megiddo had been successful, it could all have been so different. However, they have now re-emerged as perhaps the biggest threat, not only to Israel, but to world peace.
For though Armageddon itself has since been quiet, wars and revolutions have broken out all over the Middle East, prompting fears of something much bigger and more brutal to come.
Of great strategic importance, Megiddo guards a narrow pass on the ancient Egypt-Assyria trade route and is perhaps the most fought over place on earth. It was also where General Allenby’s British Allied troops defeated the Turks in 1918 after taking Jerusalem without a shot fired.
But the paintings speak of hope, not war. The hands of the artist actually held the bullets with which to feed the machine gun aimed at the invading jihadists. Lady Brassey was married to Col. Campbell Westmoreland, who marched his battalion from Caesarea on the coast to face a hostile army at Megiddo. He lined his men up with their rifles and stationed his best ‘Tommy’ on the flat roof of a nearby building with a machine gun.
Outnumbered and short of men, he asked his wife to feed the gun with the bullets. But miraculously, no shots were fired as, suddenly and inexplicably, the entire jihadist army turned and marched away. The war developed along different lines, and in other theatres.
But, as Gareth Littler put it: “If that part of Palestine had fallen to a cohesive, organized jihadist army in 1939, no Jewish refugees could have passed through Haifa or Tel Aviv sea ports in the 1940s. The extraordinary battle helped pave the way for modern Israel. And in thanks to God for such a miracle, we have these marvelous paintings as a lasting legacy.”
Barbara became a committed Christian in later life and the ‘Armageddon Paintings’ – depicting ten scenes from the Bible including Jesus’ baptism, crucifixion, resurrection and return to earth at the end of the age – are seen as a prophetic sign that when Christ intervenes, peace is secured.
Lady Brassey was a silver medal winner at the Royal Academy with works exhibited in London, Paris, America and South Africa, and this unique collection has been described as “priceless” by fine art valuer Peter Ashburner.
The collection is expected to attract particular interest at a time when the sort of apocalypse envisaged by biblical prophets like Ezekiel and Daniel, and Jesus himself in the Book of Revelation, is becoming an ever-greater present reality.
Gareth says the message, both of the experience of Barbara at Armageddon that inspired the paintings and of the Scriptures themselves, is that it will not be Russia, as many Christians believe, that launches an all-out attack on Israel in the last days, but an alliance of Islamic jihadists.
Muslim countries, he explains, have a history of recurring jihad (holy war) in common – Islamic State arose 100 years after the massacre of millions of Armenians and others in a Turkish jihad.
An apocalyptic scenario is rapidly developing before our eyes, but the solution lies with the Lord Jesus Christ, the prophet Isaiah’s ‘Prince of Peace’, who will bring an end to warmongering as he turns swords into ploughshares and spears into pruning hooks (Isaiah 2.4).
Gareth wonders, too, whether the 1939 battle could also be a prophetic picture of God intervening there again with massive power at the end of time, with victory again won without men firing a shot!
Zechariah wrote: “A day of the Lord is coming when… I will gather all nations to Jerusalem to fight against it… Then the Lord will go out and fight against those nations...” (Zech 14.1-3)
“World leaders recognize a cataclysmic world war is now possible, but those who love God are reassured over Armageddon,” says Gareth.
“As things get worse, the world will struggle to find answers. But the good news of the Armageddon Paintings is that the Christian gospel holds the answer because Jesus rose from the dead and is coming back soon!”
The custodians wish to sell the entire collection, also including ten plaques, with the intention that they will be displayed in an internationally prominent venue where the public can see and experience for themselves the story that lies behind them.
The paintings combine history and hope for the future, says Peter Ashburner, adding: “As a qualified valuer of many years’ experience, I have never seen such a fascinating and powerful collection of art; and for this reason, in my opinion and in the right hands, they are likely to be priceless.”