The Battle of Armageddon

   Premillennialism is the doctrine that Christ must return to the earth before He begins His 1,000 year reign from Jerusalem.   Dispensationalism teaches that all of history is divided into seven ages (dispensations), which supposedly correspond to the days of the creation week – the seventh “age” of which is the alleged “millennial” reign of Jesus.  Almost every time there is a disturbance in the Middle East, voices of hysteria assert that the “Battle of Armageddon” is at hand.

      The dispensationalists are constantly adjusting their “political” interpretations of those events that are supposed to be forerunners to “Armageddon.”  A recent example was seen in a revised version of John F. Walvoord’s book, Armageddon, Oil and the Middle East Crisis. For some years Walvoord was an instructor of Systematic Theology at the Dallas Theological Seminary. The promotion for Walvoord’s book asserted that the world stage was set for a showdown in the Middle East. The professor argued that the conflict in the Persian Gulf, during the administration of President Bush, Sr., fulfilled conditions “exactly as the Bible anticipates in its prophecies of the end of time.” Error: Then after the fall of the Soviet Union, these books were dumped on the market at a fraction of the original price. It is little wonder; Russia was supposed to be one of the super powers in the Armageddon conflict. The entire millennial scheme is without merit.

      A number of premillennial writers have identified Iraq with biblical prophecies regarding Babylon. They claim, therefore, that when the ancient prophets wrote regarding “Babylon,” in many instances they were speaking of modern Iraq.  Does the Bible speak of the “battle of Armageddon”? If so, what is it? And when is it supposed to occur?  Armageddon (literally, Har-Magedon) is specifically mentioned but once in the Scriptures. A passage in the book of Revelation states: “And they gathered them together into the place which is called in Hebrew Har-Magedon” (16:16). Before one is prepared to consider the possible meaning of “Armageddon,” he must first understand something of the nature and design of the book of Revelation as a whole.

      Revelation is a symbolic book of hope - It must first be noted that the book of Revelation is a highly symbolic document, as evidenced by both the introduction, and the type of material contained therein. The inspired author affirmed that Christ “signified” the message by his angel unto His servant John (1:1).  The Greek verb carries the idea of figurative representation. Strictly speaking it means to make known by some sort of sign,  it is admirably suited to the symbolic character of the book. This should warn the reader not to expect a literal presentation of future history, but a symbolic portrayal of that which must yet come to pass.  The last book of the New Testament is filled with symbols – like blood, wine, harlot, gold, white robes, etc.

      The book of Revelation is a proclamation of victory. One of the key words in the narrative is “overcome.” It is a fact admitted by all that this book was written in a time of bitter and far-reaching persecution. The object of the writing, was to assure the followers of Christ of the absolute and total overthrow of God’s enemies, and the glorious triumph of the Christian religion.

      What Is Armaggedon? (Revelation 16)  This awesome chapter records the pouring out of seven bowls of God’s wrath into the earth (v. 1). The bowls of wrath are in the form of plagues (sores, blood, fire, frogs), reminiscent of the Exodus Plagues ( Chapters 7-11), and they are designed to be universal, strictly punitive, and final. They point us to God’s overthrow of all that is evil.  Are literal frogs literally going to come from the literal mouths of literal creatures to literally engage in battle on the literal plain of Megiddo? I would assume that even modern millennialists do not believe that the battle of Armageddon will be fought by frogs.  Then the plain of Megiddo is only about twenty miles long by fourteen miles wide, and that is much too small to accommodate a battle of the magnitude (hundreds of millions of soldiers) demanded by modern dispensational writers.

       Exactly then, what is “Har-Magedon”?   It needs to be recognized that in speaking of Armageddon, or the mountain of Megiddo, the apostle John is not alluding to a literal place. The use of geographical points to emphasize spiritual truths is a common biblical appearance. For example, the word “hell” (Greek gehenna). The Greek gehenna relates to the Hebrew gehinnom, which was the Valley of Hinnom just south of Jerusalem. In Old Testament times, when the Jews became involved in idolatry, they offered their children as burnt sacrifices there (II Kgs. 16:3; 21:6). Later, because of its connection with pain, weeping, and burning (Hinnom became the city dump, continuously on fire), gehenna became a symbol for the final punishment of hell. Certainly it would be absurd to contend that on the Day of Judgment, the wicked will be cast into the literal Valley of Hinnom near Jerusalem.

      Similarly, and characteristically, John, in the Revelation, frequently uses places as symbols for concepts. So Zion (14:1), or Jerusalem (21:2), are symbols of God’s spiritual city, the church. Babylon signifies apostasy, and all that is opposed to God (14:8); Egypt and Sodom (11:8) represent oppression and wickedness; the Euphrates (16:12) was symbolic of the point of origin of (spiritual) Israel’s enemies, etc. It is within such a reference frame that “mountain of Megiddo” likewise is used.  Har-Magedon is symbolic of the final overthrow of all the forces of evil by the might and power of God”.  It is important to observe that Revelation 16 actually says nothing about the battle of Armageddon taking place at that point. There, the forces merely are gathered together, awaiting “the war of the great day of God, the Almighty” when He comes “as a thief” (16:14-15). Note: the great day of God is “the day of God’s final judgment”, at which time the earth will be destroyed (II Pet. 3:12). Moreover, the expression “come as a thief” is repeatedly employed in connection with Christ’s Second Coming (Matt. 24:43; 1 Thess. 5:2; II Pet 3:10). The battle scene itself is pictured in Revelation 19:11-16.

“And I saw the heaven opened; and behold a white horse, and he that sat thereon called Faithful and True; and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. And his eyes are a flame of fire, and upon his head are many diadems; and he hath a name written which no one knoweth but he himself. And he is arrayed in a garment sprinkled with blood: and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and pure. And out of his mouth proceedeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations; and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness of the wrath of God, the Almighty. And he hath on his garment and on his thigh a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.”

 Concerning this remarkable description, the following observations are in order:

     First, the one coming from heaven is clearly Christ, the Word (John 1:1,14), and the white horse is a symbol of His victorious conquest.

     Second, He is coming to judge and make war. But judgment will take place at His Second Coming (Mt. 25:31ff); hence, His war against the enemies of God will occur at that time.

     Third, the Lord smites the rebellious nations with a sharp sword that proceeds out of His mouth. Elsewhere, Paul shows that at the time of His “coming” (Greek  parousia – a technical term for the Lord’s final coming in judgment), Jesus Christ will assassinate His enemies “with the breath of His mouth,” and bring them to nothing (II Thess. 2:8).

In totaling, our argument is arranged logically as follows:

  • The battle of Armageddon will occur when Christ comes to judge (Rev. 16:16; 19:11).
  • But He will judge at His Second Coming.
  • The battle of Armageddon will thus take place at the Second Coming of Christ.
  • Therefore, Armageddon is the punishment inflicted by Christ at His Second Coming.

Conclusion

     The dispensational view of the battle of Armageddon is not correct. It contains not the slightest support in the Scriptures. Rather, it is grounded upon a novel and relatively recent (about a century ago) scheme of theological presuppositions. It is buttressed by an erroneous exegetical system that completely ignores the obvious symbolism of the book of Revelation and crudely literalizes its pictures. It is part of a doctrine that reflects in many ways upon the integrity of the Word of God, hence, is must be rejected by careful and conscientious Bible students. Christians have nothing to fear of an impending political Armageddon. However, all who are out of Christ (Gal. 3:26,27), or who are unfaithful to the Lord (II Cor. 11:2), had best prepare against the awful day of spiritual Armageddon!

      In the Bible THE MAIN THINGS ARE THE PLAIN THINGS, AND THE PLAIN THINGS ARE THE MAIN THINGS”.  This is especially true as one studies the Book Of Revelation.  May God bless you as you strive to be a good Bible student!

Posted in Articles By Brother Hoyt.