Scripture quotations are from English Standard Version (ESV) as I find them in the ESV Study Bible (ESVSB). (Crossway Books. English Standard Version Study Bible. Good News Publishers, 2007.)
In Revelation 19:11-21 we have a description of a great battle between the One who is riding a white horse and his armies and the Beast and his armies. The description includes the following parts:
· Description of the One who is riding the white horse and his armies: 19:11-16
· The invitation to the birds to have a great supper of the flesh of those who will be slain in the battle: 19:17-18
· The capture of the Beast and the False Prophet, with a summary of the role of the False Prophet and with the report of throwing the two into the Lake of Fire: 19:19-20
· The killing of those who are in the armies of the Beast: 19:21
I have discussed in a previous post the evidence that this battle is the “Battle of Armageddon,” even though it is not identified as such in the passage.
In this post, I shall discuss evidence that this battle is a COMPONENT OF THE SECOND COMING OF JESUS CHRIST. This conclusion seems self-evident, and yet careful interpretation requires that we make the case.
I have examined a great many Scriptures regarding the Second Coming. I first just ran through Scriptures from my own memory and also did word searches of such words as “parousia” (often translated “coming”). I also consulted a website that lists many Scriptures about the Day of the Lord. I think some patterns and helpful information came out of these searches. One helpful result was that Old Testament material emerged that provided new insight for me. These searches will be the main background for my discussion of this effort to merge the general idea of the Second Coming with the description of the Battle of Armageddon (which I shall refer to as “Armageddon”).
MAJOR DESCRIPTIONS OF THE SECOND COMING OR PAROUSIA OF JESUS CHRIST AND HOW THEY RELATE TO ARMAGEDDON
1. MATTHEW 24 AND PARALLELS
a. Matthew 24:29-31
i. Cosmic signs (sun darkened, etc.)
ii. The “sign of the Son of Man”
iii. Son of Man coming on clouds
iv. He comes with “power and great glory”: A pointer to Armageddon
v. Angels gather the elect
b. Mark 13:24-27: same as Matthew, except omission of “sign of the Son of Man”
c. Luke 17:24: “a lightning flashes and lights up the sky…so will the Son of Man be in his day”: an indication of the spectacular nature of the second coming
d. Matthew 24:27: “For as lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man.” Compare this to Luke 17:24 above.
e. Luke 21:24-28
i. Cosmic signs
ii. Great “distress of nations in perplexity…people fainting with fear…”
iii. Son of Man coming “in a cloud”
iv. Comes with “power and great glory”
2. ACTS 1:6-11, ESPECIALLY 1:11: A very simple, straightforward promise from an angel that states that, just as Jesus was taken up in a cloud, he will return in the same way.
3. I CORINTHIANS 15:22-26:
a. All will be made alive
b. Christ, at his resurrection, was the firstfruits
c. At “the end” Christ will deliver the kingdom to God the Father
d. But first he will destroy “every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.”
e. “The last enemy to be destroyed is death.”
f. This description of Christ’s destruction of his enemies is a pointer to Armageddon.
4. I CORINTHIANS 15:51-53: “we shall be changed” is a brief statement of the rapture of the living saints immediately after the resurrection of the righteous dead.
5. I THESSSALONIANS 4:13-18: A more detailed description of the resurrection/rapture simultaneous with the Second Coming. There is no indication of Armageddon.
6. I THESSALONIANS 5:1-11, especially 5:2-3
a. The “day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.”
b. “While people are saying, ‘There is peace and security,’ then sudden destruction will come upon them…and they will not escape.” This is a pointer to Armageddon.
c. “But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief.” Assurance to Christians
7. II THESSALONIANS 2:1-12, ESPECIALLY 2:8: “And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming.” This is a pointer to Armageddon. The details differ from Revelation 19. See discussion below. Otherwise, this confirms that Christ will defeat the Beast at his return.
8. II PETER 3:1-13, ESPECIALLY 3:7, 10, 12-13
a. Verse 3-4 describes “scoffers” in the last day who ask sarcastically, “Where is the promise of his coming [parousia]?” This ties the passage to the Second Coming
b. Verse 7 describes a future destruction of heaven and earth by fire.
c. Verse 10 announces that the “day of the Lord will come like a thief…” This is consistent with other passages on the Second Coming. However, it goes on to say: “and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up…”
d. Verses 12-13 also mention this destruction of heaven and earth as well as stating: “we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.”
e. This passage seems to encompass a much larger view of the consummation than other passages that focus on the Second Coming, the resurrection/rapture, and Armageddon. Much of what is indicated in this passage are also viewed in passages in Revelation beyond chapter 19.
9. I John 2:18-25, 2:28-3:3, 4:1-6, II John 7: These passages mention certain topics related to the last days and the Second Coming, with limited detail.
a. The “antichrist” is mentioned in I John 2:18, 2:22, 4:3 II John 7.
b. I John 2:28 promises the parousia.
c. I John 3:2 promises that we shall be like him (Christ) when he appears.
1. Revelation 1:7 promises the Second Coming
a. Christ will come “with the clouds…”
b. Every one will see him, included “those who pierced him” and all tribes “will wail on account of him.” This refers to Zechariah 12:10: “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child…” ESVSB comments on Revelation 1:7: “Most scholars think the wailing is a reaction to judgment instead of the kind of grief that leads to salvation.” The quote from Zechariah leaves the matter ambiguous. It is possible that this is reference to Armageddon and the terror that Christ will bring as he slays his enemies.
2. Revelation 3:10-11: Jesus promises to keep the church of Philadelphia “from the hour of trial” and also promises that he is coming “soon.” There is no other detail given.
3. Revelation 5:9-10 praises the Lamb and refers to his redemptive work that has made the ransomed people a “kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” Thus, the redeemed are promised a share in the triumph that shall be Christ’s at his second coming. See number 3 above. This triumph includes the victory at Armageddon.
4. Revelation 16:15: In the midst of the description of the events of the sixth bowl of wrath, Jesus breaks in with a word (which is put in parenthesis in ESV): “Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed.” Immediately before this statement, in 16:13-14, demonic spirits go to the kings of the world and draw them into a battle. In 16:16, the site of this battle is given as Armageddon. So, we see juxtaposed the gathering of the kings’ armies to Armageddon with the Second Coming of Christ. This is strong evidence that Armageddon and the Second Coming of Christ are simultaneous.
5. Matthew 24:37-44: Jesus compares his parousia to the days of Noah. People were living their lives “normally,” when suddenly the “flood came and swept them all away.” So the parousia will be a time when people think life will go on as always, but destruction will come. He gives a series of examples, such as “Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left…” ESVSB gives two possible interpretations. One is that the one who is “taken” is taken away to judgment and the other “remains to experience salvation at Christ’s return.” The other is that the one who is “taken” is “among the elect that the Son of Man will ‘gather…from the four winds’ (v. 31).” Many have interpreted this as the rapture. Jesus goes on to warn of his coming by using the parable of the master of the house and the thief in the night. If the master knew when in the night the thief was coming, he would have guarded his house. The main emphasis of this passage is a warning that Jesus’ parousia will be marked by judgment of those who are not among the elect. This is consistent with Armageddon, to some extent.
6. Matthew 26:64: Jesus is standing before the Sanhedrin at trial. In response to the High Priest’s inquiry into whether Jesus is the Christ, he replies: “You have said so [an idiom mean “yes, I am”]. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Jesus refers to God the Father as “Power.” It is an unusual designation for God, but it certainly fits who God is. Moreover, it emphasizes that Jesus, in his ascension entered into a new realm. To use a crude example, Jesus now “rubs elbows” with God the Father in all his majesty and all of his power. Not only is Jesus now in the vicinity, so to speak, but also he is now in partnership with that power. It is from that position of power that Jesus will come again to earth. So, Jesus ties two situations intimately together—Jesus sitting with Power and coming again on clouds. This points to the might which he will display at Armageddon.
7. Romans 2:5: “But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.” Paul is in the midst of an indictment against the person who judges others but does not have a heart of repentance. He looks to the future and sees a “day of wrath.” This is not necessarily the moment of the Second Coming. It could be a later day, such as is depicted in Revelation 20:11-15, a scene that I usually refer to as the “Great White Throne Judgment.” Nevertheless, it warns that the return of Christ will set in motion events that will include that judgment. However, I do not believe this verse refers specifically to the Second Coming or Armageddon.
8. II Thessalonians 1:5-7: “This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering—since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed…” Jesus is depicted as returning “with his mighty angels in flaming fire…” He will at that time inflict “vengeance.” This is vengeance for unbelief but also for afflicting the saints. The ultimate vengeance is “eternal destruction.” However, the mention of Jesus’ return “with his mighty angels in flaming fire” could be a pointer to Armageddon.
SCRIPTURES CONCERNING THE “DAY OF THE LORD” WHICH POINT TO ARMAGEDDON
1. Isaiah 13:4-6: “The sound of uproar of kingdoms, of nations gathering together…The Lord of hosts is mustering a host for battle…Wail for the day of the Lord is near, as destruction from the Almighty will come.” The Day of the Lord as a day of battle.
2. Isaiah 13:9-11: “Behold the day of the Lord comes, cruel with wrath and fierce anger…I will punish the world for its evil.” The Day of the Lord is a day of judgment
3. Isaiah 24:21-22: “In that day the Lord will punish the host of heaven…and the kings of the earth.” What it means to punish the “host of heaven” is uncertain, but probably refers to Satan and his minions. The “kings” could refer to the kings and their armies gathered at Armageddon.
4. Isaiah 27:1 “In that day the Lord with his hard and great and strong sword will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent…and he will slay the dragon that is in the sea.” See #3 above: this probably refers to the same spiritual warfare
5. Jeremiah 30:7-9 “That day is so great…it is a time of distress for Jacob, yet he will be saved out of it…in that day…I will break his yoke from off your neck…but they shall serve the Lord their God and David their king, whom I will raise up for them.” Israel is in focus as the one who is rescued in that day.
6. Jeremiah 46:10 “That day is the day of the Lord God of hosts, a day of vengeance…The sword shall…drink its fill of their blood. For the Lord…holds a sacrifice in the north country by the river Euphrates.” The Euphrates is not close to Armageddon. However, the day of the Lord is depicted as bringing vengeance upon the enemies of the Lord.
7. Ezekiel 30:3-4 “For…the day of the Lord is near…a time of doom for the nations…” A warning that the day of the Lord is going to be bad for the Lord’s enemies
8. Ezekiel 38:14-16 “…son of man, say to Gog, on that day…you will come from…out of the north…” This is a complex passage that may refer to Armageddon or to another God-appointed military campaign.
9. Daniel 12:1-2 “At that time shall arise Michael, who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble…But at that time your people shall be delivered…And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” This points to a deliverance of Israel that is in conjunction with resurrection.
10. Joel 1:15 “Alas for the day: the day of the Lord is near, and as destruction from the Almighty it comes.” The day of the Lord is understood to include destruction from God.
11. Joel 2:1-4 “Blow a trumpet in Zion…for the day of the Lord is coming…a day of darkness and gloom…” This refers to a locust invasion, but it looks far into the future to the coming day of the Lord and, perhaps, Armageddon.
12. Joel 2:30-32 “And I shall show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved…” This corresponds to New Testament pictures of the Second Coming. To what degree the dark imagery might refer to Armageddon is not clear.
13. Amos 5:18-29 “Woe to you who desire the day of the Lord…it is darkness and not light, as if a man fled from a lion and a bear met him…” This emphasizes the dark side of the day of the Lord, which is consistent with Armageddon.
14. Zephaniah 1:7-8 “Be silent before the Lord God! For the day of the Lord is near; the Lord has prepared a sacrifice and consecrated his guests…I will punish the officials and the king’s sons and all who array themselves in foreign attire.” The day of the Lord is a time of sacrificing evildoers.
15. Zephaniah 1:14-18 “The great day of the Lord is near…A day of wrath is that day…a day of battle cry against the fortified cities…I will bring distress on mankind…because they have sinned against the Lord…for a full and sudden end he will make of all the inhabitants of the earth.” The day of the Lord includes a battle.
16. Zephaniah 3:8 “Therefore wait for me…for the day when I rise up to seize the prey. For my decision is to gather nations, to assemble kingdoms, to pour out upon them my indignation…” the day of the Lord includes a gathering of kingdoms that will experience the wrath of the Lord.
17. Zechariah 14:2 “For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city shall be taken and the houses plundered and the women raped . Half of the city shall go out into exile, but the rest of the people shall not be cut off from the city.” The day of the Lord includes a gathering of nations, especially against Jerusalem.
18. Revelation 6:12-17 “When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold there was a great earthquake, and the sun became as black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood…Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich…and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks…calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” The day of the Lord (which this probably depicts) is day when people shrink in terror from the vengeance of God and the Lamb.
It must be admitted that NONE of the Scriptures that I have examined perfectly parallel the description of Armageddon that is found in Revelation 19. Some give indications or refer to certain events that might be understood to refer to Armageddon. In fact, we could say that ALL of the various descriptions of the Second Coming and of the Day of the Lord are different from one another. We can attribute this fact to the following:
· Each of the Scriptures is emphasizing a different aspect of the Second Coming or the Day of the Lord or both.
· Some of the Scriptures are using figurative language that refers to events without giving direct and exact descriptions.
· The two concepts—the Second Coming and the Day of the Lord—include extended timelines and numerous events.
· In some cases the consequences of components of the Second Coming or Day of the Lord and not the components themselves are in view.
· The audience that is intended varies in some of the Scriptures so that what is emphasized varies. For example, the comfort of the resurrection may be intended for Christians who have lost loved ones. Enemies of the Lord’s people may be warned of the vengeance of the Lord.
When one considers that each of the Scriptures that I have considered may have one, two, or more of these aspects, it is not surprising that we cannot find Scriptures that directly confirm Armageddon as a component of the Second Coming.
SCRIPTURES DIRECTLY DESCRIBING THE SECOND COMING (PAROUSIA):
These Scriptures include the following: Matthew 24:29-31, Mark 13:24-27, Luke 21:24-28, Acts 1:11, I Thessalonians 4:13-18, 5:1-11, II Thessalonians 2:1-12, II Thessalonians 1:5-7. The parallels to Matthew 24:29-31 do not have specifics on any battles that are fought. The “power and great glory” could indicate such violence, but it could simply refer to Christ’s spectacular appearance. Acts 1:11 and the passage in I Thessalonians 4 focus on the fact of Christ’s coming and, in I Thessalonians, the accompanying resurrection/rapture.
I Thessalonians 5:1-11 stresses the “sudden destruction” that will come to those who are not spiritually ready. Matthew 24:37-44 has the same theme, warning the Second Coming will include a judgment on those who are not trusting in Christ. Armageddon is certainly compatible with these warnings. Luke 21:24-28 is an exception to the other parallels to Matthew 24. In Luke there are descriptions of “distress of nations” and “people fainting for fear.” These descriptions are consistent with Armageddon. Also, II Thessalonians 1:5-7 describes the Second Coming as a time of vengeance on unbelievers and repayment of those who have afflicted the righteous. Armageddon could be a part of that vengeance.
Perhaps the closest parallel to the description of Armageddon in Revelation 19 is found in II Thessalonians 2:1-12, especially verse 2:8. In that verse, there is direct confrontation between the returning Christ and the “lawless one,” who is obviously the Beast. In II Thessalonians the Beast is killed, whereas in Revelation 19 he is thrown alive into the Lake of Fire. However, the Lake of Fire is designated as the “second death” in Revelation 20:14. Thus, we could deem the two passages as quite compatible.
PASSAGES ON THE DAY OF THE LORD THAT ARE COMPATIBLE:
Isaiah 13:4-6 describes a gathering of kingdoms to battle and the Lord’s host opposing them. In Isaiah 24:21-22 it is said the Lord will punish his spiritual enemies as well as kingdoms who oppose him. Jeremiah 30:7-9 describes the day of the Lord as a time when Israel will be rescued from her enemies. In Jeremiah 46:10 the day of the Lord is a day of vengeance. All of these can be considered to point to Armageddon, although other historical applications might also be considered.
In numerous Scriptures on the day of the Lord, it is emphasized that the day will have a dark, gloomy, frightening side. See Joel 2:1-4, 2:10, 2:30-32, and Amos 5:18-20. These are compatible with violent Battle of Armageddon.
Zephanian 3:8 warns of the day when the Lord will bring together kingdoms in order to pour out his “indignation.” This also is compatible with Armageddon.
In Revelation 6:12-17, the “great day of their [the Lamb and the One who seated on the throne] wrath” is the occasion for all to hide in terror. This passage may be interpreted several ways in its context. However, it could be understood as a proleptic [predictive] picture of Armageddon.
There are no perfect parallels between descriptions of the Second Coming and Armageddon. Nevertheless, the evidence is strong that Armageddon is one component of the Second Coming. The exact time-line of all the events that can be included in the Second Coming is not clear. However, very likely the resurrection/rapture will take place before Christ actually reaches the earth. Once he reaches earth, in a short time, Christ and his army arrive at Armageddon and defeat the enemies that are gathered there.
This concludes my discussion of chapter 19 of Revelation. I shall next consider chapter 20, which holds as many—if not more—challenges for interpretation.
Thank you, all my loyal readers. I hope you are safe during this pandemic. I am beginning to feel better as I recover from my own case of COVID-19. I covet your prayers for myself and my wife as she also deals with illness. God bless all of you.