Armageddon is well known in our culture as the "final battle" for the future of the planet. But the way people imagine this battle differs greatly from the biblical reality.
According to Hollywood, "Armageddon" is a special effects punch-up where the outcome is doubtful right up to the last minute. According to the Bible, "Armageddon" is all build-up and no follow-through. It's a case of "first round, first minute" for the good guys!
Before we consider it, we'll set the scene in the book of Revelation. If you like, you can skip the outline below, but it shows some of my "working" for why I consider "Armageddon" the way that I do...
Outline of Revelation
In Chapter 1 John sees a vision of the risen Christ.
In Chapters 2-3: Christ addresses seven churches.
In Chapters 4-5: As a slain Lamb, the Son approaches the enthroned Father and takes the scroll from His hand – here are the title deeds to creation.
Then we have the largest section of Revelation: from chapter 6 to chapter 20. This shows the unravelling of the scroll. Jesus, the Lamb, unfolds God’s history. These chapters show us the history of the world from Christ’s first coming until His second.
And so chapters 21-22 show us God’s new world – the new heavens and new earth. This is the ultimate "happily ever after".
Most people think of Revelation as a book about the future, yet the great majority of the book tells us about the present. What we see in chapters 6-20 are are 7 action replays of this history from different angles. So we see…
Chapter 6: The opening of the seven seals.
Chapter 8-11: The blowing of the seven trumpets.
Chapters 12-14: We meet the unholy trinity: the Dragon (Satan), the Beast and the False Prophet (his earthly intermediaries). We also meet the anti-church: Babylon.
Chapters 15-16: The pouring out of the seven bowls of judgement.
Then we see the defeat of the four evil forces...
Chapters 17-18: The destruction of Babylon (the false church)
Chapter 19: The destruction of the Beast and the False prophet.
Chapter 20: The destruction of Satan.
Some may not agree with my outline, but it seems clear to me that these are not seven consecutive scenes of judgement. Here are seven "action replays" of the same reality viewed from different angles.
One of the reasons I take this view is because of "Armageddon". There are three final "punch-ups" narrated in Revelation. They correspond to the defeat of Babylon, the defeat of the Beast and False Prophet and the defeat of Satan. Either God fails to eradicate evil twice but gets it right on the third attempt, or all three descriptions are true descriptions of "the end."
If that's right, then the "Armageddon" passage is one of three angles on the same last battle. See if you can spot the common theme in all three tellings:
[They were gathered] to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.... And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon. And the seventh angel poured out his vial into the air; and there came a great voice out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, It is done. (Revelation 16:14-17)
And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army. And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him. (Revelation 19:19-20)
Satan shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them. And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever. (Revelation 20:7-10)
Did you notice the common theme? There is a menacing build up followed by a complete non-event of a conclusion. There’s stockpiling of weapons, there’s amassing of troops, there’s sabre-rattling. But the minute God’s had enough – it’s over. There’s a knockout punch before the bell has sounded.
Evil is not an equal and opposite force which gives God a run for His money. As we saw with "the bottomless pit" - darkness is no match for light. Emptiness is no match for fullness.
Do you worry about the future? Does it seem like the darkness will win?
Take heart, the Lamb wins. When push really does come to shove, Armageddon is no contest!
7 thoughts on “Armageddon”
Armageddon is not about the future. It is over! There is sufficient support in the Bible pointing to Christ's death on the cross, a.k.a., "the great day of Almighty God", whence the Devil's power over death was destroyed once and for all!
Perhaps a helpful way to look at history is to view Calvary as 'D-day' - there was more of the story (events) to unfold, but that was the turning point in time (THE key moment came when Christ was revealed as the Lamb - 'in the volume of the book it is written, I delight to do thy will, O Lord' - at the foundation of all things). Since the events of that period (the first Easter to Pentecost), we have been living in the 'last days', which will continue until the day of His return, but all of the human story orbits that moment.
The wonderful gospel message of Genesis 1 is that the darkness is not able to resist or even understand the light. I love the fact that the Father wanted to show how the shining of Jesus instantly defeats the darkness - utterly illumines the deepest darkness and brings order to the chaos. The fact that the Trinity performs this presentation of light defeating darkness on the first morning of the first day shows how deep and powerful and mysterious the gospel is - written into the very fabric of creation from the beginning. So complete is this victory over darkness and chaos that we need have no more fear of the dark... and in fact, as Howard said, the darkness can even be seen as a 'womb' for further goodness and creativity! How impossible is that! The chaos and darkness of Genesis 1 is forced to be the prelude to the order and light and life of creation.... just as death at the Cross is forced to be the prelude to the resurrection.
True, there will be no darkness in that new creation future... and God is light and in Him is no darkness at all... so, no matter how He has tamed and domesticated and 'used' the darkness, still it has no final place in the creation. Yet, Genesis 1 preaches that the darkness is no threat to the light... and can even be forced to serve Christ and the Church. We see this in the dark and refining times of life... that might at first glance seem to be nothing but chaos and darkness... YET, by the power and light and life of Christ, such chaos and darkness is forced to serve and become a 'womb' for something new.
Yes, the forces of evil love to imagine that there will be a big punch up when the forces of darkness and chaos will make one final mighty stand, fighting to the last man in a heroic war against the forces of light and life... BUT, there is no final war... just final victory. The darkness, in the end, has no power at all. the sea might look stormy, but around the throne it is like glass.
@Howard Suppose that "the day of his return" fits into the promise: "I will be with you always, to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:20) introducing the completely "new covenant" of the Spirit ? If so, Troeltsch's response agrees with Armageddon!
I think you've answered your own question there, Ephrem - there's an "end" coming, a closure on this present age, and that will be the day of His glorious appearing. The Kingdom has come, but we, with all creation, yearn for the day of it's fullness, which is coming, and that will be the day of His final return.
Yes, Troeltsch, the darkness of this current age will be entirely removed because of Christ's victory over sin and death and the coming day of judgement, but it's also true that the will be a new creation - a new earth and new heavens, so I think that all that the Lord made and deemed to be good will have a role to play within that new realm, when every sphere and domain is adorned with its proper glory.
What we have now, as the next best thing to denial, is "Satan disguised to look like an angel of light" by procrastinating the "finished" work of Christ in the kind of death he suffered by destroying his power over death and giving eternal life to mankind. This is long overdue!
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