The Battle of Armageddon (I)
In recent years, the premillennial controversy has raged once again. Practically every time that an attempt is made to re-establish the nation of Israel, men begin to think that the time of the end is near. Consequently, they speculate concerning Bible prophecies in the light of the current events which they read in the daily newspaper. Since 1948 when Israel was once again established as a nation, the religious market has literally been flooded with materials proclaiming the theories of premillennialism.
The terminology of premillennialism has become well known. We have seen bumper stickers mentioning rapture. Radio evangelists have discussed pre- and posttribulation theories to such an extent that practically everyone is acqainted with the seven-year tribulation period. Another term of premillennial importance is the term "Battle of Armageddon." Most every preacher has been asked on one or more occasions, "What is the battle of Armageddon?" I would like to try to answer some of the questions that people are asking about the battle of Armageddon. Certainly the term is a Bible term, although it is only used in Rev. 16:16. From the amount of discussion it receives, one could get the idea that it is mentioned on every page of the Bible.
However, before discussing the biblical meaning and usage of the word armageddon, let me be sure that you understand how premillenialists are using the term. In order to do this, I must briefly summarize the main points of premillennialism according to the pretribulation rapture point of view.
The Battle of Armageddon According to Premillennialists
Let me begin by relating the series of events which surround the battle of Armageddon according to this view point. We are presently living in what is termed the "church age." Premillennialism teaches that Jesus came to this world to establish His eternal kingdom. However, when the Jews rejected Him and had Him crucified, a second plan was inaugurated which postponed the establishment of His kingdom. In the meantime, the "church age" occurs. At the end of this church age, Jesus is supposed to come again and take His saints quietly from the earth. Saints are supposed to mysteriously disappear from the earth at the rapture. The rest of the population on this earth will continue life as it is at the present.
The rapture will be followed by a seven year period of tribulation. This period is designed to prepare the nation of Israel to receive her Messiah. A remnant of the Jews will believe the gospel and serve as evangelists to try to persuade the rest of the Jews to accept the gospel of Jesus Christ. Some Gentiles will also turn to the Lord during this period.
During this period a personal Antichrist will arise, be popularly received as a ruler over Europe, and oppose the work of Jesus Christ. The forces of the Antichrist and Jesus Christ are destined for a great final conflict called the Battle of Armageddon. After Jesus victoriously defeats Satan, He will establish His kingdom on the earth and reign over it for one thousand glorious years.
The participants in this battle are already revealed, according to those who accept premillennialism. Four world powers will enter the fray. (1) Europe. The first great world power will be Europe. This Europe will be different from the independent nations which presently are known as Europe. The independent nations of Europe will form a ten-state United States of Europe. Premillennialists generally interpret the Common Market which is presently developed in Europe to be the first steps toward a United States of Europe. This ten-state confederacy will be under the leadership of one man who is the Antichrist. Premillennialists identify this new United States of Europe as the Roman Empire prophesied in Dan. 2 and 7. (2) The Russian Confederacy. This is the second great world power which will participate in the Battle of Armageddon. Russia is identified as "Gog, of the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal" (Ezek. 38:1-3). Her allies will be Persia, Cush, Put, Gomer, and Togarmah (Ezek. 38:6,9,15,22; 39:4) which are identified as Iraq, Iran, Ethiopia, North Africa, Germany, Armenia, etc. (3) Egypt: the King of the South. The third great power in the Battle of Armageddon will be Egypt. Premillennialists understand Dan. 11 to be discussing the Battle of Armageddon and identify the king of the south with Egypt. (4) China: the Eastern power. Elsewhere in Dan. 11, a power from the East' (v. 44) is mentioned. Premillennialists generally understand this to refer to China today, although premillennialists of the World War II era dogmatically asserted that this eastern power was Japan.
When the conflict begins, the battle will occur like this: Egypt will initiate a conflict with Israel. Because of the present tensions in the Middle East, premillennialists are convinced that this could happen at any time. At the same time that this occurs, Russia will invade the Near East pushing its conquests all the way to Egypt whom she will also defeat. The reason that Russia enters this war is her need for crude oil. Having defeated these countries, Russia will hear of rumors from the East (China) and from the North (Europe under the Antichrist). At that time she will return to Israel to defend her newly conquered area at Megiddo. Through some sort of nuclear holocaust, Russia will be defeated leaving a "power vacuum" in Israel which the Antichrist will quickly fill. Europe under the Antichrist will engage in battle with the East and then against the Jews.
At this point, Christ's second coming will occur. He will enter into a physical battle with the army of Satan under the leadership of the Antichrist and summarily defeat it. Having defeated His enemies, He will establish His kingdom and reign for one thousand years over the nations of this world from the city of Jerusalem. The temple will be re-built and animal sacrifices will be reinstituted. The glorious reign of Christ will begin.
It seems that a comment about the imminence of these events needs to be injected. Premillennialists have always expected the Battle of Armageddon to occur at "just any time." In 1924, William Edward Biederwolf wrote,
"In keeping with the interpretation which makes the word descriptive of a characteristic (great slaughter) rather than a definite place, there are those who think the last world war lust closed (World War I-mw) was Indeed the very battle of ArMagedon, and that therefore, as John Robertson says, `The Second Advent of our Lord is now by Prophetical schedule due, and may at the next tick of the watch in your pocket be seen In the sky"' (The Millennium Bible, pp. 662-663).
The usefulness of such a theory to the evangelism process is readily perceived. Whether used intentionally or unintentionally, the premillennial theory is used to scare people into obeying the gospel because the end time is right around the corner.
Having a grasp of the premillennial theory of the Battle of Armageddon, you are somewhat better prepared to tell whether or not this is in harmony with the Bible. Does God's word foretell the coming of such a great, physical conflict between Christ and a personal Antichrist? Can we see the signs which precede this conflict through the reading of our daily newspapers? These and other questions must be answered by going back to the Bible to see what it says about the Battle of Armageddon in particular and premillennialism in general.
(Continued next week)
Truth Magazine XXII: 13, pp. 211-212