The Battle of Armageddon: Consequences of Premillennialism
The Battle of Armageddon as viewed by premillennialists cannot be considered outside the scope of the doctrine of premillennialism. What we are dealing with is not just simply a mistaken understanding of one verse of scripture in which a group of people have overly literalized what the Bible says. Rather, we are dealing with a system of interpretation of Bible prophecy which has very serious ramifications for many Bible doctrines. Hence, we must look at the premillennial interpretation of the Battle of Armageddon in the total context of premillennialism.
The doctrine of premillennialism, as I said earlier, states that Christ has not yet set up His kingdom. Rather, when the Jews rejected Jesus and demanded that Pilate crucify Him, Jesus postponed the establishment of His kingdom, according to premillennialism. The kingdom is to be established at the second coming of Jesus at which time Jesus is supposed to reign for a thousand years on this earth. If this doctrine is true, the following consequences logically follow:
1. Christ is dethroned. The scriptures teach that Jesus is presently king over His kingdom. He is presently described as "the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords" (1 Tim. 6:15). All authority has already been given to Him (Mt. 28:18); hence, God has put all things in subjection under Jesus' feet (Eph. I:22). He is the lawgiver of His kingdom (Jas. 4:12). He is presently reigning over His kingdom and will continue to reign until the last enemy, death, is destroyed at which time He will deliver the kingdom back to God (1 Cor. 15:24).
By denying that the kingdom is presently in existence, premillennialism denies that Jesus is presently king. A man cannot be a king without a kingdom. Hence, the denial that the kingdom is presently in existence dethrones Jesus as the King of kings and Lord of lords.
2. Makes Jesus a failure. A second consequence of premillennialism is that it makes Jesus a failure. When Jesus stood before Pilate, the Roman procurator asked, "So You are a king?" (Jn. 18:37). Jesus replied, "You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth." Notice that Jesus said that He came into this world to be a king. If Jesus came for this purpose and was not able to accomplish this, for whatever reason (premillennialists say that He did not become a king because the Jews rejected Him), He was a failure. Hence, premillennialism makes Jesus a failure.
3. Breaks the promises of God. In Psalms 2, God declared that He knew that the nations would do what they could to thwart the Messiah from accomplishing His purposes for being on this earth. The psalm states, "Why are the nations in an uproar, and the peoples devising a vain thing? The kings of the earth take their stand, and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord and against His Anointed: Let us tear their fetters apart and cast away their cords from us" (2:1-3). Yet, God promised that the plotting of the wicked would be unable to keep Him from setting His Anointed as king on His holy hill. "He who sits in the heavens laughs, the Lord scoffs at them. Then He will speak to them in His anger and terrify them in His fury: but as for Me, I have installed My King upon Zion, My holy mountain" (2:46). Hence, God prophesied that the plans of the wicked could not keep Him from accomplishing His purposes. But, according to premillennialism, the plans of the wicked were successful in keeping the Lord from making Jesus king over His kingdom. Hence, premillennialism leads to the conclusion that God broke His promises.
4. Convicts the apostles as being false interpreters of prophecy. Some of the very prophecies which premillennialists interpret as to be fulfilled in the future are quoted by the apostles and said to be presently fulfilled. For example, Paul quoted the second Psalm in Acts 13:33 and stated that it was already fulfilled. Premillennialists deny that it has been fulfilled. The result of premillennialism, therefore, is that it makes false interpreters of prophecy out of men who claimed to be interpreting prophecy under the influence of the Holy Spirit.
5. Removes Christ from His priesthood. The scriptures describe Jesus as our great High Priest who is presently making intercession for us (Heb. 4:14). His priesthood is of the order of Melchizedek and not like the Levitical priesthood. When Zechariah foretold the priesthood of Jesus Christ, he said, "Behold, a man whose name is Branch, for He will branch out from where He is; and He will build the temple of the Lord. Yes, it is He who will build the temple of the Lord, and He who will bear the honor and sit and rule on His throne. Thus, He will be a priest on His throne, and the counsel of peace will be between the two offices" (6:12, 13). Notice that Zechariah foretold that the priesthood and kingship of the Lord would be contemporaneous. Jesus would be priest on His throne. Premillennialism, however, denies that Jesus is presently on His throne. The conclusion which logically follows is that He is not exercising the office of priest if He is not exercising the office of king, because the two go together.
6. Postpones the last days. In Daniel's prophecy of the establishment of the kingdom, he foretold that the kingdom would be established during the days of the fourth kingdom, namely, the Roman empire (Dan. 2:44). The events of the establishment of the kingdom were to take place in the last days. On the day of Pentecost following the resurrection of Jesus, Peter quoted Joel's prophecy of the "last days" and stated that what happened on that day was the fulfillment of Joel's prophecy of the last days (Acts 2:16-17). Hence, Peter believed that he lived during the "last days." The writer of Hebrews identified the "last days" as the days during which God speaks to man through His Son (1:1-2). Yet, premillennialism states that the last days have not yet come because the kingdom has not yet been established. Hence, it denies the inspired interpretation of Joel's prophecy by postponing the last days.
7. Provides for days after the `last day." Jesus stated that the resurection of man would occur on the "last day;" He said, "No one comes to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day" (Jn. 6:44). Notice that Jesus identified the day of the resurrection from the dead as the "last day." Yet, premillennialism states that there will be at least 365,000 days after the day of resurrection. At the second coming of Jesus, the dead are to be raised. Then, Jesus is to reign on this earth for one thousand years. Hence, there is to be 365,000 days after the "last day" according to the doctrine of premillennialism.
8. Alters the nature of the kingdom. Premillenialism significantly alters the nature of the kingdom of God by making the same mistake which the first century Jews made with reference to its nature. The first century Jews expected Jesus to establish a physical kingdom in Jerusalem which would conquer all other earthly kingdoms. Jesus repeatedly had to teach them that the kingdom which He planned to establish was of an altogether different nature. Hence, He said, "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting, that I might not be delivered up to the Jews; but as it is. My kingdom is not of this realm" (Jn. 18:36). Yetj premillennialism wants to make Jesus' kingdom of thi& realm. Again, He said, "The kingdom of God cometh not: with observation: neither shall they say, Lo here! or, le, there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is with you" (Lk. 17:20-21). Yet premillennialismbelieves in the establishment of a kingdom which cometh with observation. Premillennialists believe in the establishment of a physical, earthly kingdom. Jesus, however, never wanted to establish that kind of a kingdom. He established a spiritual kingdom, the church. Premillennialists pervert the nature of the kingdom.
9. Contradicts the passages which speak of the kingdom in existence. There are several passages which speak of the kingdom being in existence. Paul stated that the Colossian brethren had been transferred into the kingdom of God's Son (Col. 1:13-14). John said that he was a partaker in the sufferings of the kingdom (Rev. 1:9). Other passages allude to the kingdom as being in existence as well.
What has always seemed strange to me is that premillennialists teach the necessity of the new birth but deny the results which come from being born again. Jesus said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (Jn. 3:3). Yet, premillennialists teach that the born again are not in the kingdom of God. Why would a person hold out the hope of being in the kingdom of God if one was born again and then deny that those who are born again are in the kingdom of God? This makes absolutely no sense.
10. Confuses Christianity and Judaism. The premillennialists have such a warped view of the kingdom of God that they end up with Christianity intermingled with Judaism. All premillennialists await the re-establishment of the Jewish system of worship and the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem. Reeardine this, Hal Lindsey wrote,
"There remains but one more event to completely set the stage for Israel's part in the last great act of her historical drama. This is to rebuild the ancient Temple of worship upon its old site" (The Late Great Planet Earth, p. 45).
"The Israelis will then be permitted to reinstitute the sacrifice and offering aspect of the law of Moses. This demands that the Temple be rebuilt, because according to the law of Moses, sacrifices can be offered only In the Temple at Jerusalem" (Ibid., p. 145).
This raises some serious questions about the premillennialists' concept of the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, the system of worship which He instituted, and His total ministry. Is the sacrifice of Christ insufficient? If not, why hope for the reinstitution of animal sacrifice? I think that you can see that Christianity and Judaism cannot be intermingled as premillennialism is guilty of doing.
Having rejected the premillennial viewpoint in its totality, I am also rejecting the premillennialist view of the Battle of Armageddon. Yet, the denial that the premillennial explanation of the Battle of Armageddon does not explain what the reference means. Hence, we need to explain the meaning of the Battle of Armageddon.
(Concluded next week)
Truth Magazine XXII: 15, pp. 243-245