By S. Leonard Tyler
The battle of Armageddon is the theme song of many religious leaders in the present world. They seem to feel capable of and delight in fixing the times, seasons, periods, cycles, phases and happenings of the age to point forward, as a count-down, to the great battle of Armageddon. They, as it were, open the door and allow us to peer into the greatest of all events to come. This is the speculative stance picturesque in their eschatological imaginations to the battle of Armageddon. Some of the most fantastic expectations, imaginable dreams, greatest illusions, and wildest fantasies find fulfillment in their assumed assemblage of all nations, prepared with the most modern nuclear implements of warfare, to fight the great battle in “the valley of Megiddo.” They have all of the faithful of the Lord allied against all of the wicked of Satan literally and physically fighting this final battle of Armageddon. Gog and Magog are identified as a real prince and nation and thrown into the fray. Yes this is, to them, a real carnal, “flesh and blood,” war with all the righteous people battling it out with guns, tanks and bombs with all the unrighteous people.
Billy Graham said, “There is no doubt that global events are preparing the way for the final war of history, the great Armageddon!”(1)
Jerry Falwell, implying Israel’s place in God’s eternal scheme of redemption as yet to be accomplished, compares Genesis 12:1-3 with John 3:16 as being equally promised and believed concludes, “To stand against Israel is to stand against God. We believe that. I love the Jew because God loved the Jew . . . . My deep conviction is that America will not remain a free nation unless we defend the freedom of Israel.”(2)
Hall Lindsey wrote under, “Perfect Parable,” regarding “fig tree” leaves coming again as being May 14, 1948 when the Jewish people became a nation and applied Matt. 24:34 (“Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place,” NASB to this generation. The sign was to him the rebirth of Israel and a generation is about 40 years. He then concludes, “If this is a correct deduction, then within forty years or so of 1948, all these things could take place.” He states that “many scholars” believe this. Writing under, “What’s Your Game, Gog?” Lindsey gives us his view:
We have seen that Russia will arm and equip a vast confederacy. This powerful group of allies will lead an attack on restored Israel. However, Russia and her confederates will be destroyed completely by an act that Israel will acknowledge as being from their God. This act will bring many in Israel to believe in their true Messiah (Ezekiel 38:15ff).
The attack upon the Russian confederacy and the resulting conflict will escalate into the last war of the world, involving all nations.
He goes further by saying, “In this chapter we will trace consecutively the predicted events that lead to the Armageddon campaign: the various sequence of battles, the particular powers who fight each other, and how in turn each is destroyed. The crucial prediction of the revived state of Israel’s part in triggering Armageddon will also be shown.” He then gave a chart of Russia’s moves from phase 1 through phase 5 and, finally, to her Waterloo.(3) He garbles the prophets to give them a literal interpretation and application in order to chart the second coming of Christ, the rapture, tribulation and Armageddon which leads, according to Lindsey, into the millennial kingdom. What an expanded and presumptuous imagination he exerts to reach his conclusions!
Time setting seem to be inherent with those who interpret this text literally. One cannot give a literal interpretation to Revelation consistently without having beasts leading the battles, frogs taking orders from dragons of the sea and multi-headed animals directing the affairs of human beings.
D.M. Canright gives some evidence of literal interpreters and their time setting. He list some as early as the middle of the second century. In the Latin church he sights, “Public and private buildings were suffered to decay, and were even pulled down, from an opinion that they were no longer of any use, since the dissolution of all things were at hand.” He also emphasizes the claims made by William Miller, the founder of Adventism, that the world would end in 1843-4. Mrs. Ellen G. White somewhat settled the point at the time by saying, “I have seen that the 1843 chart was directed by the hand of the Lord, and that it should not be altered; that the figures were as he wanted them; that his hand was over and hid a mistake in some of the figures” (he gives her, Early Writings, pp. 67, 68 as a reference. Mr. Miller also said, “I believe the time can be known by all who desire to understand . . . . Between March 21, 1840, and March 21, 1844, according to the Jewish mode of computation of time, Christ will come.”(4) This is 1982 and Christ has not yet appeared. Thus Mr. Miller and Mrs. Ellen G. White are found to be false witnesses (prophets. They did not know and could not know the time of Christ’s second coming. Therefore, for the same reason, I reject all time setters, for no man knows when Jesus is coming (Mk. 13:32-37).
God’s Plan For Man’s Salvation
God’s plan for man’s salvation is provided by the grace of God for all men who will by faith accept it (Eph. 2:8; Matt. 7:13-14, 24-29). “For the grace of God hath appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us, to the intent that, denying ungodliness and worldly lust, we should live soberly and righteously and godly.in this present world; looking for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of the great God and our Savious Jesus Christ” (Tit. 2:11-12). Is this compatible with a literal, physical, worldwide, all-nations-involved battle between the righteous and unrighteous at Megiddo? Not to me! It sounds contrary, innately diverse and diabolically opposed to the very essence of the scheme of redemption procured by the precious blood of Jesus our Lord (Eph. 1:3-7).
Some Study Should Be Given
There are some clear, emphatic, and essential rules which must be observed, consciously or otherwise, in biblical interpretation. One is this: Obscure passages should be studied, understood and accepted in the light of plain, understandable texts. The plain, comprehensible passages must never be sacrificed, altered or compromised for some fanciful interpretation of an obscure Scripture. This need is maximized in studying prophetic, figurative and symbolic language. This special study of Premillennialism is a very impressive illustration of such a need.
I doubt if there is a subject where fanciful, imaginative and speculative creativeness finds vent or assumes greater advantage than in the premillennial theory. The essential tenets of the theory are not in the Divine Volume. Interpretations of difficult texts are so far removed from their context that they lose their Divine significance. Thus, the theory becomes purely and only a stigma of the theological, doctrinaire, human mind. Let us consider some plain texts.
Some Plain Propositions To Be Reckoned
The church and kingdom are terms applying to, identifying, encompassing or circumscribing the same people, those belonging to the Lord with special emphasis upon the type of figure used (Matt. 16:16-19; Acts 8:12; Col. 1:13, 18; Heb. 12:28).
The church/kingdom had its beginnings upon the first Pentecost after Christ’s ascension to the Father when He sent the Holy Spirit (John 14:26; 16:7-16; Luke 24:49; Acts 1:7-8; 2:1-47). This is when “He led captivity captive and gave gifts unto men” and took His seat at the Father’s right hand as the head of the church (Eph. 1:20-23; 4:8; Phil. 2:8-11). Here Christ began His reign as “both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:32-36, 47), with all authority “both in heaven and earth” (Matt. 28:18; 1 Tim. 6:15; James 4:12). The apostles also took their seats upon the twelve thrones of spiritual Israel (Gal. 3:7-8, Matt. 18:18, 19:27-28; Eph. 2:20). Thus, the reign and headship of Christ had its beginning.
The reign of Christ began when Christ sat down upon His throne and will continue so long as he sits (Heb. 10:10-13). The late Foy E. Wallace, Jr., repeats this for me, “Let me say it again; He sits while he reigns, and he reigns while he sits. He began reigning when he began sitting; he quits reigning when he quits sitting; but he will reign to the end, so when Christ quits sitting, it will be the end, and he will then quit reigning. What happens to the kingdom? He delivers the kingdom to God, the Father.”(5)
All of the accomplishments under the New Testament must be within the reign or headship of Christ for it went into effect when He became “both Lord and Christ” and will end at His second coming (Eph. 1:20; John 5:28; 1 Cor. 5:10; 2 Thess. 1:7-10). He is now reigning and must continue to reign until death is destroyed (1 Cor. 15:22-28). Death will be destroyed at the judgment (Rev. 20:11-15) when the kingdom is returned back to the Father.
The purposes of Christ are the purposes of the church under the New Testament rule of Christ. The church is not a substitute or accident or just a lesser kingdom instituted because the Jews rejected Christ. It was designed in God’s mind, foretold by the prophets, and established and sustained by Jesus Christ; therefore, “unto him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus unto all generations forever and ever” (all the generations of the age of the ages, foot note, Eph. 3:21, ASV.). When “all the generations of the age of the ages” have passed there is nothing left to come -except, the end, even eternity.
The kingdom of heaven and the church of the Lord apply to a spiritual relationship shared by those who, by faith, obey Christ, being baptized into Christ (John 3:5; Acts 2:38-42, 47; Gal. 3:26-27). The kingdom is not meat and drink but righteousness, peace and joy in the Spirit (Rom. 14:17). The church is the body of Christ (Col. 1:18; 1 Cor. 12:27). It is true that the Lord’s people are militantly engaged in a warfare, but not in a physical struggle or carnal war. It is a spiritual warfare with spiritual armor and designs – righteousness against wickedness in heavenly places (Eph. 5:11; 6:11-13; Gal. 5:16-26). Paul wrote the Ephesians to put on “the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles (stratagem, trickery, deceit, SLT) of the devil” (Eph. 6:11-20). Yes, the fight is on against wickedness, sin in high places, ungodliness, and immorality in order to quench all the fiery darts of the evil one. The offensive weapon is “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” The charge is, “Be not overcome with evil but over come evil with good” and “be faithful unto death” (Rom. 12:21; 1 Pet. 1:5-9). Thus, God’s kingdom people, as such, will never fight a physical war, for these texts are applicable now to all mankind and will remain so as long as time and timely things continue. When Christ appears at His second coming, He will render the judgment, consign the destinies of all, both saint and sinner, and close the books (1 Cor. 15:22-28; Rom. 2:5-11; Rev. 20:11-15) .
All Are One In Christ
“There is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision . . . but Christ is all, and in all” (Col. 3:11). Christ broke down the middle wall of partition to create in Himself of the two (Jew and Greek) one new man, so making peace; reconciliation to God occurs in one body (Eph. 2:11-16; 2 Cor. 5:17-19). There is no distinction between men; under the new covenant both Jew and Greek are justified by faith in Christ (Acts 15:7-11; 10:34-35; Rom. 1:16-18; 3:21-31; Gal. 3:23-29; Col. 3:10-11). The only access anyone has to the Father today is in or through Christ (John 14:6; Heb. 5:8-9; Luke 10:16). This is God’s chosen way by which man is saved (Matt. 7:13-14; 1 Cor. 1:21; Matt. 7:21-27).
“And they gathered them together into the place which is called in Hebrew, Har-Magedon” (ASV., Armageddon AV./. If one approaches this study with a literal interpretation, he begins his search to identify Armageddon. Peloubet’s Bible Dictionary gives just about as clear and concise understanding as any I have read.
Armageddon (the hill or city of Megiddo) Rev. 16:16. The scene of the struggle of good and evil is suggested by the battle-field, the plain of Esdraelon, which was famous for two great victories, of Barak over the Canaanites and of Gideon over the Midianites; and for two great disasters, the deaths of Saul and Josiah. Hence it signifies in Revelation a place of great slaughter, of a terrible retribution upon the wicked. The Revised Version gives the name as ar-Magedon, i.e., the hill (as or is the city) of Megiddo.(6)
The Layman’s Bible Commentary has this to say: “There was no literal mountain of this name, but the reference is probably to the mountains that were near the town of Megiddo, or possibly to the large size of the mound of the city itself. This place stood at the upper entrance to the Plain of Esdraelon by Megiddo the Syrians, and later the Assyrians, must have traveled when they besieged Samaria (II Kings 6, 17) . . . . All down through history this region has been known as a bloody battleground and as a convenient pass for great armies. In a word, Megiddo, had come to stand, in Jewish and therefore in Christian thought, for great and decisive struggle. John uses it here only, and he does not have in mind any thought that at some particular date in time the forces of evil and the powers of good will literally fight it out at this spot. It rather stands for the great final overthrow of spiritual evil by the spiritual power of the Almighty God.”
This is but an example if a literal interpretation is used and is intensified with each application of the supposed powers, nations and kings specified by the prognosticators. In most literal interpretations the suppositions are so expanded that one many search in vain to find any resemblence of fact.
Mr. Ray Summers expresses it well, “If one expects this to be a literal, material battle, he must expect the army to be headed by a committee of three frogs. Both figures are symbolical; neither is literal. There is no reason for making one literal and the other symbolical. The Armageddon in the book of Revelation has no location on the maps of the world; it is logical, not spatial. The battle is between righteousness and evil, the righteousness is the certain victor.”(7) He also wrote, “The three frogs perhaps symbolize some form of evil propaganda since they came from the mouths of three beast, false prophet and dragon, slt). . . True religion has no worse enemies, and Satan no better allies, than false propaganda.”(8) This is just as true today as in years past. Jesus warned His disciples against false prophets (Matt. 24:24. Paul and Peter warn Christians to beware of false teachers (2 Thess. 2:9-10; 1 Tim. 4:1-4; 2 Pet. 2:1-2). Those who refuse the message will become victims of their false propaganda or doctrine. Beware! It is presented on T.V., Radio, upon the printed page, and in multitudes of pulpits.
Armageddon Of Revelation
John unmistakably uses figurative language in this text. The dragon, old Satan; the beast, political powers or governments; false prophet, religious propaganda or false religions; the harlot-Babylon, Satan and antiChrist’s seductive, pervertive and deceptive teaching; a person or place full of vice and immoral practices; and the three frogs out of the dragon’s mouth are all figurative expressions. The battle of Armageddon is figuratively used to represent a war between good and evil, righteousness and unrighteousness. It is a spiritual conflict between those who accept the teaching of Christ (believers) and those lead by Satan’s luring devices of fleshly, material designs. Although it is a spiritual conflict, yet Satan uses every force and material influence available – possessions, pleasure, emotional and selfish gratification. He began his battle against Christ (Matt. 4:1-11; Rev. 12:1-6) but has turned his powers against Christ’s followers, the Christians. We must contend for and fight the good fight of faith (Jude 3). It is the flesh against the Spirit (Gal. 5:15-26). Armageddon symbolically represents a battleground, wherever and whenever good or right is confronted with wrong or evil. How consoling is the revelation; the. culminating facts in every picture, symbol and figure show the believers, God’s people as winning the battle. Thus, Christians, through much suffering and conflict, are more than conquerors. “This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith” (1 John 4-5).
In Revelation 16:16, “They gathered them together into the place which is called in Hebrew Har-Magedon” /ASV.). The beast, false prophet, the deceiver of those who bare the mark of the beast, and those that worshipped his image are readied for battle. The battle which is waged against “him that sat on the horse” and his army results in the defeat of the beast, false prophet and dragon with all their allies /Rev. 19:19-21). The absolute victory over sin and the world comes at Christ’s second coming and the final judgment (Rev. 20:11-15J. This is that final act of Christ pictured throughout the New Testament, His coming to judge all men and pronounce the destiny (Matt. 25:31-46; John 5:28; Rom. 2:5-13; 2 Cor. 5:10, 11; Thess. 1:7-10; Rev. 20:11-15). Thereafter, no place can be found in the New Testament for any existence upon this material earth. It shall disappear; John said that it had “fled away”; Peter said, the earth “shall melt with fervent heat” (Rev. 20:11; 2 Pet. 3, 7, 10-13). This is not a purification, it is destruction.
The harder the times, the stronger the temptations, the fewer believers and the more ungodliness; the immorality, vice, and worldly lust which seem to triumph are but challenges for stronger faith, more real, true convictions in Christ and His promises. Christians are today fighting this war-good against evil, righteousness against unrighteousness, even Christ against Satan. The victory will be at the second coming of our Lord. Will you stand with Him in victory? Therefore, we should accept the urgings given in Rev. 16:15 as the gathering was being assembled for battle, “Blessed is he that watcheth, and keep his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.” Peter concluded that the trial of your faith is more precious than gold which perishes. Faith offers eternal life, “Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls” (1 Pet. 1:9). Therefore, let the battle rage but stand like men; the victory is ahead. It is assured to all who through faith submit to the Captian of our souls – we shall win in Christ. This is to me the very purpose of the Revelation letter. The church of Christ, the Lord’s people, shall overcome all her enemies and win the victory of all victories – the salvation of the soul.
- Why do so many preachers and writers find the subject of Armageddon so fascinating?
- Why is time setting so unreliable regarding Christ’s second coming?
- How should one approach the study of the more difficult texts of the Bible?
- What are some plain propositions of the New Testament regarding the end times? Why are these so important in a study of Armageddon?
- When are all things to be accomplished under the New Testament? How long is the church to stand through which God receives glory? When will Christ return the kingdom back to the Father?
- How can one know that the Lord’s kingdom people will never fight a material war of any kind, much less a physical Battle of Armageddon?
- How should Armageddon be understood? Why?
- What is essential, if a literal interpretation is placed upon Revelation 16-19?
- Where can one find salvation? Will there ever be a different way of salvation?
- Where and how can any person be assured of eternal life?
Guardian of Truth XXVI: 4, pp. 50-53
January 28, 1982