A question from our readers:
“Will the battle of Armageddon take place in the future, at the end of time, as a military conflict, or is it a spiritual battle fought throughout the ages?”
This is an interesting question.
The first reference to the battle of Armageddon in the Book of Revelation is found in Revelation 14:18-20:
“And another angel came out from the altar, which had power over fire; and cried with a loud cry to him that had the sharp sickle, saying, Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe.
“And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God.
“And the winepress was trodden without the city, and the blood came out of the winepress, even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs.”
We note that:
1. This vision obviously refers to the end of time. The angel comes out from the altar under which the souls of the martyred saints cry, “How long Lord, holy and true, dost Thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?” (Revelation 6:9, 10). That time has now come. Moreover, this vision speaks of the final judgment upon the wicked, which is already mentioned in connection with the sixth trumpet (Revelation 9:13-21), and is here referred to as a treading of the grapes in the winepress of the wrath of God. According to verses 14-16 the church is already taken up into glory.
2. The grapes represent the antichristian kingdom consisting of those nations which have always borne the name of “Christianity,” and also of the pagans, both of which have filled the measure of their iniquity by worshiping the beast. Thus all nations of the earth are gathered together in one place to be cast into the winepress of the wrath of God.
3. From verse 20 it becomes evident that they have been gathered together for battle, which becomes a great slaughter, such as the world has never known. The blood reaches to the horse bridles, by the space of sixteen hundred furlongs. Considering the arms race of today and the modern war machinery we can already well imagine that this final battle will be a bloody conflict that takes millions of human lives and brings untold devastation.
We must conclude from this that this battle will be both a military conflict and a spiritual battle.
The next reference to this battle of Armageddon is found in Revelation 16:12-14, 16. There we read:
“And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates: and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared.
“And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet.
“For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.
“. . . .And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.”
1. Also here we should bear in mind the Scriptural principle, that whatever is plainly figurative must be interpreted as figurative, and that which can be taken literally must be interpreted as such.
2. Here we read of the sixth vial, which again brings us to the end of time. The emphasis falls on the fact that Christ is carrying out the contents of the book with its seven seals, the eternal counsel of the Most High God in Christ Jesus (Rev. 5, 6). Thus the time has arrived that the river Euphrates in the Old Testament always represented the dividing line between Israel and the nations, between the church and the world. We recall that Solomon’s kingdom extended to the Euphrates. The kings of the East are referred to elsewhere as Gog and Magog, the pagan nations on the four corners of the earth. In the New Testament the river Euphrates, therefore, is still the symbolical dividing line between that which calls itself Christianity and the pagan nations. This separation will be removed, maybe literally (the Euphrates could dry up as a sign), but in any case symbolically, so that the “Christian” nations and the pagans are temporarily united and finally join in mortal conflict, which in the real sense of the word will be a world war. It is interesting to notice that the history of this present time ends even where it began, in the area of the Euphrates River.
3. What happens, according to Scripture, is this: The devil stirs up the anti-Christian political power, along with the false church, to arouse the nations, both those that profess to be the Christian nations and those which have always served idols, with a wicked, God-defying, Man-exalting propaganda to worship the beast, in order to wipe out the name of God and of His Christ, and also His cause from the face of the earth. The people of God are the sand in the oil of the machinery of this world power, the hindrance that must first be removed to make Man successful in setting up his throne on the earth as if he were God. The nuclear power, the large oil supplies, the advances in science, in medicine, in the realm of industry through its massive factories and machinery, and in commerce through its powerful means of transportation on land, on sea, and in the air, all give promise of an abundant life, which will attract all the peoples of the earth to marvel after and to worship Man, the source of all this grand, promising, endless future. The devil will seem to have attained his purpose at last; not God, but Satan through proud Man will rule the world.
4. He Who sits in the heavens laughs; God holds them in derision, for He has already exalted the hated, crucified Christ as Lord of lords and King of kings at His own right hand in the heavens. Fools that they are, Satan, demons, wicked men, are revealing the proud rebellion of their wicked hearts and are carrying out the counsel of the living God to their own condemnation. Man transgresses the entire law of the Ten Commandments by rejecting and cursing the God of heaven, exalting his own god, ruthlessly transgressing God’s Sabbath, committing murder of babes and the unwanted, openly committing the grossest forms of fornication and adultery, justifying with its own wicked excuses every form of theft, backbiting, slander, in giving vent to all the covetousness of his wicked heart. He breaks all the laws which God has established in creation, so that he misuses the animal world and the vegetation until he has polluted the soil, the air, the lakes and rivers, and even polluted the seas with his garbage and nuclear wastes. Gradually God is visiting man’s sin on his own head by pouring out the vials of His just wrath. Diseases, including social diseases, break out in uncontrolled epidemics. Famines sweep the earth. The sun burns hot in the heavens, making life unbearable, but also melting the glaciers, creating floods, tidal waves, and other devastations on the earth. Modern man who boasts that he has conquered diseases, can renew damaged organs of the human body, can “almost” overcome death, discovers that he stands helpless over against the mighty Hand of the Most High.
5. This results in a bitter disillusionment for all those who worshiped the beast. Their god has legs and feet of iron mixed with clay. They turn against the beast in bitter rage. Meanwhile, because of their deep awareness of God and of His almighty power, they curse the God of heaven. The measure of their iniquity is full, so that there is not even a semblance of repentance any more. The “Christian” nations and the pagan nations arise in warfare against each other, simply because the pagan world thinks it can destroy God by attacking “Christianity.” Together they are actually at war with God Almighty, pouring out their hatred against God and the neighbor. This last battle is both a spiritual and a military conflict.
This becomes evident from Revelation 19:11-15, 19:
“And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse: and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.
“His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his hand were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew but himself.
“And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood, and his name is called the Word of God.
“And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.
“And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations; and he shall rule them with a rod and iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of God Almighty. . . .
“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.”
Here our attention is called to:
1. Our Lord Jesus Christ coming to judge the nations of the earth. His entire appearance is one of a mighty Conqueror Who already has attained the victory. He is the Lord of glory Who has conquered over Satan, hell, sin, and death by His victory on the cross and His powerful resurrection from the dead. He has ascended to heaven where He has all power in heaven and on earth as Lord of lords and King of kings. He has already gone forth upon the white horse, conquering and to conquer (Rev. 6), causing His Word to be a power unto salvation for those given to Him by the Father, and causing that same Word to be a savor of death unto death to those who reject the gospel in the hardness of their hearts.
2. The battle of the ages begun in paradise is now finished (Gen. 3:15). God has set enmity between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. Evidences throughout the Old Dispensation appear plainly in the fact that God gathers His people in the line of continued generations and causes the Christ to be born, even in spite of all the wicked attempts of Satan to prevent the Savior’s birth. God defends His cause on the earth as is evident from the various references to Armageddon already in the Old Testament. Deborah and Barak are sent of God to destroy the Canaanites. According to Judges 5:19, a glorious victory is attained at the waters of Megiddo. God destroys the house of Ahab, who introduced the Baa1 worship as the national religion of the ten tribes. In the process of that destruction Ahaziah, king of Judah, is killed at Megiddo (II Kings 9:27). It was also at Megiddo that Josiah, the last good king of Israel, fell in battle. II Kings 23:26-29 tells us that the wrath of God turned against unrepentant Judah, because of their unfaithfulness and hardness of heart. Therefore God would deliver them over into the hands of Babylon and thus preserve His people, the remnant according to election of grace.
3. Through His victory on the cross Christ ascends to heaven to carry out the counsel of the Most High God, whereby Zion will be delivered through judgment. This is the theme of the Book of Revelation. The nations make themselves ripe for judgment by making warfare against God, His Christ, and His cause upon the earth. This reaches its climax in the rise of antichrist. The church is persecuted, because that church is considered to be the sand in the oil of Satan’s machinery. The nations are aroused to pay homage to the beast and to rejoice over their seeming victory over God and His Christ. But in the meantime the nations have abused God’s creation, have corrupted the rivers, the soil, the air, and the seas with their greed and wicked use of God’s creatures. Thus they bring upon themselves, to a great extent, their own destruction as the vials of God are poured out upon the earth. Sorely disillusioned, the nations arise in battle against God, ultimately blaming God for their obvious failure to dispose of Him, and thus they arise in warfare against each other.
4. It is very well possible that history will end, at least symbolically, where it began, at the Euphrates, of which we read that it will be dried up to open the way for the pagan nations to go to battle against “Christianity.”
5. This battle results in a severe devastation upon the earth and the destruction of millions of people, maybe through nuclear warfare or something very similar. In that hopeless situation Christ appears, showing the whole world how useless was the battle of the ages in trying to fight God and His Anointed. Fools that they were, they have only shown their own hatred against God, have served His cause instead of destroying it, and have filled up the measure of their iniquity, so that God is justified in His righteous judgment. The battle of Armageddon is the culmination of the battle of the ages, begun in paradise and carried on until the end of time.