Armageddon And the Book of Revelation

 

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The Seven Bowls of God’s Wrath

Chapter 16: Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, “Go, pour out the seven bowls of God’s wrath on the earth.”

…Then I saw three impure spirits…They are demonic spirits that perform signs, and they go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty.

15 “Look, I come like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake and remains clothed, so as not to go naked and be shamefully exposed.”

16 Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.

17 The seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and out of the temple came a loud voice from the throne, saying, “It is done!”

Revelation in Context

The ‘Battle of Armageddon’ is one of the most misrepresented verses in the Bible by memory verse Christians who harden their hearts against reading God’s word in context.

  • Seven is the number of completeness. This completes God’s wrath at the end of time, just as seven days completed God’s creation.

  • It follows Christ’s Return. “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….And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations” Rev. 19
  • It is clearly the eschatological “battle of on the great day of
    God Almighty
    ” (vs. 14). –Geo. Eldon Ladd, Revelation
  • An eschatological battle, not a human battle. The armies are destroyed bythe sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth” 19:21
  • The ultimate reality is the Lord’s return. This is the event which is the focus of the expectation of the saints.” –Ladd

 

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Contrast with Off-The-Wall Interpretation of Ray Comfort

While no respected biblical scholars have named the nations [in Rev. 16:16] they do agree that certain nations will come together against Israel in one climatic end-time battle called Armageddon.”

If any scholar has made such an interpretation, it is not Bible scholarship, but eisegesis—reading his own preconceived notions into the text (think Left Behind).

Christ’s Coming: 1 Thessalonians vs. ‘Left Behind’

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First Thessalonians 4: The Coming of the Lord

1But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words. (English Standard Version)

Thessalonians is one of the earliest books of the New Testament. (Some think the earliest. F.F. Bruce suggested the possibility that Galations preceded it. But overall, James was probably the first.) Understandably, these new Christians in this new church had questions and misunderstandings that needed answers.

As v. 15 shows, this section answers questions about “the coming of the Lord,”  parousia* in Greek.[With reference to those who remain alive at that time.]

It begins in v. 13, the key verse of the context,  with Paul addressing their concern about fellow Christians who have already died. Were these who had died now at some disadvantage? What hope did those who still live have for them when Christ returns?

Verse 14 points to Jesus’ death and resurrection, the central theme of Christian hope concerning those who have died.

See 1 Corinthians 15 where Paul addresses the question of the resurrection. Christ’s resurrection was the first fruits, and the resurrection of Christians is the final harvest, v.23 “at His coming (parousia)” when “we shall all be changed—in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet” (verse 52).

Verse 15 gives the key point of this passage (addressing the concerns of the Thessalonians) that, when Christ returns,  the living Christians have no advantage over those who have died.

Verse 16 describes, in familiar terms (for us who have the NT), Christ’s return (parousia). This is no secret event.

This Coming is described in the same terms as other passages about the Lord’s coming:

“For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God….in the clouds…”

Acts 1 “…a cloud took him out of their sight….’This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.'”

Dan 7 “…with the clouds of heaven
there came one like a son of man”

Rev 1 “…Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him…”

Mark 13 “…then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven…”

Verse 17 pictures the “we” who are still alive as following those who have died “to meet the Lord in the air…”

To meet [apantasin] the Lord… “When a dignitary paid an official visit (parousia) to a city in Hellenistic times, the action of the leading citizens in going out to meet him and escort him back on the final stage of his journey [to that city] was called the apantesis” (F.F. Bruce,I &2 Thessalonians, WBC).  R.C. Sproul vivdly describes this historical usage by Paul–starting at 10:20 mark, here. 

See N.T. Wright speak of this, here.

Verse 18  (This is no gnostic revelation of some new doctrine of a secret ‘rapture’.) The whole point of this passage is to encourage each other in the hope given to us regarding death through Christ’s death and resurrection.

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*Parousia. In the NT, parousia, with reference to Christ, refers exclusively to Christ’s Second Advent, his Second Coming, “…the coming of Christ at the end-time for the general resurrection, last judgment and the creation of the new heaven and earth.”--The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, s.v. “present” (II:899ff).

See two other posts: 1) NT Prof. Ben Witherington on origins of ‘rapture theory’ and 2) on the text of Mat. 24, “…taken and the other left”–the opposite of ‘rapture’ teaching. Here –I Want to be Left Behind.