Armageddon - One Final Battle

OVERVIEW – The several “battle” scenes in Revelation all present the same final assault by Satan against the people of the Lamb.

Battlefield - Photo by Hasan Almasi on Unsplash
We tend to assume the visions of 
Revelation are presented to us in chronological sequence, an assumption that creates difficulties when we attempt to interpret the several final “wars” depicted in chapters 11, 12, 13, 16, 19, and 20. Do the several visions portray different “final battles” scenes that occur at different points in time? - [Battlefield - Photo by Hasan Almasi on Unsplash].

To answer the question, it is necessary to recognize the literary and scriptural links between the several visions, and how Revelation employs Old Testament language. Additionally, wording from the same passage from Daniel is employed in several of the visions that refer to the “war,” and always in the singular number.

“WAR” WITH TWO WITNESSES. In chapter 11, two prophetic figures are identified as “my two witnesses” but interpreted as the “two lampstands.” If the symbolism of Revelation is consistent, then the “two witnesses” represent churches *(“the seven golden lampstands are seven churches”) – (Revelation 1:19-20, 11:4-7).

After completing their mission, the “beast will ascend out of the Abyss to make war with” the “two witnesses” - (poiései met’ polemon). “War” or polemon is in the singular number – it is “THE war.”

This clause alludes to a passage from Daniel, using the Greek Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Bible, a passage is employed frequently in Revelation to describe the “war” (singular) against the followers of the “Lamb”:
  • (Daniel 7:21-22) – “I continued looking, when the horn MADE WAR WITH THE SAINTS AND PREVAILED AGAINST THEM, until that the Ancient of Days came, and justice was granted to the saints of the Highest.”
In its original context, this prophecy referred to an attempt to annihilate the “saints” of Israel by a malevolent king, the “little horn” of the “fourth beast from the sea.” The book of Revelation applies this verse to the assault on the “two witnesses” by the “beast from the Abyss.”

“WAR” WITH THE WOMAN’S SEED. Following the exaltation of the messianic “Son,” war broke out in heaven between Satan and Michael the Archangel. The former is designated the “Great Dragon, the Ancient Serpent, the Adversary, and Satan.” Consequently, having been “cast to the earth,” the Devil is enraged, knowing that he has only “a short season” left to execute his plans - (Revelation 12:1-17).

After failing to destroy both the “Son” and the “Woman,” the enraged “Dragon” began to make “war with the rest of her seed.” This clause is another allusion to the same passage from Daniel. Again, it refers to only one “war,” again using the definite article or “the.” It refers to a specific and identifiable “war” – “THE war.”

Satan’s “war” is waged against the “seed of the woman,” which is identified as those “who have the testimony of Jesus”; that is, the “saints.” The “testimony of Jesus” also characterized John of Patmos and his “fellow participants in the tribulation,” the “seven churches of Asia” - (Revelation 1:96:919:1020:4).

“WAR” WITH THE SAINTS. Next, John saw the “beast with ten horns and seven heads ascending from the sea.” This is the same “beast” he saw “ascending from the Abyss” to wage “war” against the “two witnesses.” The “sea” is identical to the “Abyss” - (Daniel 7:1-8, Revelation 11:4-7, 13:1-10).

It was “given to the Beast to make war with the saints and to overcome them.”  The same Greek verb, infinitive, and preposition are used here that were used in the preceding visions for the “war” against the “saints.” Moreover, here, the complete first stanza from Daniel is employed, the “little horn made war with THE SAINTS and overcame them.”

Dinosaur Toy - Photo by Hannah Pemberton on Unsplash
Photo by Hannah Pemberton on Unsplash

The “
beast overcomes” the “saints” by imprisoning and killing them - (“If anyone is for captivity, into captivity he goes. If anyone is to be slain with sword, with sword he must be slain”). Under discussion is the persecution of the “saints,” not any conventional war waged between nation-states.

“WAR” AT ARMAGEDDON. The “sixth bowl of wrath” dried up the Euphrates River in preparation for an attack by the “kings of the east.” Demonic spirits caused the “kings of the whole habitable earth” to assemble for the final battle with “God the Almighty” at “Har-Maggedon,” meaning the “mountains of Megiddo” – (Revelation 16:12-16).

The description of the “war” alludes to Ezekiel’s vision of “Gog and “Magog”: “I will gather you and all your army…Be prepared and prepare yourself, you and all your company that is gathered to you” - (Ezekiel 38:3-10).

The “kings of the east” are universalized to become the “kings of the whole habitable earth.” The “war” includes all the nations set in opposition to God and the “Lamb”; it is global in scope and cosmic in effect.

To gather the kings of the earth to the war.” This translates the Greek clause sunagagein autous eis ton polemon. Once again, “war” is singular and has the definite article; once again, it is not another war but “THE war,” in this case, the war of the “great day of God the Almighty.” It occurs at a place called “Armageddon.”

This is THE climactic battle between the “Dragon” and “God, the Almighty,” and in fulfillment of the messianic prophecy from the second Psalm, a passage used previously in the vision of the “Woman” who gave birth to the “Son” destined to “shepherd the nations”:
  • (Psalm 2:1-2) – “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together against Yahweh and against his anointed.
The “kings of the earth” are gathered at the instigation of God to fulfill His purpose - to destroy end-time “Babylon, the Great City.” The force is gathered to a place called “Armageddon.” The geographic reference is not literal, as indicated by the word’s meaning, the “mountain of Megiddo.” Megiddo is a plain with no visible mountain; elsewhere it is called the “plain of Megiddo” - (Zechariah 12:11).

The language of “gathering together” alludes to the Greek Septuagint version of Ezekiel’s battle scene when the army of “Gog and Magog” invaded Israel. In Ezekiel, the invading force was destroyed on “the mountains of Israel” - In the “sixth bowl of wrath,” its destruction occurs on the “mountain of Megiddo.” Thus, the name “Armageddon” invokes the vision of “Gog and Magog” - (Ezekiel 38:1-13).

WAR WITH THE LAMB. Another “final” war is described in chapter 19, once more employing language from Ezekiel’s vision of “Gog and Magog,” the vision of the “Rider on the White Horse” - (Ezekiel 39:17-20, Revelation 19:17-21).

At the end of this scene, the “beast and the false prophet” are cast “alive into the Lake of Fire (purosthat burns with brimstone (theiō). The description borrows language from Ezekiel’s vision when Yahweh rained “fire and brimstone” on “Gog” and his armies - (pur kai theion – Ezekiel 38:21-22).

The “great supper of God” corresponds to the “great day of God the Almighty” described in the “sixth bowl of wrath.”  It also parallels the “sacrificial feast which I am preparing” for the “birds of the air” from the vision of “Gog and Magog” – (Ezekiel 39:17-20, Revelation 16:12-16).

The “beast and the kings of the earth” are gathered “to make war with” the “Lamb” and his army - (poiésai ton polemon meta). In Chapter 11, the “beast ascended from the Abyss to make war with the wwo witnesses” (poiései met’ polemon). Likewise, in chapter 12, the “Dragon made war with the sed of the woman” (poiésai polemon meta). And in chapter 13, the “beast made war with the saints” - (poiésai polemon meta). So, here, the forces of the “beast” gather “to make war with” the “Lamb.” The parallel language in all four passages is derived from Daniel 7:21, “the horn made war with the saints and prevailed against them.”

Thus, the vision of the “Rider on the White Horse” employs language from Ezekiel’s vision of “Gog and Magog,” and from Daniel’s vision of the war of the “little horn” against the “saints.” The vision from Ezekiel was also used in the “sixth bowl of wrath,” the so-called ‘Battle of Armageddon.’

In this vision, the armies of the “kings of the earth” are destroyed, the birds of the air are summoned to feast on their corpses, and the “beast and the false prophet” are cast into the “lake of fire and brimstone.”  Similarly, in the book of Ezekiel, the armies of “Gog and Magog” were destroyed, the “birds of the air” were summoned to feast on their corpses, and Yahweh rained “fire and brimstone” to destroy the invading force.

The book of Revelation universalizes the language from Ezekiel. The army of “Gog and Magog” is no longer limited to the regional enemies of Israel but expanded to include all the “kings of the earth and their armies.” Rather than an invasion in the Middle East, the attack is global. And, rather than against Israel, the assault is against the “Rider on the White Horse” and his “army” - the “saints.”

WAR” ON THE CAMP OF THE SAINTS. At the end of the thousand years, Satan is released to “to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magogto gather them together for the war, the number of which is as the sand of the sea” - (Revelation 20:7-8).

The force called “Gog and Magog” is identified - The “nations from the four corners of the earth.” As in the earlier “war” scenes, language is adapted from Ezekiel 38-39. The Greek rendered, “to gather them together for the war,” is exactly the same as the clause from the previous visions – (sunagagein autous eis ton polemon).

Locust swarm Photo by James Wainscoat on Unsplash
Locust swarm Photo by James Wainscoat on Unsplash

Satan and his horde “
ascend over the breadth of the earth and surround the camp of the saints.” The Greek rendered “ascend” (anabainō) is the same verb employed previously for the “ascent of the beast from the Abyss,” and for that of the “beast from the Sea.”

The “ascent over the breadth of the earth to surround the camp of the saints” is another verbal allusion to Ezekiel:
  • (Ezekiel 38:15-16) - “You will come out of your place out of the remote parts of the north, you and many peoples with you…a mighty gathered host, yea, a great army.  Therefore, you will ASCEND AGAINST MY PEOPLE ISRAEL like a cloud covering the land.”
Rather than invade Palestine from the north, the “nations” are gathered from “the four corners of the earth.” Like a cloud of locusts, they swarm over the entire earth, and the army is composed of all the “nations of the earth.” The “fire that comes down out of heaven and devours” them alludes to Ezekiel’s vision of the destruction of “Gog and Magog”:
  • (Ezekiel 38:22) - “Fire and brimstone will I rain upon him and upon his hordes and upon the many peoples that are with him.”
Thus, using language from Daniel and Ezekiel, the book of Revelation presents several visions of the final assault against the Church by Satan and his earthly forces.  But there is one, and only one, final “battle” that is portrayed over the several visions about the assault against the followers of the “Lamb.” The language of “war” is used metaphorically to picture the attack of the “Dragon” against the “saints,” whether by means of deception, compromise, persecution, and even outright martyrdom.




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