Armageddon is well known in our culture as the "final battle" for the future of the planet. But the way people imagine this battle differs greatly from the biblical reality.
According to Hollywood, "Armageddon" is a special effects punch-up where the outcome is doubtful right up to the last minute. According to the Bible, "Armageddon" is all build-up and no follow-through. It's a case of "first round, first minute" for the good guys!
Before we consider it, we'll set the scene in the book of Revelation. If you like, you can skip the outline below, but it shows some of my "working" for why I consider "Armageddon" the way that I do...
Outline of Revelation
In Chapter 1 John sees a vision of the risen Christ.
In Chapters 2-3: Christ addresses seven churches.
In Chapters 4-5: As a slain Lamb, the Son approaches the enthroned Father and takes the scroll from His hand – here are the title deeds to creation.
Then we have the largest section of Revelation: from chapter 6 to chapter 20. This shows the unravelling of the scroll. Jesus, the Lamb, unfolds God’s history. These chapters show us the history of the world from Christ’s first coming until His second.
And so chapters 21-22 show us God’s new world – the new heavens and new earth. This is the ultimate "happily ever after".
Most people think of Revelation as a book about the future, yet the great majority of the book tells us about the present. What we see in chapters 6-20 are are 7 action replays of this history from different angles. So we see…
Chapter 6: The opening of the seven seals.
Chapter 8-11: The blowing of the seven trumpets.
Chapters 12-14: We meet the unholy trinity: the Dragon (Satan), the Beast and the False Prophet (his earthly intermediaries). We also meet the anti-church: Babylon.
Chapters 15-16: The pouring out of the seven bowls of judgement.
Then we see the defeat of the four evil forces...
Chapters 17-18: The destruction of Babylon (the false church)
Chapter 19: The destruction of the Beast and the False prophet.
Chapter 20: The destruction of Satan.
Some may not agree with my outline, but it seems clear to me that these are not seven consecutive scenes of judgement. Here are seven "action replays" of the same reality viewed from different angles.
One of the reasons I take this view is because of "Armageddon". There are three final "punch-ups" narrated in Revelation. They correspond to the defeat of Babylon, the defeat of the Beast and False Prophet and the defeat of Satan. Either God fails to eradicate evil twice but gets it right on the third attempt, or all three descriptions are true descriptions of "the end."
If that's right, then the "Armageddon" passage is one of three angles on the same last battle. See if you can spot the common theme in all three tellings:
[They were gathered] to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.... And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon. And the seventh angel poured out his vial into the air; and there came a great voice out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, It is done. (Revelation 16:14-17)
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. And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him. (Revelation 19:19-20)
Satan shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them. And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever. (Revelation 20:7-10)
Did you notice the common theme? There is a menacing build up followed by a complete non-event of a conclusion. There’s stockpiling of weapons, there’s amassing of troops, there’s sabre-rattling. But the minute God’s had enough – it’s over. There’s a knockout punch before the bell has sounded.
Evil is not an equal and opposite force which gives God a run for His money. As we saw with "the bottomless pit" - darkness is no match for light. Emptiness is no match for fullness.
Do you worry about the future? Does it seem like the darkness will win?
Take heart, the Lamb wins. When push really does come to shove, Armageddon is no contest!