Author: Ron Graham
Judgment of the Beasts (Revelation 12-20) >Seven Final Visions >5th vision >Excursus on the battle visions
Who hasn't heard of “The Battle of Armageddon”? Those who believe in a future reign of Christ on earth for 1000 years, see this battle as the final great war on earth leading up to Judgment Day. But in the visions of Revelation there was no battle. It was planned. The armies gathered. But the battle did not happen.
Much nonsense has been taught about this battle. The following quote is typical:
“...Cities like London, Paris, Tokyo, New York, Chicago —obliterated! ...entire islands and mountains blown off the map... 'Behold the Lord will lay waste the earth and make it desolate, and he will twist its surface and scatter its inhabitants' ...So many people will be slaughtered in the conflict that blood will stand to the horses’ bridles for a total distance of 200 miles northward and southward of Jerusalem (Revelation 14:20)” —Hal Lindsey, The Late Great Planet Earth
There are at least six passages that we should note when considering the battle of Armageddon. These are:
Revelation 12:7-12 This is a vision of a war between two armies: Michael the archangel with his angelic armies, and the Dragon with his demonic armies. Satan loses and is cast down to earth. This signifies how the crucifixion of Christ was not a loss but a victory. When Christ was "caught up to God and to his throne" (Revelation 12:5-6), there was no place for Satan and his angels in heaven. So in the vision he was cast out and confined to earth. This vision signifies the victory and power of Jesus Christ. It is not the battle of Armageddon, but it is connected.
Revelation 14:19-20 This is a vision of the wrath of God represented as a great wine press. The grapes of "the vine of the earth" were trodden in this winepress outside the city, but it was blood that flowed out. The blood came "up to the horses' bridles over a distance of 1600 stadia". This vision signifies the fullness of the wrath of God against those who choose to be his enemies.
Revelation 16:14-16 In this vision, the three beasts (the Dragon, the Beast, and the False Prophet) spew from their mouths frog demons who go out and deceive the kings of the earth into gathering in Har-Mageddon to make war against God. This vision shows that, though cast down from heaven, Satan is still determined to do his worst.
Revelation 17:14 "They will make war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will overcome them, because he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and with him will be his called and chosen and faithful followers." Another reminder that, as insane as it seems, the enemies of Christ have the temerity to make war against him!
Revelation 19:19-21 Later John sees the Beast and the kings of the earth assembled to make war against the King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 19:11-16). How tragic that the earth's kings are making war against their King instead of fighting with him!
Revelation 20:7-10 This vision shows the evil armies moving in to attack the army of God. But it's a complete fiasco. "fire came down from heaven and devoured them" We might have expected a battle with a bit of to and fro, a bit of touch and go, a bit of suspense about who is going to win.
But there is no battle of Armageddon, no battle of Armageddon at all!
After all their preparations and gathering for battle, they do no more than march to the city and surround it. They thrust no sword. They fire no shot. Fire comes down from heaven and devours them. The battle of Armageddon didn't happen. Are you disappointed, or are you relieved?
Some people think of these visions as describing physical battles, one between the Satan and Michael in the long distant past, and the other between Satan and Christ in the very near future. In fact, these visions symbolise a spiritual battle (but a real battle nevertheless) being waged in everybody's present life and experience, including yours and mine.
"Be alert! Your adversary the devil, prowls like a lion roaring, seeking someone to devour" (1Peter 5:8).
Paul spoke of the spiritual battle represented in these visions. He warned us of "the spiritual forces of evil in heavenly realms". He tells us to "therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes you may be able to stand your ground" (Ephesians 6:12-13).
Many a day in our lives is "the day of evil". However if we stay in solidarity with Jesus Christ our King, Satan's "flaming arrows" cannot touch us, even though in this real battle he gets to fire them —unlike the non-battle of Armageddon in the vision.
That the war will not go on indefinitely. A day is coming when the age old conflict between Satan and Christ will be over once and for all. Will you then be celebrating victory with the followers of the Lamb?
As we said earlier, the battle of Armageddon in the vision was a battle in which the evil armies never got to fight. They were destroyed before they fired a shot or thrust a single sword. This non-battle of Armageddon signifies that although there is a very real spiritual battle going on, and we are in it, our enemies will be ineffectual, we will not be harmed, and we will win decisively, so long as we stay firmly on the Lord’s side.
Satan and the powers that he manipulates in this world will be crushed by the wrath of God. The Christians in Rome were promised, "The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet" (Romans 16:20)
These battle visions signify the solid truth that Christ in Heaven is supreme. "You are of God little children, and have overcome [the spirits of antichrist] because greater is he who in you than he who is in the world" (1John 4:4).
According to premillennislists, the Antichrist’s career and the incredible events of a seven-year tribulation, end in the climactic war of Armageddon —a war that would annihilate the world if not for the intervention of Christ’s second coming. Typically, the premillennialist will interpret a vision in Revelation as though it were a news report from the future.
Things seen in dreams and visions, however, are not always possible in reality. The vision well represents the spiritual battle that is going on in the world today. But it's not a literal description of an actual physical battle —for the simple reason that it's physically untenable.
For example, why would horses be used in a modern day battle? And how could a river of blood like that in the vision exist in reality? (Revelation 14:20). The sensational claims about this imagined future conflict distract us from the very real battle now being waged between the spiritual forces of good and evil (Ephesians 6:10-17)