Final Battle - Armageddon

The several “battle” scenes in Revelation all present the same final assault by Satan against the saints of the Lamb

Toy Soldiers - Photo by Jemima Whyles on Unsplash
We tend to assume the visions of Revelation are presented in strict chronological sequence, an assumption that creates difficulties when we attempt to interpret the several battle scenes depicted in chapters 11, 12, 13, 16, 19, and 20. Do they portray different “final battles” that occur at different points in time, or is the same final battle presented from different aspects? - [
Photo by Jemima Whyles on Unsplash].

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

“WAR” WITH TWO WITNESSES. In chapter 11, the “two witnesses” are identified as the “two lampstands.” If the book’s symbolism is consistent, they 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.” The clause alludes to the passage from Daniel about the “war” by the “little horn” against the “saints,” and uses the Greek Septuagint version of the verse. The same passage is employed frequently 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, the prophecy referred to an attempt to annihilate the “saints” by the malevolent king, the “little horn” of the “fourth beast from the sea. Revelation now 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, with the former designated the “Great Dragon, the Ancient Serpent, the Adversary, and Satan.” Having been “cast to the earth,” now enraged and knowing that his time is short, the Devil began to execute his plans - (Revelation 12:1-17).

After failing to destroy the “Son” and the “Woman,” Satan began to make “war with the rest of her seed.” The clause alludes again to the passage from Daniel, and again, it refers to only one “war” – “THE war.”

The “rest of the seed of the woman” 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,” namely, the “seven churches of Asia” - (Revelation 1:96:919:1020:4).

“WAR” WITH THE SAINTS. Next, John saw the “beast ascending from the sea.” This is the same “beast” that 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 as in the preceding visions to describe the “war” against the “saints.” Moreover, in the present passage, the complete first stanza from Daniel is employed, the “little horn made war with THE SAINTS and overcame them.”

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 the sword, with the 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 the 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. The description 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 and become the “kings of the whole habitable earth,” for this “war” is global in scope and cosmic in effect.

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

This is THE climactic battle between the “Dragon” and God, and in fulfillment of the messianic prophecy from the second Psalm, a passage applied previously to the “Son” who was destined to “shepherd the nations” – (Psalm 2:1-2, Revelation 12:5).

Church Ruins - Photo by Luc Constantin on Unsplash
Photo by Luc Constantin on Unsplash

The “
kings of the earth” are gathered at the instigation of God to fulfill His purpose; namely, to destroy end-time “Babylon.” 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 level plain with no visible mountain, and 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. That invading force was destroyed on “the mountains of Israel.” In the “sixth bowl of wrath,” its destruction occurs at “Armageddon,” the “mountain of Megiddo” - (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 the 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” in chapter 19 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” in Ezekiel – (Ezekiel 39:17-20, Revelation 16:12-16).

The “beast and the kings of the earth” were 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 two witnesses” (poiései met’ polemon). Likewise, in chapter 12, the “Dragon made war with the seed of the woman” (poiésai polemon meta). And in chapter 13, the “beast made war with the saints” - (poiésai polemon meta). And so, here, the forces of the “beast” gather “to make war with” the “Lamb.” The parallel language in all four passages is based on 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” to portray the battle of “Armageddon.”

In chapter 19, the armies of the “kings of the earth” are destroyed, the birds of the air feast on their corpses, and the “beast and the false prophet” are cast into the “lake of fire and brimstone.”  Likewise, in Ezekiel, the armies of “Gog and Magog” were destroyed, the “birds of the air” were feasted on their corpses, and Yahweh rained “fire and brimstone,” destroying the invading force.
Revelation universalizes the language of Ezekiel. The army of “Gog and Magog” is no longer limited to the regional enemies of Israel but includes all the “kings of the earth and their armies.”

WAR” ON THE CAMP OF THE SAINTS. At the end of the thousand years, Satan is released “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 is identified - The “nations from the four corners of the earth.” The Greek clause rendered “to gather them together for the war” is exactly the same as the clause employed in the previous visions – (sunagagein autous eis ton polemon).

Satan and his horde “ascend over the breadth of the earth and surround the saints.” The Greek verb rendered “ascend” (anabainō) is the same one employed for the “ascent of the beast from the Abyss,” and for the “ascent of the beast from the Sea.” And the “ascent over the breadth of the earth to surround the camp of the saints” is another allusion to the vision from 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.”
  • (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 EzekielRevelation presents several visions of the final assault against the saints by Satan. The language of “war” is used metaphorically to depict the persecution of the “saints” by Satan and his earthly vassals.



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