Wednesday, September 15, 2010

I'm so glad I missed the Battle of Armageddon

According to Left-Behinders, the armies of the antichrist, no doubt knowing their ultimate fate (I mean, geez, everyone has read LeHaye and Jenkins) will nevertheless oblige prophecy and rage a final, spectacularly anticlimactic battle with a forgone result, the so-called Battle Of Armageddon.

Sorry. It ain’t gonna happen. Because it already did happen.

Armageddon is mentioned but once in the New Testament, in Rev 16:16:
Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon. (Rev 16:16)
In his fine book Last Days Madness Gary DeMar1 quotes a famous Left-Behind guru, the late John Walvoord, former President of Left Behind University, The Dallas Theological Seminary:
The prophets have described [The Battle of Armageddon] as the final suicide battle of a desperate world struggle centered in the Middle East.
I’m not sure what prophets he is referring to—but they are indeed prophets if from the vague Rev. 16:16: Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon they were able to discern the specifics of World War III.

DeMar offers an alternative for explanation of the Battle of Armageddon: It is the “Waterloo” for ancient Israel. I think he is correct. Of course, who can be sure about anything when it comes to Revelation?—but it smells right—especially in light of the book’s first verse:
The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. (Rev 1:1)
Whatever the Battle of Armageddon is—the first verse of Revelation tells us that it is in the past, not the future.

In a nutshell, DeMar’s argument is that the Battle of Armageddon refers to the complete and devastating Roman response to the Jewish rebellion, which culminated in the destruction of Jerusalem, the desecration and conflagration of Temple, and the permanent end Jewish ceremonial worship.

John’s vision, according to DeMar, is a warning to Israel: you are about to meet your Waterloo.

Armageddon refers to a city, Megiddo. According to DeMar this city was ingrained in the collective minds of the Jews as a place where incurring God’s wrath was the price paid for Jewish disobedience:

While Josiah was king, Pharaoh Neco king of Egypt went up to the Euphrates River to help the king of Assyria. King Josiah marched out to meet him in battle, but Neco faced him and killed him at Megiddo. (2 Kings 23:29)
God told Josiah not to war with Egypt. Josiah disobeyed. DeMar quotes David Chilton concerning the consequences beyond the king's death:
Following Josiah's death, Judah's downward spiral into apostasy, destruction, and bondage was swift and irrevocable (2 Chronicles 36). The Jews mourned for Josiah's death, even down through the time of Ezra (see 2 Chronicles 35:25), and the prophet Zechariah uses this as an image of Israel's mourning for the Messiah.2

So the Battle of Armageddon is a stark warning that, at the time of John’s vision, bad times were a-coming, they were and coming soon. And indeed they did. Israel’s Waterloo was far more devastating than England’s Napoleon's—it was nothing less than a holocaust. More than a million Jews were killed. Hundreds of thousands were taken into Roman bondage. And the Jewish system of worship was destroyed, never to be restored again.

1 Yes that Gary DeMar, ardent proponent of the non-bliblical, loony-tunes position of Christian Reconstructionism/Theonomy. It just goes to show that even nuts can recognize nuttiness. It especially grieves me that this particular brand of yahoos (the Presbyterian intellectual theonomists) tend to be postmillennialists and partial-preterists—both both perfectly reasonable eschatological views. Sigh.

2 David Chilton, The Days of Vengeance: an Exposition on the Book of Revelation, Dominion Press, 1987, 411-412.


  1. I don't follow you. "what must soon take place" seems to be talking about the future.

  2. Andy,

    Yes it was the future-- to John. The near term future in fact. That makes it the past for us.

    John reiterated, in the third verse,

    Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.(Rev 1:3)

  3. Israel’s Waterloo was far more devastating than England’s
    Well, um, yeah. We won at Waterloo. :-)

  4. Bob O'H

    D'oh! What a blunder! I'll fix it but leave a history of my carelessness.

  5. Thanks. Interesting, indeed.

    Once again you have pointed out the tenuous scriptural basis of beliefs common among Christians, on the end times.

  6. Martin LaBar wrote: Once again you have pointed out the tenuous scriptural basis of beliefs common among Christians, on the end times.

    First, to which end time beliefs do you refer? Premillennialism (with Historic and Dispensational flavors), Postmillennialism, Amillennialism, or Preterism (Partial/Full)?
    Second, common among which Christians?
    Third, common as to what when? That is, I used to be a dispensational premillennialist. But I got better. Now I'm an amillennialist with partial preterist leanings (at least on Mondays - Thursdays). On Fridays I understand why postmillennialists hold their position and on Saturdays I can appreciate historic premillennialism.