From Armageddon to the Millennium

By John Walvoord

The period beginning with Armageddon and concluding with the opening of the millennium is one of the fascinating sections of prophecy that is full of important details that describe the end-time events. Central in these events is the second coming, but important events lead up to and follow it that are essential to understanding the rapid changes in the days to come.

Preceding End-Time Events

As the book of Revelation reveals, there will be an extensive time of catastrophic events between the rapture and Armageddon. This is described in Revelation 6:1-16:12. As the seal judgments follow one after another in Revelation 6:1-17, a panoramic, prophetic picture is provided for this whole period that has often been described as a period of seven years (based on Daniel 9:27), though the Scripture itself seems to concentrate on the great tribulation, which is the last three-and-a-half years. The first seal broken indicates a world conqueror. The Antichrist, "the beast coming out of the sea" (Revelation 13: 1), conquers the world three-and-a-half years before the second coming (13:5). Also in the fourth seal (6:7,8), a fourth of the earth is destroyed, which would clearly indicate that the great tribulation is underway. The Scriptures state specifically in connection with the unsaved world that "the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?" (Revelation 6:17).

The opening of the seventh seal in Revelation 8:1 introduces a second series of sevens, described as trumpets. These, generally speaking, will destroy a third of the earth. Particularly catastrophic is the sixth trumpet, which declares that a third of the earth will be killed (9:15). When the seventh seal sounds (11:15), it introduces the climactic bowl judgments described in Revelation 16:1-21. While similar to the trumpet judgments, these instruments of divine judgment cover the whole earth and lead up to Armageddon as the nations of the world rebel against the world ruler.

The Final World War

The term Armageddon, which appears in Revelation 16:16, is the Aramaic translation of the Mountain of Megiddo located in the northern part of the plain of Esdraelom, later called the plain of Jezreel, and a place frequently mentioned in the Old Testament as important to military events (see Joshua 17:16; Judges 4:7; 5:21; 1 Samuel 31:1-3; 1 Kings 18:40; 2 Kings 9:27; 23:30; 2 Chronicles 35:20-24; Zechariah 12:11). Most expositors recognize that Armageddon is the Aramaic form of the Old Testament Megiddo.

Megiddo is designated the Tell El Mutesellim in the Plain of Esdraelom. At one time it was a city with massive fortifications and an important center for the Canaanites until Israel took it over about 1100 B.C. It was one of the chariot towns of Solomon (1 Kings 9:15; see also 10:26-29). At one time it included huge stables for horses, a governor's palace and a complicated water system. In modern times it has been subject to many excavations to uncover the historic past. It is important in prophecy as the central marshaling point for the great armies that participate in Armageddon, the final war leading up to the second coming of Christ. From the mountain itself, which is not a high mountain, the Mediterranean can be seen to the west and the Valley of the Plain of Esdraelom stretches out some 20 miles to the east and opens up into several other important valleys. This is where millions of people will be centered in the great war before the second coming, though the armies are actually 200 miles north and south over the whole land of Israel and stretching out all the way east to the Euphrates River. Revelation 16 mentions Armageddon as the important center for the great battle that follows the sixth bowl of the wrath of God, which permits the kings of the east to cross the Euphrates and descend upon Israel for the final battle.

Satanic Influence on the Battle

A strange paradox exists in the situation. Revelation 16:13,14 describes demons as three unclean spirits like frogs that come out of the mouth of the dragon, the beast and the false prophet, enticing the kings of the world to gather for the battle which is called "the battle of the great day of God Almighty." Less than three years before, the devil had deceived the world into accepting the Antichrist as the world ruler (13:7). Under those circumstances, if the devil had united the world under the world dictator, why does he now encourage the nations to rebel against him? The answer is found in subsequent Scriptures which indicate the satanic purpose to gather all the armies of the world together in view of the fact that at the second coming the army of heaven would descend with Christ to take charge of the earth. Satan wanted all the armies available to fight the army from heaven. Ultimately, this proves to be a complete failure. When Christ comes He destroys the armies with a word (19:15), and no battle ever takes place between the army of heaven and the armies of earth.

The Old Testament mentions Megiddo often but principally in connection with the death of Josiah, the king who attempted to oppose the king of Egypt (2 Kings 23:29,30; 2 Chronicles 35:20-24). The extent of the future conflict at Armageddon is made clear by the fact that 200 million soldiers alone crossed the Euphrates River from the east adding to the millions already there (see Revelation 9:16). It is by all odds the greatest war of all history. Because such an army seems impossible, some people believe they are actually demons, though there is no proof for that interpretation. The Orient with more than one billion people in population could provide such an army.

Though it is common for Bible teachers of prophecy to picture this war as one of nuclear character, most of the evidence points to traditional warfare with the armies sweeping north and south across Israel (see Daniel 11:40- 45). Zechariah 14 pictures house-to-house warfare, which is not compatible with nuclear war. The king of the south, namely the African forces, opposes the king of the north, who apparently is the Antichrist (and includes all the military power of Europe and the former Soviet states). But the battle is not resolved until the day of Christ's second coming.

Other Events Preceding Armageddon

Preceding the second coming are a number of other world events. Revelation 17 chronologically precedes the events of Revelation 16 and pictures the world church as a harlot astride a scarlet-colored beast. The beast is the ten-nation group led by the Antichrist, and the harlot is the world church movement-devoid of all true Christians and guilty of putting genuine Christians to death (Revelation 17:3-6). Revelation 17 pictures her rise to fame and power and at the same time mentions her ultimate destruction by the ten kings under the Antichrist, who are declared in Revelation 17:16 to hate her. The ten kings will destroy her and burn her with fire, the purpose being to clear the deck entirely so that the final form of world religion in the great tribulation can be the worship of Satan and the worship of the Antichrist.

The Destruction of Babylon

Also in the period leading up to Armageddon, and somewhat simultaneous with it, is the destruction of Babylon. Some identify Babylon with Rome and the city of Rome but obviously Babylon has another historic location. In Revelation 18 it is described as a great commercial city, which it is not now. Though there is dispute as to its actual part in the end times, it seems that Babylon or the site of ancient Babylon could be the capital of the final world government that has been transformed into a commercial city. Many prophecies, however, have held that Babylon would be ultimately destroyed just prior to the second coming and that it will never be inhabited again. Though the prophetic picture is somewhat complicated by the predicted attacks on Babylon already fulfilled when the future is declared in Isaiah 13:20 (for instance, "she will never be inhabited or lived in through all generations"), it goes on to speak how it would be a waste without population (Isaiah 13:19-22; Jeremiah 50:2,3,39-46; 51:37-48). This has never happened in history and indicates the necessity of this ultimate destruction just before the second coming. Jeremiah 50:1-51:8 provides a complete picture of this future destruction and ultimate desolation of the city.

The Final Bowl Judgment

While the battle of the great day of God Almighty is under way (Revelation 16:12-16), the final bowl of wrath is poured out, consisting of a gigantic earthquake that destroys all the cities of the world except for Israel (Revelation 16:17-21). Mountains and islands disappear, and the earth will be pelted with huge supernatural hailstones weighing 100 pounds each. It is a final act of terrible destruction on the earth with a great loss of life and property that just precedes the second coming of Christ.

The Wedding Feast Announced

According to Revelation 19:1-10, barely preceding the account of the second coming the announcement is made concerning the wedding feast of the Lamb. Many expositors feel that this is accomplished in heaven after the rapture, but its location just before the second coming announces the wedding supper in connection with the second coming of Christ. This may indicate that it will be actually celebrated after the second coming in the millennial kingdom.

It will probably not be a literal banquet but a time of rejoicing for the people of God in the glory of God's grace and salvation.

Christ Comes Bringing Angels and Saints (Revelation 19:11-21)

The second coming of Christ is mentioned frequently in the Old and New Testaments' and many passages in the New Testament. The many passages devoted to this subject indicate how important it is. As the four gospels portray Christ in His first coming, so the book of Revelation portrays events before and after the future second coming of Christ. In Revelation 19:11-16, He is described as coming on a white horse, a symbol of victory, to judge the world; He is followed by the armies of heaven. He has the power to strike down the nations (verse 15), and the prediction is He will rule "with an iron scepter." His coming will express the wrath of God against wickedness in the human situation. It is clear that the heavens will be ablaze with the glory of God accompanied as He is by millions of holy angels and saints, who are moving from heaven to the Mount of Olives in preparation for the millennial kingdom. The descent will not be a rapid event but will undoubtedly take 24 hours so the earth can turn, permitting everyone to see the glory of Christ in the heavens. Satan and the unsaved alike will realize that this is the second coming of Christ, but it is too late for those who are not ready for His second coming.

The Destruction of the Armies of Earth

One of the first acts following the second coming is the destruction of the armies who will forget their differences and unite to fight the army from heaven. This is described in graphic terms in Revelation 19:17-19 and is confirmed in verse 21 in the statement that all the wicked are killed on this occasion.

Christ captures the world ruler, the Antichrist (described as the beast), and his assistant (described as the false prophet) and casts them into the "fiery lake of burning sulfur" (Revelation 19:19,20). This lake was previously described as the place for the ultimate end of the satanic world (Matthew 25:41-44). While all the wicked who have died are in Hades, up to this point the lake of fire has not been occupied; the beast and the false prophet are the first occupants.

After the second coming a series of prophetic events will follow preparing the world for a future millennial kingdom. First of all, in Revelation 20:1-3 it is prophesied that Satan will be bound, rendered inactive and unable to deceive the nations in the future millennium. Amillenarians attempt to make this event fulfilled in the first coming of Christ under a theory of recapitulation. At chapter 20 they believe the scene refers back to the first coming, but there is no evidence supporting the prophecies-and these prophecies are not fulfilled in the present age. As is very obvious in our present situation, Satan is not bound now, unable to deceive the world. Satan, in fact, is described in 1 Peter 5:8 as "a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." Christians are exhorted to resist him because he is still active (1 Peter 5:9). Many other New Testament Scriptures indicate that Satan is always limited by God, as illustrated in Job, and is unable to go beyond God's permissive will. Nevertheless, Satan is very active in the present age and will continue to be so until the future millennial kingdom when he will be bound. He will be cast out of heaven three-and-one-half years before the second coming (Revelation 12:7-9).

Amillenarians also oppose the important event of the resurrection of the martyred dead described in Revelation 20:4-6. These martyred dead are described as those who "had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands" (Revelation 20:4). This took place only two or three years before the second coming of Christ in the great tribulation as the Scripture testifies in verse 4: "[They were] beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the Word of God." They now are resurrected for the purpose of reigning with Christ for 1,000 years. This explicitly teaches that the 1,000 years will follow the second coming of Christ-an interpretation opposed by those who do not agree to a millennium. They are hard put to explain this verse. Their leaders declare that verse 4 is talking about the new birth of the believer, but there is no connection. Beheading is not a part of the new birth. There is absolutely nothing in the passage that teaches that this is the new birth nor is there any indication that the new birth is what it is revealing. Accordingly, verse 4 is one of the important texts demonstrating beyond question that the 1,000 years of Christ's reign follow the second coming rather than preceding it in some form.

It is probable that Daniel 12:1,2, which also speaks of the Old Testament saints being resurrected, will be fulfilled at this time. Some believe this will occur at the rapture, but at the rapture those raised are declared to have been "the dead in Christ" (I Thessalonians 4:16). Their position in Christ by the baptism of the Spirit was true only in the period from Pentecost to the rapture. It was not realized in any preceding age as witnessed by the fact that all four gospels predict it as a future event. Accordingly, probably the Old Testament saints will be raised at the same time as the martyred dead of the tribulation.

Most important to observe is that there is no rapture at the second coming and that the resurrections mentioned here apparently occur several days after the second coming. There is no resurrection or rapture on the day of the second coming itself. Thus, the posttribulational view that this is when the rapture and the resurrection take place is impossible. This is confirmed in Matthew 24-25, when Christ answers the disciples' question concerning signs of the second coming, indicating that the great tribulation itself is the sign of the second coming. Christ also gives them something they did not ask for-the judgment of the Gentiles after the second coming. In Matthew 25:31-46 this judgment is pictured as a gathering of sheep and goats all mixed up together, goats representing the unsaved and sheep representing the saved. It is a most interesting passage because it describes salvation by its evidence. Because in the great tribulation the sheep who befriend the Jews (the brethren) will do so only because they are Christians-that becomes a mark of their Christian faith. Most significant again is the fact that the sheep and the goats are all mixed up several days after the second coming. If a rapture had taken place, the sheep would have been removed before this event. The purpose of this judgment is to eliminate the goats (the unsaved) and prepare those who are saved to enter the millennial kingdom.

There is a similar judgment on Israel described in Ezekiel 20:33-38 and other passages. Christ declares that He will regather Israel from all over the world and purge out the rebel (the unsaved). It is declared in Ezekiel 20:34, that He will "gather you from the countries where you have been scattered." In verse 3 5 it says He will execute judgment upon them, and verse 38 declares that He will purge out those who are unsaved, who revolt and rebel, but the godly will be brought into the land. This is also confirmed in Jeremiah 30:5-11, where it is declared that Israel will go through a time of terrible judgment called "a time of trouble for Jacob" (verse 7). But the Israelites will be delivered and ruled over by David their king (verse 9) who will be raised at the second coming. This serves to date the time as well as the significance of it. Chapter 31:31-34 continues this account of gathering the Israelites and leading them to their Promised Land. This is also confirmed in Jeremiah 31:35-37, where Israel is declared to continue as long as the sun and moon endure.

A sweeping prophecy is also recorded in Ezekiel 39:25-28, where it is declared that God will bring back the entire nation of Israel from all over the world at the time of the second coming. After the purging judgment of Ezekiel 20, those that survive and who are saved will inherit the Promised Land, which will be divided among the 12 tribes as described in Ezekiel 47:13- 48:29. The gates of the city of Jerusalem are mentioned in Ezekiel 48:30-35.

If current prophecy is interpreted in its normal literal sense, it yields exactly what the premillenarians have been teaching-when Christ comes there will be 1,000 years of His reign on earth.

The various judgments mentioned in Scripture are intended to be fulfilled in the 135 days between the second coming and the beginning of the millennial kingdom (see Daniel 12: 11). In that period all the necessary judgments and resurrections will take place that make possible the beginning of this millennial kingdom.