Vol. 28 New Series June, 1967 No. 3
What a glorious opportunity has blown across the path of many expositors of eschatology, of interpreters of the Prophets of Scripture, to air their views about the near approach of the Battle of Armageddon and of the second coming of our Lord. Scripture after Scripture is quoted in support of some point or another of their views and, frequently, these are without any reference to the context or the fact that the interpretations put on these texts flatly contradict, not only other Scripture texts, but whole passages.
One of the essentials of proper understanding we used to hear a lot about, when a certain B.B.C. Programme was on and a particular Member of the panel was repeatedly saying, "It all depends what you mean by that word (sentence or expression)." In other words terms must be specifically defined and words must have a particular meaning. One cannot chop and change, and this is what happened in this sphere of exposition. Events have been labelled 'fulfilment of prophecy' with little regard for theirrelation to the whole plan of God and dates have frequently been added in sequence to lend veracity to the claims of these modern prophets.
An expositor will use a certain word or expression, which in his mind means something explicit; but he fails to define it and the hearer or reader goes away with an idea in his head that may be completely at variance with the preacher or author's intended import. In his repetition to others the hearer, or the reader, passes on (and really believes he is right in his quotation of the original exposition) something that is entirely at variance with the original. In fact, supposing the original to be true, the repetition is error, but if the original itself is the outcome of muddled thinking then confusion is worse confounded. How few there are who are able to define their terms. How many the less do really understand them? What is meant by the Battle of Armageddon? What does one understand by the expression "the coming of the Lord"? What is meant by the return of Christ? What is conveyed by the expression "the latter (or last) days"? What does anyone mean when he says Israel must first return to the land in unbelief (an expression so frequently heard and read)? What people does one indicate by the words Jew, Israel, Grecian, Greek (a word often translated Gentile in the A.V.)? What is understood by the word Proselyte? And so on, but that is sufficient to lead the reader to ask himself if he is absolutely certain that he knows the answers to these questions and can take his stand on the surety of them being Scriptural answers.
Very frequently one is addressed by somebody who says, "Why do you use those words like 'sanctification,' 'redemption,' 'justification,' 'atonement,' 'propitiation,' and the like, that just mean nothing to me and to many others?" Well, Scripture study is a science, just as mathematics is the study of number and space astronomy is the study of the stars, and so also with the study of engineering, electronics, medicine, biology and a host of others. Each has its own separate words and terminology in order to give specific meaning to speech on any of the several subjects, so that there can be no doubt in the minds of those taking part in the practice or study, as to what is meant by their use; The accepted terminology of Scripture is no less important, indeed it is more so, for in no other subject is there such tendency to prejudice, predilection to misunderstand and intent to misrepresent, apart, perhaps, from politics. Unless the preacher or teacher of the Scriptures is able to make full use of the scientific Scripture words and terms, he cannot put across properly the truth in the Bible, and unless the hearers take the trouble to learn what those words mean, when used, they will never be able to make head nor tail of the Word of God. They may learn a few texts or passages or stories by heart, but unless they get used to the philology of the Scriptures and know what it means, they will never know the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, for the knowledge of truth, like love, when it is accepted and practiced, casts out error.
Let us return, now, to our opening sentence—"the near approach of the Battle of Armageddon and of the second coming of our Lord." Of the prophetic fact of the second coming of Christ there can be no doubt whatsoever. The words of Acts 1:10, 11 are unequivocal.
"And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in whiteapparel; which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why standye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which istaken up from you into heaven, shall so come in likemanner as ye have seen him go into heaven."There are those who, ignoring the plain truth here enunciated, say that the second coming of Christ is at the death of a professing Christian. Christ comes to him. All I can say is that I have yet to find any scriptural support for such an idea. But apart from that, what coming is this? The English word come is used in the N.T. to translate ten variations of the Greek word erchomai and it is the simple form that is used here. There are two forms of ginomai, four forms of bainO and fifteen other Greek words or their derivations.
In the Greek all have different shades of meaning, if not great differences, which are only expressed in English by the use of different words. This is seldom recognized by readers of the A.V. or other Versions, but must be acknowledged and adhered to by the sincere student of the Word. A note on the word used in the above quotation from E.W.B's.. Critical Lexicon & Concordance:
"'erchomai' ( the word used ), to come or go, used ofpersons or of things. It denotes the act of coming or going, as I am coming, etc., in distinction from 'EchO,'which denotes the result, as, I am come and am here,( of John 7:42 and Heb. 10:9 ). The verb means to goas well as to come and the context must determinewhich it is. It is combined with a large number ofprepositions, for which see below " ( above in thisarticle).And so there are occasions when this word should be translated 'go' where the A.V. and other Versions have 'come'. It is appreciated that in many places 'come' and 'go' are interchangable, depending alone upon the direction from which one is thinking, but what of he who receives an order to 'Go' then approaches the one who issues the command?
Is the saying "The coming of the Lord draweth nigh" really understood? In the 'substance' of the Holy Spirit He comes to us when we believe; but that is not what is meant. What of the 'epiphaneia' or the 'apokalupsis' or the 'parousia'? Are there no distinctions to be drawn? Define your terms therefore. Make sure what you mean and then make sure that you have made those who read, or hear you, sure that they know. This subject is far too loosely dealt with and expositors should be more careful to be specific.
Now, to take up the first half of the sentence, "The near approach of the Battle of Armageddon." The name occurs in one place only, Rev. 16:16. The context starts at verse 13.
" And I saw three unclean spirits. . . For they are thespirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth untothe kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gatherthem to the battle of that great day of God Almighty. . .And he gathered them together into a place called in theHebrew tongue Armageddon."Armageddon is the Greek form transliterating the Hebrew HAR MAGEDON = Hill of Megiddo, an important O.T. city, one of those fortified by Solomon. It is on the Southern side of the plain of J ezreel strategically important for its position commanding the passage of troops from all directions and the area round about is ideal as an extensive camping ground for an army. Armageddon is the site of such a camp to be occupied by a large international force, held in reserve, backing the army investing Jerusalem, which is led by the one who has claimed to be the Messiah,
"that Wicked (one) . . . whom the Lord shall consumewith the spirit of His mouth, and shall destroy with thebrightness (epiphaneia) of his coming (parousia = per-sonal presence)." (2 Thess. 2:8).Verses 2 and 3 of this same chapter state,
"That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled. . .as that the day of Christ ( all texts read 'Lord' ) is athand. Let no man deceive you by any means for ( thatday shall not come, ) except there come a falling awayfirst, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdi-tion."This is the one who is energised by Satan to exterminate Israel. But for the intervention of God, their Messiah, this would be accomplished. It will take place when he will intervene with great power and glory. Here, at Jerusalem, there is destruction of the man of sin and possibly of some or all of his forces there; but nowhere does one read that a battle took place in the vicinity of Armageddon. The Scripture says only that the combined forces were brought together by the spirits eis (with a view to, or for the purpose of) the battle (frequently translated 'war') of the great day of God Almighty. There is prophetic record in the Scriptures of a battle that is to take place at or near Megiddo. This is a case of misreading the Scriptures.
In view of what has just been said let us turn to the Prophet Zechariah, chapter 12 verse 2 (et seq.),
" Behold I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling untoall the people(s ) round about, when they shall be in thesiege both against Judah and against Jerusalem. Andin that day I will make Jerusalem a burdensome stonefor all people(s ) : all that burden themselves with itshall be cut in pieces, though all the peoples of the earthbe gathered together against it. In that day, saith theLord, I will smite every horse with astonishment ( thepanic ), and his rider with madness. . . And it shall cometo pass in that day that I will seek to destroy all thenations that come against Jerusalem."In what day? This is revealed in Zech. 14:
" Behold the day of the Lord cometh. . . For I willgather all nations against Jerusalem to battle ( war );and the city shall be taken, . . . Then shall the Lord goforth and fight against those nations, as when Hefought in the day of battle ( close conflict, a differentword ). And His feet shall stand in that day upon themount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on theEast."All sorts of other things are going to happen "in that day" as recorded in the verses following, but there is NO battle to take place, either between these investing nations and forces of Israel or against the armies of any who may be allied to Israel. There is no conflict of arms recorded. Overwhelming by divine power, yes. This may be of those at Jerusalem only or it may include the supporting armies on the plain of Jezreel or Megiddo. There is to be NO Battle of Armageddon.
This is the SECOND COMING of Christ to earth and it will be to the mount of Olives.
"This same Jesus, which is taken up from you, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go intoheaven."How the destruction of the armies of the nations at Megiddo could come about is the subject of another investigation.
Listing of Articles/ Related Sites
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The Seventy Sevens of Daniel
The Seventy Sevens and Ourselves
Joel's Prophecy, Acts II, the Kingdom and the Day of the Lord
This Same Jesus
The End of the World
Peace and Security?
Article from Commander Steedman
Acts and I. Thessalonians
Armageddon and Gog
The Covenants of God
The King and the Kingdom
The Restoration of Israel to the Land
Jacob's Trouble and the Great Tribulation
The Beginning may be Nigh
The Near East
Armageddon: The Great Cataclysm
Exodus: The Type and the Anti-Type
The Levitical Priesthood
The Dead Sea
The Tabernacle of David
All Israel shall be Saved
Two Days Distinguished