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Bible Prophecy and You

Armageddon and the Day of the Lord

by Beyond Today Editor

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What does Bible prophecy tell us about Armageddon and the Day of the Lord? What do they mean, and how do they fit into end-time events?

Igor Zhuravlov/123RF
Terrifying heavenly signs will occur "immediately after the [great] tribulation of those days."

This is now the 13th lesson in the "Bible Prophecy and You" series.

"Armageddon!" Many people have heard scary predictions or speculations about Armageddon, but what does it mean?

Here is a definition from the American Heritage Dictionary: "The scene of a final battle between the forces of good and evil, prophesied to occur at the end of the world."

The dictionary also has a second definition because "Armageddon" has become a common metaphor: "A decisive or catastrophic conflict." But what does the Bible say about it?

Most people are also confused about the meaning of "the Day of the Lord." Will it last for one day, one year, for many years or for all eternity? When will it start? When will Christ return? And what are the prophetic seals, trumpets and plagues described in the book of Revelation?

We'll delve into finding the answers to these and other questions.

The Bible has many prophecies of the end time. Right now, it may seem that their fulfillments are proceeding at a slow pace, but the time will come when they will be happening in rapid-fire succession!

While Jesus Christ said we should stay aware of "the signs of the times," He made it clear that we should stay focused, like Him, to "do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work" (John 4:34). As we await the second coming of Christ, instead of allowing ourselves to become distracted, we should serve God in such a way that Christ, when He returns, will say, "Well done, good and faithful servant" (Matthew 25:21).

What Does the Bible say about the Day of the Lord?

This lesson is based on the foundations laid in the last five lessons. If anything in this lesson is unclear, it may help to review previous lessons in this "Bible Prophecy and You" series in recent issues of Beyond Today, especially lessons 8 to 12.

The book of Revelation gives great insight into how these subjects tie together and describes the sequence of end-time trends and events. For a good understanding of Revelation, we highly recommend that you read our free study guide The Book of Revelation Unveiled .

What does the Bible mean by "the day of the Lord"?

"Wail, for the day of the Lord is at hand! It will come as destruction from the Almighty. Therefore all hands will be limp, every man's heart will melt, and they will be afraid. Pangs and sorrows will take hold of them; they will be in pain as a woman in childbirth; they will be amazed at one another; their faces will be like flames.

"Behold, the day of the Lord comes, cruel, with both wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate; and He will destroy its sinners from it. For the stars of heaven and their constellations will not give their light; the sun will be darkened in its going forth, and the moon will not cause its light to shine.

"'I will punish the world for its evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; I will halt the arrogance of the proud, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible. I will make a mortal more rare than fine gold ... Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth will move out of her place, in the wrath of the Lord of hosts and in the day of His fierce anger'" (Isaiah 13:6-13).

The Day of the Lord usually refers to a time when God and Christ are powerfully intervening in the world to punish evil. This is also called "the great and dreadful day of the Lord" that will come "upon all the nations" just before Christ's second coming (Malachi 4:5; Obadiah 1:15, emphasis added throughout). Sometimes the term is nearly synonymous with "the time of the end," which was explained in Lesson 1.

However, occasionally it has a dual fulfillment. Isaiah 13 begins with a warning of how God will punish Babylon, which most likely refers to its destruction in Old Testament times (Isaiah 13:1-6). But verses 9-13 are obviously more specifically describing the end-time "day of the Lord," when God will cause spectacular heavenly signs and "will punish the world for its evil."

Furthermore, starting with the beginning of Christ's future intervention, the Day of the Lord can in one sense be considered to last forever because God through Christ will forevermore rule the world. Never again will Satan be "the ruler of this world" (see John 12:31; John 14:30; John 16:11).

Do synonymous phrases for Day of the Lord usually show that it will be a time of awesome and dreadful punishment?

"Behold, the day of the Lord comes, cruel, with both wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate; and He will destroy its sinners from it ... Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth will move out of her place, in the wrath of the Lord of hosts and in the day of His fierce anger" (Isaiah 13:9; Isaiah 13:13).

"For it is the day of the Lord's vengeance, the year of recompense for the cause of Zion" (Isaiah 34:8).

"Deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus" (1 Corinthians 5:5).

Clearly the Bible uses several other expressions for the Day of the Lord, including "day of His fierce anger," "day of the Lord's vengeance" and "day of the Lord Jesus."

What is the relationship between the Great Tribulation and the Day of the Lord?

"Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory" (Matthew 24:29-30).

"The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord" (Joel 2:31).

Jesus said the terrifying heavenly signs will occur "immediately after the [great] tribulation of those days." And through Joel, God said these heavenly signs will occur "before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord." So chronologically speaking, the Great Tribulation comes on the world scene before the Day of the Lord (compare Revelation 6:12-17).

As we saw in Lesson 11, during the Great Tribulation enemy nations will punish, through war and captivity, the United States, Britain and other nations whose people are largely descendants of the ancient Israelites.

The Day of the Lord will be direct punishment from Jesus Christ on the rest of unrepentant humanity (Revelation 16:9), especially the nations that are a part of the political, religious and commercial "Babylon the Great" and anyone else who opposes Christ (Revelation 17:5; Revelation 18:2).

When will the Day of the Lord begin?

"To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn ..." (Isaiah 61:2).

"For the day of vengeance is in My heart, and the year of My redeemed has come" (Isaiah 63:4).

The Bible doesn't clearly answer when the Day of the Lord will begin. However, in Bible prophecy, the word day can sometimes represent one year (Numbers 14:34; Ezekiel 4:6).

Furthermore, other scriptures seem to indicate that the Day of the Lord will begin one year before Christ returns. For example, we read in Isaiah 34:8, "For it is the day of the Lord's vengeance, the year of recompense for the cause of Zion." Also, in Isaiah 61:2, "the acceptable year of the Lord" seems to be equated with "the day of vengeance of our God."

We saw in the last lesson that the Great Tribulation will begin 3 years before Christ returns. It appears that the last year of that period will be the Day of the Lord. So it seems that the first 2 years display Satan's wrath, followed by a year of God's vengeance.

We know for sure that "the servants of our God" will be protected from the "harm" that Christ will pour out on the earth during this final period (Revelation 7:3; see also 3:10 and 12:14-17). Many scriptures assure us of God's desire and power to protect His people.

What do the seven "seals" of Revelation represent?

"And I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll written inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals" (Revelation 5:1).

The first rule of Bible interpretation is to let the Bible interpret itself. A comparison between the seven "seals" and the sequence of events Jesus foretold in the prophecy He gave on the Mount of Olives, His Olivet Prophecy, in Matthew 24:4-9 gives us a clear understanding. Here is a very brief summary of what the opening of the seals portray:

1st Seal (Revelation 6:1-2; Matthew 24:4-5): Increasing religious deception of false Christianity.

2nd Seal (Revelation 6:3-4; Matthew 24:6-7): Wars increasing in frequency and devastation.

3rd Seal (Revelation 6:5-6; Matthew 24:7): Food shortages and famines increasing.

4th Seal (Revelation 6:7-8; Matthew 24:7): Plagues such as disease epidemics and natural disasters increasing and becoming more deadly.

5th Seal (Revelation 6:9-11; Matthew 24:9): Increasing persecution of Christians climaxing in the Great Tribulation.

6th Seal (Revelation 6:12-16; Matthew 24:29): A great earthquake and terrifying heavenly signs.

7th Seal (Revelation 6:17; 8:1-2,6; Matthew 24:30): Day of the Lord ("the great day of His wrath"), including the seven trumpet plagues.

What are the seven trumpets of the seventh seal (the Day of the Lord)?

"When He opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and to them were given seven trumpets" (Revelation 8:1-2).

The opening of the seventh seal includes seven angels blowing their trumpets one by one. After each trumpet blast, there is a cataclysmic event. The first four are described in Revelation 8:

Destruction of vegetation (Revelation 8:7).

Devastation of oceans and sea life (Revelation 8:8-9).

Devastation of rivers and fresh water (Revelation 8:10-11).

Sun, moon and stars darkened (Revelation 8:12).

The fifth trumpet "plague" is described in Revelation 9:1-12. Quoting from our study guide The Book of Revelation Unveiled: "The director or 'king' of this wave of affliction is described as 'the angel of the Abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek, Apollyon' (Revelation 9:11, NIV). These titles, in Hebrew and Greek, mean 'destruction' and 'destroyer,' respectively. And we later see that the Satan-led 'beast' power emerges from this abyss or bottomless pit (Revelation 17:8), showing that the locusts here are probably the forces of this Europe-centered power bloc directed by Satan."

The sixth trumpet "plague" is described in Revelation 9:13-21. Incredibly, it describes a 200-million-man army that will "kill a third of mankind"! Apparently the army comes from nations east of the Euphrates River. Quoting again from the chapter "The Day of the Lord Finally Arrives" from the same study guide: "This event, the second woe or sixth trumpet plague, seems to be a massive counterattack against the European-led forces of the first woe or fifth trumpet plague."

The seventh trumpet announces "seven angels having the seven last plagues, for in them the wrath of God is complete" (Revelation 15:1). Each angel has a bowl full of the wrath of God, and each bowl in turn is poured out on the earth. These seven last plagues are described in Revelation 15 and 16. The fifth angel pours "his bowl on the throne of the beast" (Revelation 16:10). The sixth angel prepares the way for the climactic battle commonly referred to as "Armageddon" (16:12-16).

What does "Armageddon" mean? What does the prophecy concerning it say?

"Then the sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up, so that the way of the kings from the east might be prepared. And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.

"'Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame.' And they gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon" (Revelation 16:12-16).

Although Satan and the demons are doomed to lose any battle with Christ, they never give up trying to defeat Him. Once again, Christ will use their efforts to fulfill His purposes. The "spirits of demons" working under Satan and through the Beast and the False Prophet "go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty" (Revelation 16:13-14). That is the real name of the final battle between Christ and the armies of the world.

Jesus Christ makes use of the demonic influences "to gather the nations ... to pour on them My indignation, all My fierce anger" (Zephaniah 3:8). All nations, including the armies of the Beast, "will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings" (Revelation 17:14).

"And they [the demons] gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon" (Revelation 16:16). Armageddon literally means "Mount Megiddo." In fact, the Majority Text of the New Testament says simply Magedon or "Megiddo." This is an ancient city ruin northwest of Jerusalem. To the east of it is a broad valley or plain, called Jezreel or Esdraelon, in which numerous battles have been fought in the past. One of its names is "the plain of Megiddo" (Zechariah 12:11). This will be the central gathering place, but the huge armies will evidently be spread out over a much larger area.

As Christ descends toward Jerusalem, the area around Jerusalem will become the primary area of battle. "Behold, the day of the Lord is coming ... For I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem ... Then the Lord will go forth and fight against those nations ... And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives ... And the Lord shall be King over all the earth" (Zechariah 14:1-4; Zechariah 14:9).

The actual battle begins when the seventh angel pours out his bowl. Then there will be an earthquake more devastating than any that people have experienced before! Islands and mountains will disappear! The "cities of the nations" will fall, including the leading city the Bible refers to as "Babylon," a reference to the final revival of Rome, as we've seen in other lessons. A hailstorm will rain down hailstones that will weigh perhaps 75 to 100 pounds each (Revelation 16:17-21). The fall of Babylon is more fully described in Revelation 18.

Christ will capture the Beast and the False Prophet -- the consummate antichrists described in the last lesson -- and cast them into a lake of fire and will kill all the opposing armies (Revelation 19:19-21).

The prophet Zechariah records the fate of these armies that fight against Christ, apparently being hit with a blast of immense power: "And this shall be the plague with which the Lord will strike all the people who fought against Jerusalem: Their flesh shall dissolve while they stand on their feet, their eyes shall dissolve in their sockets, and their tongues shall dissolve in their mouths" (Zechariah 14:12).

What will be the great triumphant climax of the Day of the Lord?

"Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, 'The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever'" (Revelation 11:15, English Standard Version).

"And the twenty-four elders who sat before God on their thrones fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying: "We give You thanks, O Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was and who is to come, because You have taken Your great power and reigned. The nations were angry, and Your wrath has come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that You should reward Your servants the prophets and the saints, and those who fear Your name, small and great, and should destroy those who destroy the earth" (Revelation 11:16-18).

"Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses.

"Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: King of Kings and Lord of Lords" (Revelation 19:11-16).

"Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed -- in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

"For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: "Death is swallowed up in victory" (1 Corinthians 15:50-54).

"But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.

"For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words" (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

With the seventh trumpet comes the announcement of marvelous news for the saints and for the future of the world: Jesus Christ lays claim to His rule of the earth! The 24 elders in heaven announce that it is time to "reward Your servants the prophets and the saints"!

The great climax of the Day of the Lord will be the awe-some return of Christ, so vividly described in Revelation 19, and the raising from the dead of the saints, which is "the first resurrection" (Revelation 20:6). Almost all of 1 Corinthians 15 discusses the resurrection. It tells us that the blowing of "the last trumpet" will signal the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:52). The resurrection of the saints is also described in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 and is referred to in many other scriptures.

This seventh trumpet also announces the pouring out of the seven last plagues, as we've seen. These plagues, which include the gathering of the Beast and False Prophet and other forces, will follow the resurrection, with Christ and the saints then coming down to the final battle.

What annual festival commanded by God pictures the Day of the Lord?

"Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 'Speak to the children of Israel, saying: "In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a sabbath-rest, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work on it; and you shall offer an offering made by fire to the Lord"'" (Leviticus 23:23-25).

This passage briefly refers to the Feast of Trumpets, which foreshadows the fulfillment of the trumpets of Revelation, especially the last one marking Christ's return and the resur-rection of the saints. The Feast of Trumpets and the six other annual festivals and Holy Days commanded by God are explained in our free study guide God's Holy Day Plan: The Promise of Hope for All Mankind . All of these occasions are joyful and deeply meaningful. Once you understand them, you will want to celebrate them!

Apply Now

After talking about the resurrection in 1 Thessalonians 4, the apostle Paul goes on to talk about "the day of the Lord" in 1 Thessalonians 5. He makes it clear that when this time finally comes, it will do so suddenly, so we should stay spiritually prepared. After that, Paul gives a wonderful list of simple instructions for true Christian living.

Take some time to read 1 Thessalonians 5 now. Enjoy and be inspired! Plus, pick two or three mandates from Paul's list, write them down and set a goal to focus on practicing them in your daily life for the next week.

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