Events of the Tribulation: The Last Three and a Half Years (Part 3)
Paul Benware explains that,
“Although the phrase “battle of Armageddon” is a familiar one, it is also somewhat misleading for two reasons. First, it is not a single battle but, rather, a whole series of conflicts that culminate with the second coming of Christ…A second reason… is that this final end-time conflict is not geographically isolated to the region around the plain of Megiddo. Revelation 14 teaches that the land area involved in this end-time campaign is actually about 180 miles in length (v. 20). Several other locations are mentioned in the Scriptures other than Megiddo; namely Jerusalem, the valley of Jehoshaphat (an area east of Jerusalem), and Edom (Isa. 34, 63; Jer. 49; Joel 3; Zech. 12; 14).”1
Jeremiah agrees when he writes,
“Armageddon will not be a one-day battle; it will be a continual campaign from the time the Lord releases the deadly war machine of the red horse. Wars will rage on earth until the final battle occurs in the valley of decision.”2
Keeping in mind that there is not one single passage that provides us with the precise order of events, as the relevant biblical passages are studied and pieced together, it is possible to develop a chronological order or sequence of events in regards to Armageddon. It can be said that the Campaign of Armageddon can be divided into stages.
The Stages of Armageddon
Stage 1. Before the Tribulation reaches midpoint, Egypt, a powerful and threatening nation south of Israel, will be invaded and conquered by Antichrist.
At the time of the end, the king of the South will engage him in battle, but the king of the North will storm against him with chariots, horsemen, and many ships. He will invade countries and sweep through them like a flood. He will also invade the beautiful land, and many will fall. But these will escape from his power: Edom, Moab, and the prominent people[a] of the Ammonites. He will extend his power against the countries, and not even the land of Egypt will escape. He will get control over the hidden treasures of gold and silver and over all the riches of Egypt. The Libyans and Cushites will also be in submission (Daniel 11:40-43).
Stage 2. Right at midpoint, the northern power bloc led by Russia will invade and overrun Palestine. They will come in like a flood giving the appearance that there is no hope either for Israel or the Antichrist. God will intervene and supernaturally destroy the invading armies. Once this power bloc is destroyed, Antichrist will have a free hand to break his covenant with Israel so he can set himself up to be worshipped and to try to conquer the world
He will make a firm covenantwith many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and offering. And the abomination of desolation will be on a wing of the temple until the decreed destruction is poured out on the desolator (Dan. 9:27).
So when you see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand) (Matt. 24:15)
It deceives those who live on the earth because of the signs that it is permitted to perform in the presence of the beast, telling those who live on the earth to make an image of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived. It was permitted to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast could both speak and cause whoever would not worship the image of the beast to be killed (Revelation 13:14-15).
Stage 3. As Antichrist seeks to conquer the whole world, the nations of the Orient or kings of the east, will attempt to stop him by marching west into Palestine. They will be able to move fast since the Euphrates has been dried up giving them easy passage into the Promised Land. In the meantime, Antichrist will be firmly planted as a religious and political leader. The battlefield in which the armies from East and West will meet will be the Plain of Esdraelon, the area around the mountains of Megiddo. That is why the battle is called Armageddon—Ar meaning mountain. This plain is about 20 miles south-southeast of Haifa, and the valley today is about 20 miles by 14.
The sixth poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up to prepare the way for the kings from the east. Then I saw three unclean spirits like frogs coming from the dragon’s mouth, from the beast’s mouth, and from the mouth of the false prophet. For they are demonic spirits performing signs, who travel to the kings of the whole world to assemble them for the battle on the great day of God, the Almighty. “Look, I am coming like a thief. Blessed is the one who is alert and remains clothed so that he may not go around naked and people see his shame.” So they assembled the kings at the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon (Revelation 16:12-16).
Stage 4. Jerusalem will fall as Jerusalem becomes another battlefield (Zechariah. 12:1-3; 14:1-2), where there will be house-to-house fighting and temporary success for the enemies of the Lord. But the Lord will send a plague and then stand on the Mount of Olives and “destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.”
On that day I will set out to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem… On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east. The Mount of Olives will be split in half from east to west, forming a huge valley, so that half the mountain will move to the north and half to the south… This will be the plague with which the Lord strikes all the people who have warred against Jerusalem: their flesh will rot while they stand on their feet, their eyes will rot in their sockets, and their tongues will rot in their mouths (Zech. 12:9; 14:4, 12).
Stage 5. In Matthew 24:16-31, Jesus stated that during this time of war and persecution, Jews living in Judea would flee to the mountains, a flight also mentioned in Revelation 12:6, 14. Once Jerusalem has fallen, Antichrist will move south in pursuit of that remnant to completely destroy them. This area of conflict will center in Bozra in Edom, which is about 20 miles southeast of the southern tip of the Dead Sea (Isaiah 63:1-6). Viewing these three areas of the war together, we see a gruesome picture of unbelievable carnage encompassing the entire land from Megiddo in the north, Jerusalem in the center, and Edom in the southeast (about 180 miles) (Isaiah 33:13-16; Jeremiah 49:13-14).
Stage 6. During this campaign but prior to the Second Coming, as Antichrist seeks to destroy the Jews, Jewish leaders will call for the nation to repent, which they will do.
Come, let’s return to the Lord. For he has torn us, and he will heal us; he has wounded us, and he will bind up our wounds. He will revive us after two days, and on the third day he will raise us up so we can live in his presence. Let’s strive to know the Lord. His appearance is as sure as the dawn. He will come to us like the rain, like the spring showers that water the land (Hos. 6:1-3).
They will confess their national sin.
But when they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their ancestors—their unfaithfulness that they practiced against me, and how they acted with hostility toward me, and I acted with hostility toward them and brought them into the land of their enemies—and when their uncircumcised hearts are humbled and they make amends for their iniquity, then I will remember my covenant with Jacob. I will also remember my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land (Leviticus 26:40-42).
The Lord announced to me, “Unfaithful Israel has shown herself more righteous than treacherous Judah. 12 Go, proclaim these words to the north, and say,
‘Return, unfaithful Israel. This is the Lord’s declaration. I will not look on you with anger, for I am unfailing in my love. This is the Lord’s declaration. I will not be angry forever. Only acknowledge your guilt— you have rebelled against the Lord your God. You have scattered your favors to strangers under every green tree and have not obeyed me. This is the Lord’s declaration.
“‘Return, you faithless children—this is the Lord’s declaration—for I am your master, and I will take you, one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion. I will give you shepherds who are loyal to me, and they will shepherd you with knowledge and skill. 16 When you multiply and increase in the land, in those days—this is the Lord’s declaration—no one will say again, “The ark of the Lord’s covenant.” It will never come to mind, and no one will remember or miss it. Another one will not be made. At that time Jerusalem will be called The Lord’s Throne, and all the nations will be gathered to it, to the name of the Lord in Jerusalem. They will cease to follow the stubbornness of their evil hearts. In those days the house of Judah will join with the house of Israel, and they will come together from the land of the north to the land I have given your ancestors to inherit’” (Jeremiah 3:11-18).
I will depart and return to my place until they recognize their guilt and seek my face; they will search for me in their distress (Hosea 5:15).
They will plead for Jesus the Messiah to return (Isaiah 64:1-12; Zechariah 12:10; Matthew 23:37-39). National Israel will experience national regeneration.
Stage 7. Amid this battle, when Israel repents of her sin and she recognizes and accepts Jesus Christ as her Messiah and calls out for His return, He does so, to the mountain wilderness of Bozrah.
You nations, come here and listen; you peoples, pay attention! Let the earth and all that fills it hear, the world and all that comes from it. The Lord is angry with all the nations, furious with all their armies. He will set them apart for destruction, giving them over to slaughter. Their slain will be thrown out, and the stench of their corpses will rise; the mountains will flow with their blood. All the stars in the sky will dissolve. The sky will roll up like a scroll, and its stars will all wither as leaves wither on the vine, and foliage on the fig tree. When my sword has drunk its fill[c] in the heavens, it will then come down on Edom and on the people I have set apart for destruction. The Lord’s sword is covered with blood. It drips with fat, with the blood of lambs and goats, with the fat of the kidneys of rams. For the Lord has a sacrifice in Bozrah, a great slaughter in the land of Edom. The wild oxen will be struck down with them, and young bulls with the mighty bulls. Their land will be soaked with blood, and their soil will be saturated with fat (Isaiah 34:1-7).
Who is this coming from Edom in crimson-stained garments from Bozrah—this one who is splendid in his apparel, striding in his formidable might? It is I, proclaiming vindication, powerful to save. Why are your clothes red, and your garments like one who treads a winepress? I trampled the winepress alone, and no one from the nations was with me. I trampled them in my anger and ground them underfoot in my fury; their blood spattered my garments, and all my clothes were stained. For I planned the day of vengeance, and the year of my redemption came. I looked, but there was no one to help, and I was amazed that no one assisted; so my arm accomplished victory for me, and my wrath assisted me. I crushed nations in my anger; I made them drunk with my wrath and poured out their blood on the ground (Isaiah 63:1-6).
God comes from Teman, the Holy One from Mount Paran.Selah His splendor covers the heavens, and the earth is full of his praise (Habakkuk 3:3).
I will indeed gather all of you, Jacob; I will collect the remnant of Israel. I will bring them together like sheep in a pen, like a flock in the middle of its pasture. It will be noisy with people. One who breaks open the way will advance before them; they will break out, pass through the city gate, and leave by it. Their King will pass through before them, the Lord as their leader (Micah. 2:12-13).
At the Second Coming, He will return with the saints and an angelic army (Jude 14-15; Revelation 19:11-16), to save the Jews in the wilderness.
Stage 8. The Lord Jesus Christ will defeat both the Antichrist and all who opposed and persecuted Israel.
Let the nations be roused and come to the Valley of Jehoshaphat, for there I will sit down to judge all the surrounding nations. Swing the sickle because the harvest is ripe. Come and trample the grapes because the winepress is full; the wine vats overflow because the wickedness of the nations is extreme (Joel 3:12-13).
This will be the plague with which the Lord strikes all the people who have warred against Jerusalem: their flesh will rot while they stand on their feet, their eyes will rot in their sockets, and their tongues will rot in their mouths. On that day a great panic from the Lord will be among them, so that each will seize the hand of another, and the hand of one will rise against the other. Judah will also fight at Jerusalem, and the wealth of all the surrounding nations will be collected: gold, silver, and clothing in great abundance. The same plague as the previous one will strike the horses, mules, camels, donkeys, and all the animals that are in those camps (Zechariah. 14:12-15).
So the angel swung his sickle at the earth and gathered the grapes from the vineyard of the earth, and he threw them into the great winepress of God’s wrath. Then the press was trampled outside the city, and blood flowed out of the press up to the horses’ bridles for about 180 miles (Revelation 14:19-20).
Habakkuk 3:13 and 2 Thessalonians 2:8 tell us that Christ will slay the Antichrist who is powerless before Christ even though he is the world’s most powerful dictator.
Stage 9. Once Jesus is fully victorious over the Antichrist and his forces, Christ’s campaign will be concluded (Zechariah 12:7), and He will stand upon the Mount of Olives as a victor. This will lead to a number of unprecedented natural disasters, bringing the Tribulation period to an end.
Then the Lord will go out to fight against those nations as he fights on a day of battle. On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east. The Mount of Olives will be split in half from east to west, forming a huge valley, so that half the mountain will move to the north and half to the south (Zechariah 14:3-4).
Then the seventh poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple from the throne, saying, “It is done!” (Revelation 16:17).
These cataclysmic calamities correspond to the seventh bowl judgment. The outcome is certain—the Beast will be defeated, and his armies captured. He and his False Prophet will be thrown into the lake of fire to be tormented forever.
The Second Coming of Christ: The End of the Tribulation
With the return of Christ, the six goals found in Daniel 9:24 find their fulfillment:
Seventy weeks are decreed about your people and your holy city—to bring the rebellion to an end, to put a stop to sin, to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy place.
Goal 1. “To bring the rebellion to an end”—to restrain sin, particularly Israel’s during its long trend of apostasy (cf. 9:11).
Goal 2. “To put a stop to sin”—to judge sin with finality (cf. Heb. 9:26). Walvoord states,
“’To put a stop to sin,’ may be taken either in the sense of taking away sins or bringing sin to final judgment…another possibility is to translate it “to seal up sin.” The final explanation may include all of these items because the eschatological conclusion of Israel’s history does indeed bring an end to their previous transgressions, brings their sin into judgment, and also introduces the element of forgiveness.”3
Goal 3. Salvation will come to many in Israel because of the severe suffering and persecution during the last three and a half years of the Tribulation. They will cry out to God and come to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Then I will pour out a spirit of grace and prayer on the house of David and the residents of Jerusalem, and they will look at me whom they pierced. They will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child and weep bitterly for him as one weeps for a firstborn… I will put this third through the fire; I will refine them as silver is refined and test them as gold is tested. They will call on my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘They are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The Lord is our God’ (Zechariah 12:10; 13:9).
The “new covenant” of which Jeremiah spoke (Jer. 31:31-34) will finally be entered into by the Jews when they trust Jesus as their Messiah and enter the millennial kingdom.
Goal 4. He defeats and destroys His enemies and reclaims the world for God. At His return, Christ defeats His enemies (Revelation 19:11-21; 14:17-20; Zechariah 14:3-4), captures Antichrist and the False Prophet and casts them into the Lake of Fire (Revelation 19:20) and captures Satan and confines him in the Abyss (Luke 8:30-31; Revelation 20:1-3).
Goal 5. “To seal up vision and prophecy.” With His coming and the establishment of His millennial kingdom, John MacArthur states that,
“No more revelation is needed and God will bring these anticipations to completion by their fulfillment in Israel’s blessing as a nation.”4
Walvoord says that,
“The expression to “seal up” indicates that no more is to be added and that what has been predicted will receive divine confirmation and recognition in the form of actual fulfillment.”5
Goal 6. Christ is King, and he has a name written on his robe and on his thigh: King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Revelation 19:16). He re-establishes David’s throne, therefore fulfilling the Davidic covenant. Daniel 12:11-12 tells us that seventy-five days will elapse between His return and the beginning of His millennial kingdom.
From the time the daily sacrifice is abolished and the abomination of desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days. Happy is the one who waits for and reaches 1,335 days.
1 Benware, Understanding End Times Prophecy: A Comprehensive Approach, Op. cit., pp. 263-264.
2 Jeremiah, Escape the Coming Night, Op. cit., p. 211.
3 John F. Walvoord, Daniel: The Key to Prophetic Revelation (Chicago: Moody, 1971), p. 221.
4 John F. MacArthur, The MacArthur Bible Commentary (one volume), (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2005), p. 962.
5 Walvoord, Daniel, Op. cit., p. 222.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Christian Standard Bible. Copyright © 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Christian Standard Bible®, and CSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers, all rights reserved.
Dr. Miguel J. Gonzalez is the Founder and President of Reasons for Faith International Ministries. He served as a pastor for ten years in Charlotte, NC and has taught in churches and conferences throughout the United States. He currently hosts the Time in the Word and Truth To Live By podcasts and writes at KnowingChristianity.blogspot.com.
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