BUFF SCOTT, JR.
Symbolic Jargon From Literal
In unfolding scripture, here is an attractive principle, “Revelation is what God said. Interpretation is what we think He meant by what he said.”
It is not always easy to separate the literal from the symbolic or figurative—or the precise
from the allegorical
. Biblical books such as Ezekiel and Revelation are two exciting examples. A sample:
If I wanted to convince you there were animal kings who ruled 2000 years ago, all I’d need do is turn to Jesus’ statement where he called King Herod a fox [Luke 13:31-32]
I’ve proven my point. Herod was a literal, run-of-the-mill, fox—a four-legged animal. And so it is with many prophetic interpreters, expressly in the evangelical camp.
Many of these prophetic interpreters will turn to Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Zechariah, and Revelation, large portions of which are highly symbolic, and they see an actual
futuristic day when the leopard lies down with the goat, the cow feeding with the bear, the wolf and the lamb cohabiting, the lion eating straw like an ox, and a young child putting his hand into the viper’s nest without danger [Isa. 11]
It is questionable that these matters should be understood factually. To me, the exquisite imagery of Isaiah typifies the Messiah’s government in this current age, just as Isaiah 53 typifies the Lamb of God who was smitten for our transgressions. The Lord is saying through the prophet, in chapter 11, that an age is coming—and now exists
—when there will be great peace and happiness in the new kingdom or reign, and it will be like a cow feeding with a bear or a wolf that lives with the lamb.
Four-footed animals and their environments are not what Isaiah is talking about. He is addressing the peace and serenity that will reign in the hearts of God’s children in the redeemed community, the era of grace. That time is now
, and has been for 2000 years. We are living in that age! You and I are part of the age Isaiah foretold! Jesus has brought us peace, serenity, deliverance, salvation, and hope.
To put it another way, ours is an age of all ages—an age of which all the old prophets predicted but couldn’t understand. It was to be an age of rescue—an age the angels longed to look into but were not permitted. We have been granted the privilege of being participants of that age or reign. It is now
, not tomorrow, at this moment, not when King Jesus “sits upon His earthly throne in Jerusalem,” as the ambiguous doctrine goes. He is seated, at this moment, upon His throne, at the right hand of God [Acts 2:33]
, and He reigns over his subjects—you and me!
But what about today’s “prophets” of Armageddon who claim that this battle will be a physical future
conflict—fresh-and-blood against flesh-and-blood—and that hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions, will be doing battle upon the hill Megiddo—“Armageddon”—a famous spot in Hebrew history. King Josiah was slain upon this hill [2 Kings 23:29-30]
. Here is how the passage reads. “Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon” [Rev. 16:16]
In my research, I have found that a future
battle is not predicted to be fought there—only a gathering of the kings who were to descend upon Jerusalem and put an end to the established system. This did happen at the predicted time—A. D. 67-70
—and culminated in the destruction of the old covenant relationship, Jerusalem, and the Jewish State. That is where the Roman general Titus gathered his army, along with the military support of other kings, for his assault upon Jerusalem. Josephesus, the Jewish historian, who lived during that era, wrote about this calamity. It happened over 1900 years ago.
If a renowned historian’s account can be admitted as evidence, “The Battle of Armageddon”
is history. Too, the hill Megiddo, along with the surrounding valley, is not large enough to accommodate millions of combatants in a future, literal conflict. But assuming the Battle is not history, we would be compelled to understand it as a moral and spiritual conflict, which has been waged since the Christian movement began. I’m inclined to believe it is chiefly a spiritual conflict
, although there is strong evidence a great battle was literally fought when the Roman army surrounded and destroyed Jerusalem in 67-70 A. D. “Armageddon” points to a great battle. This we do not deny. The term, along with the context of Revelation 16, seems to indicate a spiritual warfare, as opposed to a flesh-and-blood warfare.
Even the apostle Paul stated that we’re not involved in a physical warfare, but in a spiritual combat. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood...but against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” [Eph. 6:12]
. “Armageddon” is used metaphorically to describe the great spiritual conflict of the New Israel of God in the grace era—the one body of believers, the ekklesia
Our struggle is with King Satan. The children of King Jesus have been struggling with the forces of King Satan since the very inception of the new covenant. I see this conflict, “Armageddon,” as a spiritual engagement between the children of King Jesus and the demons of King Satan. This battle is likely to intensify as the end of all things draws near.
During the first three centuries of the Christian movement, hundreds of thousands of believers fought against Satan and were slaughtered. They became martyrs for Jesus. And even today, in many foreign countries, Satan is waging war against God’s army. Many are being persecuted to death. Surely this is—figuratively speaking—a “Battle of Armageddon.”
At this moment, we’re battling Satan head-on. The battle will not end until our King returns and puts an end to all evil, at which time we will be transported to an extension of our golden age—heaven itself