On the surface, the simple and basic principles of the gospel, like faith, and repentance, and enduring to the end, can seem mundane and small when compared to the terrible glory of the end times. It is also my opinion that these principles are often overlooked because the principles of the gospel require daily transformation, and self-evaluation, which can be difficult and uncomfortable, and therefore much less fun to consider in a priest quorum meeting than the “exciting” events leading up to the second coming of Christ.
I therefore preface this post by declaring that learning to live the gospel, and developing a relationship with God through the Holy Ghost, is more important than knowing the particulars of the events of the end times, or becoming an eschatological expert. It is important to know "the signs of the times," but not at the expense of the "weightier matters," like justice, mercy, faith, and faithfulness. If we are truly converted, through faithful obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ, then the last days need hold no fear for us. If we have truly become converted as a disciple of Christ, we can look forward with anticipation, and without trepidation, for the day of His return, and there is no need to continually pore over and dwell on the accounts of the suffering and bloodshed that will come in the days leading up to His coming, especially if doing so causes us to lose sight of the truly important study and application of the gospel.
With that said, I chose to publish this post about Armageddon because I found that there is an everyday spiritual application which we can gain from a study of the terrible fighting that will usher in the coming of Christ. While I spend most of this post outlining the events and conditions during the battle of Armageddon, I conclude it with advice concerning how best to fight the everyday spiritual battle which each of us must fight in order to stay true to the Lord and His gospel, and ultimately, to prepare for His coming.
My friend Shari asked me this question in an effort to deepen her knowledge so that she could answer some questions that her friends had concerning the end times. What follows is an expanded version of my original answer.
A: The battle of Armageddon, which will take place shortly before the second coming of Jesus Christ,
In his Revelation, the Apostle John describes a gathering of the forces of evil at Armageddon in anticipation of the great and final battle of a vicious and terrible war:
Revelation 16:12-14,16 And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared. And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty. And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.
The nations of the world will be gathered to Armageddon to make war upon the people of Israel.
Ezekiel 38:8-9 After many days thou shalt be visited: in the latter years thou shalt come into the land that is brought back from the sword, and is gathered out of many people, against the mountains of Israel, which have been always waste: but it is brought forth out of the nations, and they shall dwell safely all of them. Thou shalt ascend and come like a storm, thou shalt be like a cloud to cover the land, thou, and all thy bands, and many people with thee.
Joel 3:9-11, 14 Proclaim ye this among the Gentiles; Prepare war, wake up the mighty men, let all the men of war draw near; let them come up: Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruninghooks into spears: let the weak say, I am strong. Assemble yourselves, and come, all ye heathen, and gather yourselves together round about: thither cause thy mighty ones to come down, O LORD. Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision.
Ezekiel 38:15-16 And thou shalt come from thy place out of the north parts, thou, and many people with thee, all of them riding upon horses, a great company, and a mighty army: And thou shalt come up against my people of Israel, as a cloud to cover the land; it shall be in the latter days, and I will bring thee against my land, that the heathen may know me, when I shall be sanctified in thee, O Gog, before their eyes.
The prophet Ezekiel refers to Gog, of the land of Magog, as a prince who is to lead those who come together to fight Israel. However, “Gog is a symbolic name for the leader or leaders of this great evil power that will arise in the last days” (Old Testament Student Manual, 292). While Ezekiel refers to certain regions of the ancient world in connection with the forces led by Gog, “These designations refer to general areas of the ancient world, so a list of modern nations fighting in Armageddon cannot be compiled from these sources. Elder Bruce R. McConkie said: “The prophecies do not name the modern nations which will be fighting for and against Israel, but the designation Gog and Magog is given to the combination of nations which are seeking to overthrow and destroy the remnant of the Lord’s chosen seed.” (Mormon Doctrine, p. 298.)” (Old Testament Student Manual, 292).
Joel also refers to this army as being so great and terrible that its coming is as “A day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness, as the morning spread upon the mountains: a great people and a strong; there hath not been ever the like, neither shall be any more after it, even to the years of many generations” (Joel 2:2). He also mentions that at this time “The sun and the moon shall be darkened, and the stars shall withdraw their shining” (Joel 3:15).
The slaughter and savagery that takes places during this war, and especially during the final battle of Armageddon, will be incredible.
While the fighting may start at Armageddon, it will end at Jerusalem. The nations will lay siege to Jerusalem and it will eventually fall. The apostle John saw the sack of Jerusalem in his Revelation:
Revelation 11:1-2 And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein. But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months.
During this time, two witnesses will stand against the forces of darkness, in bearing testimony of Christ.
Revelation 11:3-6 And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth. And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed. These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will.
Bruce R. McConkie speculated that “No doubt [these witnesses] will be members of the Council of the Twelve or of the First Presidency of the Church” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3:510).
|A modern Apostle bearing witness of the truths of the gospel|
“Their miraculous power seems to be the force preventing Gog and his army from succeeding in annihilating Israel. Elder Parley P. Pratt wrote: “John, in the eleventh chapter of Revelation, gives us many more particulars concerning this same event. He informs us that after the city and temple are rebuilt by the Jews, the Gentiles will tread it under foot forty and two months, during which time there will be two prophets continually prophesying and working mighty miracles. And it seems that the Gentile army shall be hindered from utterly destroying and overthrowing the city, while these two prophets continue.” (A Voice of Warning, p. 33.)” (Old Testament, Student Manual, 293).
However, after a period of roughly three and a half years, the forces of evil will overcome these two prophets, who will be martyred and their bodies left to rot in the streets of Jerusalem for all to see.
Revelation 11:7-10 And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them. And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified. And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and an half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves. And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth.
Without the protection of these men of God, the city of Jerusalem will be sacked and destroyed.
Zechariah 14:2 For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city.
This great siege, and the sack of Jerusalem, and the destruction that will accompany it, represents the second fulfillment of “the abomination of desolation” that was foretold by the prophet Daniel.
“Conditions of desolation, born of abomination and wickedness, were to occur twice in fulfillment of Daniel’s words. The first was to be when the Roman legions under Titus, in A.D. 70, laid siege to Jerusalem (Matt. 24:15; JS—M 1:12).
“Speaking of the last days, of the days following the Restoration of the gospel and its declaration ‘for a witness unto all nations,’ our Lord said: ‘And again shall the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, be fulfilled’ (JS—M 1:31–32). That is, Jerusalem again will be under siege.” (Bible Dictionary, “Abomination of desolation”).
The abomination of desolation also has reference to the desecration of the temple, which will have been rebuilt in Jerusalem by this time, which is why Christ refers to the abomination of desolation as standing “in the holy place” (see Matt. 24:15).
NIV Daniel 11:31 His armed forces will rise up to desecrate the temple fortress and will abolish the daily sacrifice. Then they will set up the abomination that causes desolation.
The city of Jerusalem will finally be overwhelmed, and made utterly desolate, at which point the people of Israel will flee headlong before their enemies.
Matthew 24:16-21 Then let them which be in Judæa flee into the mountains: Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day: For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.
“During this siege, when the nations are gathered and the Lord comes, there will be great destruction. The armies will become so confused they will fight among themselves. There will be great slaughter” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Signs of the Times, p. 171.)
Then the three witnesses, whose bodies have lain in the streets of Jerusalem for three and a half days, will be resurrected and they shall ascend to heaven.
Revelation 11:11-12 And after three days and an half the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them. And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them.
There will be a great earthquake, which will destroy all but a tenth of the city of Jerusalem and shake the whole world.
Revelation16:16-18 And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon. And the seventh angel poured out his vial into the air; and there came a great voice out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, It is done. And there were voices, and thunders, and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such as was not since men were upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake, and so great.
Revelation 11:13 And the same hour was there a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell, and in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand: and the remnant were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven.
Ezekiel 38:18-20 And it shall come to pass at the same time when Gog shall come against the land of Israel, saith the Lord GOD, that my fury shall come up in my face. For in my jealousy and in the fire of my wrath have I spoken, Surely in that day there shall be a great shaking in the land of Israel; So that the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the heaven, and the beasts of the field, and all creeping things that creep upon the earth, and all the men that are upon the face of the earth, shall shake at my presence, and the mountains shall be thrown down, and the steep places shall fall, and every wall shall fall to the ground.
It is at this point, when all seems lost, that Christ will return to deliver His people.
“All [the prophets] speak of [this day]; and when that time comes, the Lord is going to come out of His hiding place. You can see what a terrible condition it is going to be; and the Jews besieged, not only in Jerusalem but, of course, throughout Palestine are in the siege; and when they are about to go under, then the Lord comes. There will be the great earthquake. The earthquake will not be only in Palestine. There will not be merely the separation of the Mount of Olives, to form a valley that the Jews may escape, but the whole earth is going to be shaken. There will be some dreadful things take place, and some great changes are going to take place, and that you will find written in the book of Ezekiel (38:17–23).” (Smith, Signs of the Times, p. 170.)” (Old Testament Student Manual, 294).
During this terrible earthquake, “The Mount of Olives will be split in two, providing an avenue of escape for the house of Israel (see Zechariah 14:4–5)” (Old Testament Student Manual, 294).
Zechariah 14:4 And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south.
Zechariah 14:5 And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal: yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah: and the Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with thee.
“Then the Lord comes to the Jews. He shows Himself. He calls upon them to come and examine His hands and His feet, and they say, ‘What are these wounds?’ And He answers them, ‘These are the wounds with which I was wounded in the house of my friends. I am Jesus Christ.’…Then they will accept Him as their Redeemer, which they have never been willing to do.” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Signs of the Times, p. 171.)
Zechariah 13:6 And one shall say unto him, What are these wounds in thine hands? Then he shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.
D&C 45:51-53 And then shall the Jews look upon me and say: What are these wounds in thine hands and in thy feet? Then shall they know that I am the Lord; for I will say unto them: These wounds are the wounds with which I was wounded in the house of my friends. I am he who was lifted up. I am Jesus that was crucified. I am the Son of God. And then shall they weep because of their iniquities; then shall they lament because they persecuted their king.
Zechariah 12:10-11 And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn. In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon.
*Note: This will in fact be Christ’s SECOND appearance in His second coming, because the scriptures say that He will first return to His temple. See Malachi 3:1-4 and D&C 133:1-3).
At the same moment as the terrible earthquake, angelic voices shall speak from heaven to announce the commencement of Christ’s kingdom on Earth
Revelation 11:15 And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.
Then the Lord will defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem against those nations which have gathered against them to destroy them.
D&C 45:47-40 Then shall the arm of the Lord fall upon the nations. And then shall the Lord set his foot upon this mount, and it shall cleave in twain, and the earth shall tremble, and reel to and fro, and the heavens also shall shake. And the Lord shall utter his voice, and all the ends of the earth shall hear it; and the nations of the earth shall mourn, and they that have laughed shall see their folly. And calamity shall cover the mocker, and the scorner shall be consumed; and they that have watched for iniquity shall be hewn down and cast into the fire.
Zechariah 14:3 Then shall the Lord go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle.
Zechariah 12:8-9 In that day shall the Lord defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and he that is feeble among them at that day shall be as David; and the house of David shall be as God, as the angel of the Lord before them. And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.
Zechariah 12:2-4 Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem. And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it. In that day, saith the Lord, I will smite every horse with astonishment, and his rider with madness: and I will open mine eyes upon the house of Judah, and will smite every horse of the people with blindness.
In a show of divine wrath and power, a plague will strike the enemy armies, and they will begin to turn on each other in the chaos.
Zechariah 14:12-13 And this shall be the plague wherewith the LORD will smite all the people that have fought against Jerusalem; Their flesh shall consume away while they stand upon their feet, and their eyes shall consume away in their holes, and their tongue shall consume away in their mouth. And it shall come to pass in that day, that a great tumult from the LORD shall be among them; and they shall lay hold every one on the hand of his neighbour, and his hand shall rise up against the hand of his neighbour.
Then a hail of fire will rain down on the enemy armies, and also on some of their lands.
Revelation 16:21 And there fell upon men a great hail out of heaven, every stone about the weight of a talent: and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail; for the plague thereof was exceeding great.
Ezekiel 38:22-23 And I will plead against him with pestilence and with blood; and I will rain upon him, and upon his bands, and upon the many people that are with him, an overflowing rain, and great hailstones, fire, and brimstone. Thus will I magnify myself, and sanctify myself; and I will be known in the eyes of many nations, and they shall know that I am the LORD.
The death toll shall be so great that there will be too many to mourn, or even to bury.
Jeremiah 25:32-33 Thus saith the Lord of hosts, Behold, evil shall go forth from nation to nation, and a great whirlwind shall be raised up from the coasts of the earth. And the slain of the Lord shall be at that day from one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth: they shall not be lamented, neither gathered, nor buried; they shall be dung upon the ground.
Isaiah 34:2-3 For the indignation of the Lord is upon all nations, and his fury upon all their armies: he hath utterly destroyed them, he hath delivered them to the slaughter. Their slain also shall be cast out, and their stink shall come up out of their carcases, and the mountains shall be melted with their blood.
After this terrible bloodshed and suffering is concluded, the survivors will be humbled, and those who fought against Israel will travel to Jerusalem from year-to-year to worship God. Christ will reign personally on the earth, and there will be an end to sin and bloodshed and suffering.
Zechariah 14:16-17 And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles.
Isaiah 2:3-4 And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
Armageddon thus ends in a spectacular display of power wherein Christ triumphantly returns to intervene directly to fight for His people and to destroy their enemies, and to institute a reign of peace and righteousness. However, one might ask why Christ would wait until what to us seems like the last possible moment. Why does Christ wait until after the litany of horror, bloodshed, and persecution described by the scriptures has already taken place? Why doesn’t Christ simply come now and let us avoid the whole mess?
Our Daily Spiritual War
When we speak of Armageddon we tend to focus on the horror and the bloodshed that accompany any war, and which the scriptures promise will reach untold depths during this great and last war. While such wars are surely terrible, we occasionally forget that there is another, seemingly quieter, war which is being fought every day over the fate of our very souls. While the battle of Armageddon will be a literal battle, there is a spiritual war which all of those who seek to follow Christ will have to wage before He comes again.
“There is another war that has gone on since before the world was created and that is likely to continue for a long time. It is a war that reaches beyond questions of territory or national sovereignty. John the Revelator speaks of that struggle…. That war, so bitter, so intense, has never ceased. It is the war between truth and error, between agency and compulsion, between the followers of Christ and those who have denied Him. His enemies have used every stratagem in that conflict. They’ve indulged in lying and deceit. They’ve employed money and wealth. They’ve tricked the minds of men. They’ve murdered and destroyed and engaged in every kind of evil practice to thwart the work of Christ.” (Gordon B. Hinckley, “An Unending Conflict, a Victory Assured,” Ensign, June 2007).
Ephesians 6:10-13 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
Christ chooses to delay His coming out of mercy and in order to give us a chance to decide for ourselves whom we will serve and what side we will fight for in the spiritual war that is raging all around us, and which will continue to rage through Armageddon. We will each be called upon to fight our own individual battles against sin, temptation, and evil, which we will win or lose based on our own choices and the degree to which we become converted to the cause of Christ. Each time we choose to follow Christ and reject evil we make a declaration as to whose side we are on, and the more fully we obey Christ the more fully we become His servants. C. S. Lewis explained that, while Christ elects for now to operate in this world through the agency of His disciples and the apparatus of His church, soon He will reveal Himself openly and in the fullness of His glory, at which point it will be too late to choose a side.
“Why is God landing in this enemy-occupied world in disguise and starting a sort of secret society to undermine the devil? Why is He not landing in force, invading it? Is it that He is not strong enough? Well, Christians think He is going to land in force; we do not know when. But we can guess why He is delaying. He wants to give us the chance of joining His side freely. I do not suppose you and I would have thought much of a Frenchman who waited till the Allies were marching into Germany and then announced he was on our side. God will invade. But I wonder whether people who ask God to interfere openly and directly in our world quite realise [sic] what it will be like when He does. When that happens, it is the end of the world. When the author walks on to the stage the play is over. God is going to invade, all right: but what is the good of saying you are on His side then, when you see the whole natural universe melting away like a dream and something else -something it never entered your head to conceive- comes crashing in; something so beautiful to some of us and so terrible to others that none of us will have any choice left? For this time it will be God without disguise; something so overwhelming that it will strike either irresistible love or irresistible horror into every creature. It will be too late then to choose your side. There is no use saying you choose to lie down when it has become impossible to stand up. That will not be the time for choosing: it will be the time when we discover which side we really have chosen, whether we realized [sic] it before or not. Now, today, this moment, is our chance to choose the right side. God is holding back to give us that chance. It will not last forever. We must take it or leave it.” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 64-65).
P.S. Just as a matter of clarification: Occasionally people confuse the battle of Armageddon (which will take place shortly before the second coming of Christ which will usher in the millennium) with the great and last battle which will take place at the end of the millennium. It is after this war that Satan will finally be cast out and defeated, and the last great judgment will begin.
Revelation 20:7-15 And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog, and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them. And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever. And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.