[Today, I am starting a four-part article series, The Second Coming Does Not Begin with Armageddon. This is Part 1.]
The battle of Armageddon is not the event that begins the second coming (the parousia). It is a deep-seated assumption among many pretrib and posttrib interpreters that Matt 24:30–31 is a parallel passage to Rev 19:11–21. These interpreters cite Rev 19:11 as evidence that the battle of Armageddon begins the second coming:
Then I saw heaven opened and here came a white horse! The one riding it was called “Faithful” and “True,” and with justice he judges and goes to war.
Revelation 19:11 is typically cited as evidence that the battle of Armageddon begins the second coming: “Then I saw heaven opened and here came a white horse! The one riding it was called ‘Faithful’ and ‘True,’ and with justice he judges and goes to war.” However, similarity between Rev 19:11–21 and the main second coming passage in Matt 24:29–31 stops with the depiction of seeing Jesus coming from “heaven.” Similarity does not necessarily equal identity. Virtually all other details between these passages reveal two different settings.
- In Matt 24:29–31 (cf. Luke 21:25–28), the sign of the Son of Man appears and results in a global gathering of the elect. In Rev 19:11–21, the Son of Man appears in a locale that is limited to the battlefield.
- In Matt 24:29–31, the message concerns the sign of the Son of Man, which announces his return to the world (v. 3; cf. Luke 21:27–28). In Rev 19:11–21, the message is the battle of Armageddon.
- In Matt 24:29–31, the major event to occur at the start of the parousia is the gathering of the saints from the earth to the sky. In Rev 19:11–21, there is no gathering event of the saints from the earth to the sky, which would certainly be expected if this were the beginning of the second coming.
- In Matt 24:29–31, the Son of Man appears coming down in the sky arriving on the clouds to gather the saints. In Rev 19:11–21, there is no mention of him with clouds, but rather he proceeds to earth to destroy the armies of the nations.
- In Matt 24:29–31, the sky is characterized with darkness. In Rev 19, this feature is conspicuously lacking from the heavenly scene.
- In Matt 24:29–31, parables and similitudes follow to illustrate the beginning of God’s wrath. In Rev 19, the battle of Armageddon depicts the completion of God’s wrath after the trumpet and bowl judgments.
These differences may not be contradictions, and, indeed, a difference of aspects do not necessarily denote two different events. The cumulative evidence, nevertheless, signal that these two passages portray two different timing events. While these differences above are noteworthy, the point in this article is corroborated if we understand that (1) the resurrection, (2) the inauguration of Christ’s physical kingdom at the seventh trumpet, and (3) God’s wrath will begin at a point significantly earlier before the battle of Armageddon happens. These three factors therefore signal that the battle of Armageddon will not begin the second coming.
The battle of Armageddon is portrayed in the book of Revelation as a later stage within the unified complex-whole of the second coming. Armageddon is viewed as unfolding at the very end of the day of the Lord’s wrath.
 While some interpreters may dismiss this point as important, it is odd that this key theophanic element of clouds is missing from Rev 19:11–21, if it is supposed to be identified with the same occurrence as Matt 24:30–31. The mention of Christ coming on clouds is showcased in significant passages on Christ’s initial return; e.g. Luke 21:27; 1 Thess 4:17; Rev 14:14–16.
 Jesus and Paul teach that God’s wrath is going to come up on the world “suddenly,” as a “thief,” and as in the days of Noah when the wicked were not experience God’s wrath as they “knew nothing until the flood came and took them all away.” In other words, it is an incoherent interpretation to locate the beginning of God’s eschatological wrath with the battle of Armageddon after the world was just pummeled from the devastating trumpet and bowl judgments! Someone might object by claiming that the wicked will not know that the trumpets and bowls are God’s wrath. That is clearly absurd. They certainly will know that the trumpets and bowls are divine wrath and not some freakish, natural series of occurrences (cf. Rev 6:15–17; 8:13; 9:20–21; 11:3–13; 11:15; 11:18–19; 14:6–11; 15:5–6; 16:8–11; 16:21; 17:14).