[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 commonly cited as evidence for the battle of Armageddon beginning 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.” The context, however, does not reflect this. Revelation 19:11–21 is often linked with the second coming passage in Matt 24:29–31. But the only significant link is the depiction of Jesus coming from “heaven.” The other elements between these passages reveal two different settings.
- In Matt 24:29–31 (cf. Luke 21:25–28), the message is the sign of the Son of Man appearing for global deliverance of the saints. In Rev 19:11–21, there is no gathering event of the saints, which would certainly be expected if this were the beginning of the second coming. The picture, instead, is of the Christ appearing for local judgement of the Armageddon battlefield.
- In Matt 24:29–31, the Son of Man comes down to the sky arriving on the clouds to gather the saints. In Rev 19:11–21, the element of clouds is missing as Christ comes directly to earth to destroy the armies of the nations.
- In Matt 24:29–31, the return of Jesus if followed by parables and similitudes that illustrate the beginning of God’s wrath. In Rev 19, the battle of Armageddon clearly depicts the completion of God’s wrath, which occur 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.
 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. Some interpreters may dismiss this point as important, but it is odd that this key theophanic element of clouds is missing from Rev 19:11–21.