[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.
Similarities, however, between Rev 19:11–21 and Matt 24:30–31 stop with the single depiction of Jesus coming from “heaven.” And even in this single instance there is a difference, which will be explained below. Virtually all other details between these two passages reveal that they are describing two very different settings.
- In Matt 24:30–31 (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 24:30–31, the focus is on 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 focus is on the battle of Armageddon, while the sign that is prominent in other parousia passages conspicuously serves no purpose here.
- In Matt 24:30–31, 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
- In Matt 24:30–31, the Son of Man appears in the sky on clouds. In Rev 19:11–21, there is no mention of Christ coming on the clouds in the sky.
- In Matt 24:29–30, the sky is disturbed with darkness. In Rev 19, the sky is not disturbed with darkness.
- In Matt 24:30–31, Jesus is depicted as coming down arriving on the clouds in the sky for the great gathering event. In Rev 19:11–21, he is coming on a horse directly to earth to destroy the armies of the nations.
While some of these differences may not be contradictions themselves, and differences of aspects does not necessarily mean two different events are being described, the cumulative evidence, nevertheless, signal that these two passages are describing two different timing events.
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. And we know that when the parousia begins, the day of the Lord’s wrath begins.
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. I will pick up these three factors another day. In the meantime, see the following video where I discuss them.
 While some interpreters may dismiss this point as important, it is odd that this key theophanic element 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 within significant passages on Christ’s initial return; e.g. Luke 21:27; 1 Thess 4:17; Rev 14:14–16.