"The End of the World" by John Martin
Whilst many dispensationalists are looking to the Second Coming of Jesus as a day of hope where Jesus will lift up believers into heaven to spare them from coming tribulation, the Old Testament clearly warns that the Day of the Lord will be one of darkness, not light:
"Woe to you who desire the day of the LORD! Why would you have the day of the LORD?
It is darkness, and not light..." (Amos 5:18)
The Book of Zechariah states that the Day of the Lord would be one of mourning, and associates it with the battle of Armageddon described in the Apocalypse (the word Armageddon is derived from the Hebrew Har Megiddo, which means "hill of Megido"):
“And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn. On that day the mourning in Jerusalem will be as great as the mourning for Hadad-rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. (Zech 12:10-11)
The New Testament similarly presents the Second Coming as a time of fear and mourning:
Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
“And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. (Luke 21:25-27)
The Old Testament repeatedly affirms that the day of the Lord will be one of judgement, when God will come as a warrior to execute his justice on the wicked by gathering together the nations of the earth for a final and decisive war:
The sound of a tumult is on the mountains as of a great multitude! The sound of an uproar of kingdoms, of nations gathering together! The LORD of hosts is mustering a host for battle.
They come from a distant land, from the end of the heavens, the LORD and the weapons of his indignation, to destroy the whole land. Wail, for the day of the LORD is near; as destruction from the Almighty it will come! Therefore all hands will be feeble, and every human heart will melt. They will be dismayed: pangs and agony will seize them; they will be in anguish like a woman in labor.
They will look aghast at one another; their faces will be aflame.
Behold, the day of the LORD comes, cruel, with wrath and fierce anger, to make the land a desolation and to destroy its sinners from it. For the stars of the heavens and their constellations will not give their light; the sun will be dark at its rising, and the moon will not shed its light. I will punish the world for its evil, and the wicked for their iniquity. I will put an end to the pomp of the arrogant, and lay low the pompous pride of the ruthless. I will make people more rare than fine gold, and mankind than the gold of Ophir. Therefore I will make the heavens tremble, and the earth will be shaken out of its place, at the wrath of the LORD of hosts in the day of his fierce anger. (Isaiah 13:4-14)
This presentation of God as an eschological warrior is carried forward into the New Testament. Rev 19 depicts Christ at the Second Coming as the warrior-Messiah foretold in the Old Testament, who comes to gather the armies of the earth in the final war of humankind:
Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords. Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and with a loud voice he called to all the birds that fly directly overhead, “Come, gather for the great supper of God, to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all men, both free and slave, both small and great.” And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who was sitting on the horse and against his army. And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur. And the rest were slain by the sword that came from the mouth of him who was sitting on the horse, and all the birds were gorged with their flesh. (Rev 19:11-21)
The above presentation of Jesus as the eschatological warrior-Messiah makes sense out of an otherwise curious statement of Jesus in the Gospels:
Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. (Matt 10:34)
These volatile words of Jesus refer to his coming at the end-time as the Son of Man described in Daniel, rather than to the fruits of his earthly ministry:
“I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man,
and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion
and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.
It is recognised by the vast majority of theologians that when Jesus spoke of himself as the Son of Man, it was in relation to this passage in Dan 7 which describes the presentation of the apocalyptic Son of Man before the throne of the Ancient of Days. This portion of Daniel contains echoes of Rev 20, which recapitulates the battle of Armageddon described in Rev 19:11-21 above and Rev 16:12-16, which form a theological triptych that should be viewed side-by-side:
“As I looked, thrones were placed, and the Ancient of Days took his seat; his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames; its wheels were burning fire. A stream of fire issued and came out from before him; a thousand thousands served him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him; the court sat in judgment, and the books were opened.
“I looked then because of the sound of the great words that the horn was speaking. And as I looked, the beast was killed, and its body destroyed and given over to be burned with fire.
And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea. And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and consumed them, and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. (Rev 20:7-10)
The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up, to prepare the way for the kings from the east. And I saw, coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs. For they are demonic spirits, performing signs, who go abroad to the kings of the whole world, to assemble them for battle on the great day of God the Almighty. (“Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed!”) And they assembled them at the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.
Most dispensationalists view the Book of Revelation as being chronologically linear, and tend to distinguish between these various battles described in the Apocalypse as referring to separate events.
But this linear view of the narrative of Revelation impoverishes of it of its rich complexity. Once we recognise that the Apocalypse is arranged in a thematic, rather than chronological order, we are given a major key for interpreting the book.
Whilst the above passages conjure images of despair concerning the Day of the Lord, this is mixed with a message of hope and mercy in its arrival. Before it takes place God will attempt to bring as many people into the fold as possible by sending the Two Witnesses to inaugurate the Second Pentecost before the arrival of the Day of the Lord:
“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.” (Mal 4:5-6)
The appearance of Christ at the Second Coming will help to draw many more who have not entered into the fold through the Second Pentecost. But as I argue in my book Unveiling the Apocalypse, there may be many who still refuse to acknowlegde that the Parousia of Christ has taken place, either through scepticism, stubborness or delusion - much like how the miraculous appearances of the Our Lady in Egypt are either glossed over by the Western media, or ignored altogether. The private revelations given to St. Faustina by Jesus seem to suggest this possibility. In reference to the "time of mercy" (which can be equated with the Second Pentecost) and the Second Coming, St. Faustina was told to give warning to those who would still refuse to accept Jesus as Lord and Saviour after his Paraousia:
Speak to the world about My mercy ... It is a sign for the end times. After it will come the Day of Justice. While there is still time, let them have recourse to the fountain of My mercy. (Diary 848)
I am prolonging the time of mercy for the sake of sinners. But woe to them if they do not recognize this time of My visitation. (Diary 1160)
He who refuses to pass through the door of My mercy must pass through the door of My justice. (Diary 1146).
The Virgin Mary also told St. Faustina of this great and terrible day of wrath:
You have to speak to the world about His great mercy and prepare the world for the Second Coming of Him who will come, not as a merciful Savior, but as a just Judge. Oh how terrible is that day! Determined is the day of justice, the day of divine wrath. The angels tremble before it. Speak to souls about this great mercy while it is still the time for granting mercy. (Diary 635).