What Do We Really Know About Armageddon?

Manfred E. Kober, Th.D.

The name Armageddon is used frequently in publications for some major battle or catastrophe. In fact, the biblical term refers to the final world conflict just prior to the Second Advent of Christ. It is preceded by two other wars during the Tribulation. There will be a revival of the Roman Empire in the form of a ten-nation confederacy under the Roman ruler or Antichrist (Dan. 7:19-26; Rev. 13:1-2). What some call the United States of Europe will come about during the first half of the seven-year tribulation period. The European Union today may well be a precursor of that revived Roman Empire. Then at the mid-point of the Tribulation the battle of Gog and Magog takes place (Ez. 38-39). Apparently Russian and her confederates (Ez. 38:5-6) invade Israel and will suffer a devastating defeat.

The Battle of Armageddon actually appears to be a protracted campaign, centering on Israel during the second half of the Tribulation, culminating with the glorious Second Advent. It is mentioned in passages such as Daniel 11:40-45; Joel 3:9-17; Zechariah 14:1-3 and Revelation 16:14-16. It might be well to list several specifics about that final war to help us understand its scope and outcome.

1. The meaning of Armageddon:

Bible scholars disagree on the meaning of the name. Har Megiddo in Hebrew means the hill of Megiddo. Megiddo seems to be derived from magedon, meaning battle or congregation.

2. The location of Armageddon:

The city of Megiddo was located at a strategic position at the southern rim of the plain of Esdraelon, the great battlefield of Israel. One writer notes the significance of the site: “These low hills around Megiddo, with their outlook over the plain of Esdraelon, have witnessed perhaps a greater number of bloody encounters than have ever stained a like area of the world’s surface” (W. Ewing, ISBE [1960], I, 1340). Napoleon, who suffered a devastating defeat here called the valley the most perfect battlefield on earth, with carefully orchestrated entrances and exits.

3. The history of Armageddon:

In the history of Israel, the site had been the scene of never-to-be forgotten battles. It was famous for two great victories: of Barak and Deborah over the Canaanites (Jud. 4-5) and of Gideon over the Midianites (Jud. 7) and two great disasters: the deaths of Saul and Jonathan (1. Sam. 31) and of Josiah in the battle against Pharaoh-necho (2. Kgs. 23:29; 2. Chron. 35:22). Both Jehoram and Jezebel suffered a horrible death in the valley (2 Kgs. 9). To the Hebrew mind these historical associations of calamity and carnage give to the valley an ominous significance of overthrow and doom (Zech. 12:11).

4. The time of Armageddon:

With the destruction of Russia at the midpoint of the Tribulation (Ez. 38:8-11; 39:28), Antichrist will be world ruler (Dan. 9:24; Rev. 13:7). His authority will not go uncontested, however, as various armies maneuver to unseat him. Their efforts are protracted and extend over much of the final 3 1/2 years of the Tribulation.

5. The armies at Armageddon:

While initially there seem to be four major armies involved in the conflict (Dan. 11:40-45), at its climax all the world’s nations are involved. God speaks through Zechariah concerning His land and the beloved city Jerusalem, threatening that the enemies would be cut to pieces, “though all the people of the earth by gathered together against it” (Zech. 12:2-3; 14:2).

6. The warriors at Armageddon:

Nowhere is there a total number given but we are told that one army alone will be comprised of 200 million demonized horsemen (Rev. 9:16-17). It is possible that over 1 billion soldiers will be involved in this final battle. The country of Israel is only 65 miles at its widest and 120 miles long—one-eighth of the size of the state of Iowa. Apart from divine intervention, Israel would doomed. Jerusalem seems to be the primary place of the slaughter (Zech. 14:1-2) while Armageddon appears to be the staging area. “The plain of Megiddo is admittedly not large enough to contain armies from all over the world, so it must be the assembly area for a much larger deployment” (Robert Thomas, Revelation 8-22 [1995], 270).

7. The conveyance of the soldiers:

Warfare during the Tribulation will apparently revert to its ancient methodology. Some time prior, at the invasion by Gog and Magog, horsemen armed with swords, bows and arrows carry out a lightning strike against Israel (Ez. 38:4: 39:9). At Armageddon the soldiers likewise will be mounted on horses (Dan. 9:16-17). These horses along with their riders will be devoured by vultures in a bloody banquet at the Second Advent (Rev. 19:17-18).

8. The motivation of the armies:

The armies converge on Israel under the direction of demonic spirits “which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to the battle of that great day of God Almighty” (Rev. 16:14) and yet it is a sovereign God who is in complete control, permitting wickedness to run its course. He gathers them to Armageddon (Rev. 16:16) and Jerusalem (Zech. 14:2).

9. The sequence of the attacks:

Daniel reveals in great detail the progression of the armies approaching Israel.

(1) The assault by Egypt.

Egypt attacks from the south (“the king of the south shall push at him” 11:40).

(2) The attack by Russia.

The king of the north approaches like a whirlwind (11:40, perhaps an army of Russians who did not participate at Gog and Magog).

(3) The action by Rome.

Antichrist moves his military headquarters from Rome to Jerusalem (11:41-45) as news reaches him of imminent danger.

(4) The approach of the Asiatics.

An army from the north and east approaches (11:44), possibly the 200 million horsemen mentioned in Rev. 9:16 who cross the dry Euphrates River (Rev. 16:12). The army is most likely comprised of Asiatics. Many Bible teachers see here a reference to the Chinese army. Astounding information made available by the CIA indicates that the Chinese government could call on over 650 million men and women who are prepared for military service.

10. The focal points of the battle:

Even while armies clash at Armageddon in the north (Rev. 16:16), soldiers from around the world are gathered at Jerusalem and will capture the holy city one final time (Zech. 12:1-2; 14:1-2). At the descent of the armies of heaven, all the soldiers in around Jerusalem will suffer a violent end. Even if Jerusalem is the place of the final slaughter, Armageddon is the place where the armies assemble before the slaughter and where much blood will be spilled.

11. The carnage at Armageddon:

It is impossible to imagine the bloodshed resulting from the battles. A river of blood, 4 ½ feet deep and 200 miles long (Rev. 14:20) will inundate the low places of Israel. The blood of men and horses at Armageddon will flow northwest into the Mediterranean Sea and eastward to the Jordan Valley and hence to the Dead Sea.

12. The purpose of the armies:

Psalm 2 suggests that the heathens are on a rampage and the kings and rulers take counsel together to prevent the Messiah King from ascending His throne (Ps. 2:2, 6-8; Rev. 5:10, 12; 15:3-4).

13. The outcome of the campaign of Armageddon:

Every single soldier in Israel will perish. As Christ descends to the Mount of Olives (Zech. 1:4), His word of judgment will bring agonizing death to every individuals (Rev. 19:14, 21; Zech. 14:12-13). We as glorified saints will return with our Bridegroom from heaven. In utter amazement we will observe our Savior’s climactic actions as He eliminates the rebels and establishes His glorious kingdom. Our part at Armageddon will simply be to witness and to worship.

If there has been a time in your life when you trusted in Christ as your personal Savior, you will not need to be concerned about Armageddon. Rather, you may anticipate the Rapture before the Tribulation and your return with the Savior to establish His kingdom.

© Manfred E Kober

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