We know it either as a cool movie about an asteroid heading toward earth or as some final epic battle supposedly prophesied in the Bible. What’s the truth about Armageddon? ♦
One prominent Bible scholar (John Walvoord, former President of Dallas Theological Seminary) writes that “the prophets have described it more specifically as the final suicide battle of a desperate world struggle centered in the Middle East.” Like many people, he makes it sound like the Battle of Armageddon is peppered all through the Bible and that all the Old Testament prophets talked about it.
Not true. Actually, the term is absent from the Old Testament.
Then what’s all the hoopla about and how did people get this so wrong?
City or Mountain of Megiddo
The word is actually Har-Mageddon or Ar-Mageddon in Revelation 16:16 which has reference to a place: the mount or mountain (har) of Megiddo or the city (ar) of Megiddo. This is an area north of Jerusalem and south of Nazareth.
There were a number of Old Testament battles fought at Megiddo. Joshua 12:21 makes the first mention in a list of kings defeated during the Israeli conquest. It was supposed to be the inheritance of Manasseh (Joshua 17:11) but was not conquered. In Judges 5:19 Barak and Deborah overthrew the armies of the Canaanite king, Jabin, and the Midianites. In 2 Kings 23:29 King Josiah was killed by Pharoah Neco (2 Kings 23:29).
Megiddo makes sense in Revelation 16 when we see how Megiddo is a symbol of war between rival kings and kingdoms.* In the two major Old Testament cases, Israel is either the victor (see Deborah in Joshua) or the vanquished and destroyed (see King Josiah in 2 Kings).
Apostate Israel is the object of God’s wrath in Revelation. The Jewish nation, in cahoots with world power Rome which represented all the nations of the known world, had just crucified Christ and rejected their promised Messiah. Like good King Josiah who disobeyed God when told not to go into battle at Megiddo against the Egyptians and was then mortally wounded in battle, so now Israel has met their “Waterloo” – just like Napoleon Bonaparte met his crushing defeat in Waterloo, Belgium in 1815.
This great battle was fought by Rome (the Beast) against the “great city,” Jerusalem, where Revelation 11:8 tells us Israel crucified her Lord. Symbolically, this may explain why the battle is described as the “City (Hebrew: ar) of Megiddo.” The battle does not take place on the plains of Megiddo but in the city of Jerusalem.
Similar to the way Old Testament terms are used in Revelation to describe Israel (Jezebel in Rev 2:30; Sodom in Rev 11:8, Egypt in 11:8, and Babylon in Rev 14:8), Megiddo represents God’s decisive battle against the city that rejected and killed His Son (Matthew 21:38-39, 22:7).
Don’t be confused. These are symbolic references. The “Battle of Armageddon” no more takes place in Megiddo than Jerusalem is literally Sodom, Egypt, and Babylon. Jerusalem had taken on the characteristics of these wicked cities.
A great example of Old Testament prophesy fulfilled in AD 70 is found in Zechariah 12:11:
‘In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon.’
Jesus Called It
How do we know that Israel’s destruction was at this juncture in history and not some future date?
- First, Jesus told His disciples that the tribulation period would occur within their lifetime (Matthew 24:1-34).
- Second, the Book of Revelation describes events in the 1st century. The time was “near” (Rev 1:1, 3; 3:11; 22:7, 10, 12, 20).
- Third, Jesus had warned the representatives of Israel that judgment would come upon the city and sanctuary. For this, Israel received her just punishment. “His blood be on us and our children,” the Jews cried out to Pilate (Matthew 27:25). The armies of Rome in AD 70 came “and destroyed those murderers, and set their city on fire” at the symbolic battlefield of Megiddo (see the Parable of the Marriage Feast, Matthew 22:1-14).
So There is No Future Battle of Armageddon?
I suspect not. At least not in the way that many Christians, and non-Christians, have come to believe. Is there a play out of variations of symbolic epic battles. Yes, probably, but don’t hold your breath and be cautious not to buy wholesale into various End Times schematics (see past BV posts on Rapture misunderstandings).
Know this: God is not mocked. The Bible is rich and deep in symbolic allusion and historic truth. Christ’s mission of redemption is clear and the Jewish nation’s history is but a clear example of human disobedience and choice that now extends to all of us. We do well to not guess and speculate about the future but rather merely humbly submit to a Good and Holy God who loved us, saved us, and revealed Himself to us in His Word.
* Last Days Madness, by Gary DeMar, American Vision, 1999, p. 317.
Do you know the truth about Armageddon?
“Behold, the day of the Lord is coming, and your spoil will be divided in your midst. For I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem… Then the Lord will go forth and fight against those nations, as He fights in the day of battle.” – Zechariah 14:1-3