I checked the word count in Google News just now. I searched the word “armageddon” and came up with 1,465 results. That’s just in the news category. I saw that word used in news stories ranging from anti-gay hysteria to the current shake-up in the college football conferences.
Oh really? A reconfiguration of the college football conferences constitutes Armageddon? Come on now, be serious.
So I can see that it’s time for somebody to stand up and set the record straight.
Armageddon – what is it? And what is it not?
There is no mystery about the source of this word. It comes from the Bible, and from there alone. So let’s take a look and see what that book actually says about it.
The word Armageddon is found only once in the Bible, and this occurrence is in the final book called Revelation. It is cited there in chapter 16, verse 16. Here is that scripture from three popular Bible translations and versions:
And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon. — King James
And they gathered them together to the place which in Hebrew is called Har-Magedon. — New American Standard
And they gathered them together to the place that is called in Hebrew Har-Ma·ged’on. — New World Translation
Now before we look at the context of this scripture for the full meaning, let’s see what we can glean just from those 14 words in that verse. We see these points: a). It is a Hebrew proper name, b). It is a place, and c). Two distinct plural groups will be meeting each other there, the one group being led to this place by the first group.
Therefore, we can immediately rule out many things that Armageddon is not. Armageddon is not a). Some general term that is synonymous with the word “catastrophe” or “cataclysm”, b). A financial meltdown, c). A Bruce Willis movie, nor d). An inconvenient football league restructuring.
To dig a little deeper into the history of that unusual Hebrew place-name, a search in any credible Bible encyclopedia will yield this information about the origin of the word Har-Magedon:
- Har-Magedon comes from Hebrew, meaning “Mountain of Megiddo.” There does not appear to have been a literal place called “Mountain of Megiddo,” either inside or outside the Promised Land, before or during the days of the apostle John, who recorded the vision. Hence, Har–Magedon evidently draws its significance from the events associated with the ancient city of Megiddo.
- Megiddo was situated a few miles SE of Mount Carmel, overlooking and dominating the Plain of Esdraelon (Jezreel) and controlling major N-S and E-W trade and military routes. Strategically located and dominating major trade and military routes, Megiddo was a focus of international interest in Bible times. The valley plain at its feet became the site of many decisive battles.
- One of the more important cities of the Promised Land, located about 90 km (56 mi) N of Jerusalem and 31 km (19 mi) SE of the modern city of Haifa. It was built on a plot of somewhat over 4 ha (10 acres), atop a mound known today as Tell el-Mutesellim (Tel Megiddo), which rises nearly 21 m (70 ft) above the valley below.
(above material from: Insight on the Scriptures, published by the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society of New York, Inc., 1988)
Today, Megiddo is located near the intersection of highways 65 and 66, which is called the Megiddo Junction. And while there is no literal “mountain” of Megiddo, there is a “mound,” or “tel,” of Megiddo, pictured here:
Photo: Todd Bolen, “Megiddo,” n.p. [cited 19 June 2010]. Online: http://www.bibleplaces.com/megiddo.htm.
The mound of Megiddo covers an area of about 10 acres at its summit, with lower levels graduating larger. It is not a very big place, by modern standards, in which to hold a global military campaign. More on that later. Also it is worth noting that the word “Armageddon” is the same as “Har-Magedon,” the former being the English rendition of the original Hebrew proper name.
What does the Bible teach about Armageddon?
Now I will let you in on a little secret about how to study the Bible. It’s a little radical. Are you ready? Here it is: let the Bible interpret itself.
To do that, you first look at the context of the verse that you are studying. Then you can learn more about the two groups of “they” referred to in verse 16. Also you may be wondering if this place called Armageddon is the actual geographical location of those old ruins of Megiddo. So let’s open up the Armageddon verse just a bit wider:
13 And I saw three unclean inspired expressions [that looked] like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the wild beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet.
14 They are, in fact, expressions inspired by demons and perform signs, and they go forth to the kings of the entire inhabited earth, to gather them together to the war of the great day of God the Almighty.
15 “Look! I am coming as a thief. Happy is the one that stays awake and keeps his outer garments, that he may not walk naked and people look upon his shamefulness.”
16 And they gathered them together to the place that is called in Hebrew Har–Ma·ged´on.
Right away, something pops out at you. We have two parallel scriptures using the word “gathered.” This tells us that the “gathering” being done to the “war of the great day of God the Almighty” in verse 14 is associated with the “gathering” to the place called Armageddon in verse 16. And this point has always been commonly understood by Bible scholars: the “war” in verse 14 is synonymous with the “Armageddon” of verse 16.
We also see the two groups of “they” identified. The first “they” refers to the “three unclean inspired expressions.” And now you meet what may be your first encounter with the beautiful symbolic imagery of the book of Revelation. An object, “expressions,” is personified and assigned the pronoun “they.” Therefore, we see a collective group of propaganda leading the “kings of the earth” to this unique battleground.
(A more detailed study of these frog-like expressions in verse 13 reveals that the propaganda consists of an ideology that is promoted through the dragon Satan the Devil, through his “wild beast” that consists of Earth’s entire political setup, and through his “false prophet” who originally set up the United Nations. It is beyond the scope of this particular blog post to break down those characters. So suffice it today to regard these “expressions” as a collective flow of political propaganda.)
A word is appropriate here about whether or not Armageddon will take place at the ancient site of Megiddo. Once again this question can be answered by simply applying a bit of deductive reasoning to the whole context. Due to the fact that all the kings of earth are said to be gathered to this “place,” the literal ancient Tel-Megiddo cannot be regarded as the one and only battleground of this special war. You simply cannot fit all armies of the earth on this tiny little spot. Therefore, logically, Armageddon is a “place” in the sense of being a situation, or a convergence point of events, where the rulers of the earth arrive at a showdown with “God the Almighty”.
Another very significant point in verse 14 is that Armageddon belongs to God the Almighty. It is his war. Therefore, according to the Bible’s own words, Armageddon is not some nuclear holocaust nor other man-made disaster that humans bring on themselves. If you walk away from this blog with nothing else, please walk away with this: Armageddon is a war that our Creator owns, initiates, controls, and directs the outcome of.
That final point above is both significant and heartwarming. If we ponder it just a bit, the idea that God owns this war removes the fear that most people associate with Armageddon. Consequently, the outcome of this war is not going to be some random, wanton destruction of life. Since it is an event that is personally orchestrated by a God of love, we can be assured that Armageddon will have a positive outcome for humanity. It is actually a rescue operation for the Earth.
In fact, think again about the chapter number where this verse is found. It is in chapter 16. But the book of Revelation contains 22 chapters. So, Armageddon is not “the end” by any means. There are six fabulous chapters full of hope and healing that follow chapter 16. In fact, the final chapter of Revelation speaks of symbolic trees that produce symbolic fruit intended for “the curing of the nations.”
So, Rejoice, I say! If you are one of millions of people who long to see the Earth and the people on it avail themselves of a program of healing that is initiated by our loving Creator, Jehovah, then fear not over the coming Armageddon.