Monthly Musings

Armageddon

By Tom Edwards

To the premillennialist, Armageddon will be where the final decisive battle of the world will take place. According to their doctrine, it will occur when Jesus returns at the end of the seven-year Great Tribulation to set up His kingdom on earth for a thousand years. Of course, if it were to be a literal warfare, as they teach, would not a weaponless ant, in comparison, have more probability in defeating a mighty herd of stomping elephants than for the forces of evil to have any success in triumphing over Christ in this final conflict between good and evil?

Armageddon is mentioned just once in the Bible: “And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon” (Rev. 16:16, KJV).

It is rendered in the New American Standard Bible as “Har-Magedon.” “Har” is a Hebrew word used in 497 verses of the Old Testament and translated as "mountains" (161), “mountain” (156), “mount" (118), “hill country” (91), “hill” (18), and “hills” (6), to mention most of them. “Magedon” is referring to “Megiddo.” So together it can mean the “hill of Megiddo.”

Some archaeologists today refer to the “tell of Megiddo.” For a “tell,” as Daniel Webster points out, is “an artificial mound consisting of the accumulated remains of one or more ancient settlements (often used in Egypt and the Middle East as part of a place name)” (Random House Webster's College Dictionary). And at Megiddo, 25 layers of settlement, which have been built atop each other over a period of many centuries, have been discovered!

According to the Jewish Virtual Library, “The city of Megiddo...ceased to exist after the Persian invasion of Palestine some 2,300 years ago and, today, nothing is left but the ruins of what once was a regional administrative and military center during the reign of King Solomon.”

So though the city of Megiddo no longer is, yet the area still remains; and it is being used symbolically in Revelation 16:16 because of what that region, down through the centuries, has been noted for. For it is where many armed combats and deaths have occurred. “In the history of Israel it had been the scene of never-to-be-forgotten battles... 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” (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia).

Interestingly, if you do a Google search for Megiddo, you might first of all find mention of the “Battle of Megiddo” way back in the 15th century B.C., which involved Pharaoh Thumose III and his army against “a large rebellious coalition of Canaanite vassal states led by the king of Kadesh.” It is said to be “the first battle to have been recorded in what is accepted as relatively reliable detail.” The HistoryChannel.com not only mentions of it being the first in that, but also "the first recorded battle with a body count, and the first use of the composite bow.”

Megiddo, Jezreel, Esdraelon (which is the Greek rendition of “Jezreel”), and Mount Gilboa are all places near the same area.

Others battles fought in that area:

* The King of Megiddo was one of the many kings that Joshua and the children of Israel had fought against and defeated (Josh. 12:7,21), and that latter verse is where we first see mention of “Megiddo” in the Bible.

* The judge Deborah, along with Barak, had defeated Canaanite kings “near the waters of Megiddo” (Judges 5:1,19).

* It was in the area of Megiddo where Gideon, with just 300 of his men, had defeated the large Midianite army (Judges 7).

* Israel's first king, Saul, and three of his sons (Jonathan, Abinadab, and Malchishua) were all killed in the area of Megiddo (1 Chron. 10:6; 1 Sam. 31:1-3, .

* Ahaziah, the 6th king of Judah, and a wicked one at that, had fled to Megiddo, after being struck by an arrow; and there he died (2 Kings 9:27).

* The archers of Pharaoh Neco had mortally wounded Josiah, a good king of Judah, at Megiddo (2 Chron. 35:22-23), who had come out to battle against him (vv. 21-22); and all Jerusalem and Judah mourned, and Jeremiah chanted a lament (vv. 24-25). (The account in 2 Chronicles indicates that the "death" of King Josiah, recorded in 2 Kings 23:29, must have been a fatal wound he received in Megiddo that led to that death, though not immediately.)

The great mourning that was coming to Jerusalem is likened to “the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddo” (Zech. 12:11), which is referred to as the national mourning over the death of King Josiah.

It has been said that there were no fewer than 34 wars that were carried out in the area of Megiddo, much which had to do with the invading army's attempt to control the plain of Jezreel for their own financial gain.

So all of this adds to the symbolism of the area of Megiddo and should not be thought of as the specific geographical location where a literal, physical battle will take place, sometime in the future, between Christ and those opposed to Him. For much in the Revelation letter is highly symbolic. This can also be inferred from the word “signified” in Revelation 1:1. The verse says, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John” (KJV). Daniel Webster shows the primary meaning of “signify” to be “1. to make known by signs, speech, or action.” So those signs are the symbolic imagery often used in the Revelation letter to convey God's message. And note, too, that God revealed to John things that “must shortly come to pass” (Rev. 1:1).

The Revelation letter was written mainly to help Christians at that time who were undergoing an intense persecution for their faith. Life was difficult for them. Some were boycotted and no longer able to make a good income from their businesses; some were being persecuted in other ways; some were being imprisoned; some were being tortured; and some had even died as martyrs for the cause of Christ. But the message of the Revelation letter was to bring hope to all of them. That they could know that regardless of what they would have to endure for the Lord – even if it meant losing their own lives – they would ultimately be the victors! And their victory, because of Jesus, would eventually lead to its fullness in heaven's glory for all eternity!

The battle of Armageddon mentioned in Revelation 16:16 is seen more of in Revelation 19:11-21: “And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And 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 he cried out with a loud voice, saying to all the birds which fly in midheaven, ‘Come, assemble for the great supper of God, so that you may eat the flesh of kings and the flesh of commanders and the flesh of mighty men and the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them and the flesh of all men, both free men and slaves, and small and great.’

“And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies assembled to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone. And the rest were killed with the sword which came from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse, and all the birds were filled with their flesh.”

This quote from Revelation 19 is not referring to the time of the final judgment. Rather, it pertains to many centuries ago, when Rome, the "beast" of Revelation 19:19, was still that ruling empire that was bringing persecution upon the Lord's people. As Rodney M. Miller writes, "Thus, the bowls of wrath in Revelation 16 represent God's judgment on this wicked empire that has single-handedly sought to destroy God's people. ...the bowls of wrath described not an end of the world scene, but a coming of Christ on the Roman Empire. ... The meaning of the battle is a decisive conflict between truth and evil. The Judgment of Christ on a pagan empire who sought to remove the force of Christianity from the world will in truth be a decisive struggle. ...Revelation 19:1-10 shows the rejoicing of the saints when the truth has triumphed and the cause of the Lord has been vindicated. Rome has been brought down" (The Lion & the Lamb on Planet Earth, pp. 200, 201).

To an intensely persecuted people of that day, God’s word gave hope — and it can do the same today! As Paul writes to the Romans: “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, 'FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED.' But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:35-39).

The Christians of John's day could receive encouragement through the Revelation letter. Its principle of the Lord triumphing over evil and, thus, enabling His people to also have that victory because of Him, is still true for all of God's children today!

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