Armageddon

ARMAGEDDONAnd I saw an angel standing in the sun, who cried in a loud voice to all the birds flying in midair, “Come, gather together for the great supper of God, so that you may eat the flesh of kings, generals, and mighty men, of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, small and great.” Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to make war against the rider on the horse and his army. But the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who had performed the miraculous signs on his behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped his image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. The rest of them were killed with the sword that came out of the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh. And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time. (Revelation 19:17-20:3)

The Location – Armageddon is both the name and the location of the final cosmic battle between the forces of good and evil (Revelation 16:16). The word Armageddon is a transliteration into Greek of an unknown Hebrew word. There is no known place that is called Armageddon. One suggestion is that it refers to
a Mount Magedon, though no mountain known by that name either. This had led some scholars to believe that there has been some corruption of the text. Others suggest that it means Mount Megiddo, possibly referring to Mount Carmel, which is only five miles northeast of the city of Megiddo.

The city of Megiddo was the site of many well-known ancient battles (Deborah and Barak versus the Canaanite king Sisera, Judges 5:19; Jehu versus Ahaziah, 2 Kings 9:27; Josiah versus Neco, 2 Kings 23:29). Thus, an area associated with this city (or with this name) may have seemed an appropriate site for the ultimate world conflict to occur. It is also possible, however, that the term is meant figuratively (“mount of assembly” or “his fruitful mountain”), in which case an association with Megiddo would not necessarily be implied and the intended location of Armageddon (if, indeed, any literal place was meant) cannot be determined.(1) Nevertheless, the two leading candidates considered by Bible scholars are noted below.

Megiddo – Megiddo is located about halfway between Mt. Carmel on the west and Mt. Gilboa on the east in the triangular Plain of Esdraelon. Jesus often viewed this plain as He looked across the valley from Nazareth on the north to Megiddo on the south. The size of the plain is about 15 miles by 15 miles by 20 miles. The plain has access on the west to the Mediterranean Sea at the port of Haifa. It also has access to the Jordan Valley through the Valley of Jezreel on the east. The Pass of Megiddo gives access to the south via the Way of the Sea and across the Carmel range. To the north, the ancient route ran northeast from the plain to the Sea of Galilee and then into Syria and Mesopotamia. Therefore, Armageddon is accessible from all the points of the compass.(2)

Tophet – Another potential spot for the Battle of Armageddon that is identified by the prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 7:31–33, 19:6) is Tophet. Tophet is likely the point where the valleys of Tyropoeon, Hinnom, and Kidron meet (south of Jerusalem). The Talmud locates the mouth of hell here. The Arabs call the lower end of Hinnom the Valley of Hell. In Jesus’ day, the city’s garbage dump was located here. The fighting in 70 AD ended there. As many as 600,000 bodies of Jews were carried through the Dung Gate to be buried in Tophet. Thus, Tophet may be a logical spot for the Battle of Armageddon to reach its climax in the second coming of Christ with His saints.(3)

On September 2, 1945, in Tokyo harbor and standing on the deck of the U.S.S. Missouri in Tokyo harbor, General Douglas MacArthur accepted the unconditional surrender of Japan that ended World War II. To commemorate the occasion, he uttered a profound warning. “We have had our last chance. If we do not now devise some greater and more equitable system, Armageddon will be at our door. The problem basically is theological …. It must be of the spirit if we are to save the flesh.”(4)

Defeat of God’s Enemies – Whatever its location, God’s Word assures us that in the end mankind does not “devise some greater and more equitable system.” The flesh cannot be saved by flesh. In the face of defeat of God’s remaining Tribulation saints by military forces from the east, south, and the north, the Lord Jesus Christ will return to defeat His enemies and deliver His people.(5) The defeated enemies include:

Armies of the Kings of the Earth – The first to be defeated by Christ are the armies of the kings of the earth. These warriors have assembled to fight “against the Lord and against His anointed” (Psalm 2:1–3), but their weapons prove futile. The battle turns out to be a slaughter and a feast for the scavenger birds.

Whereas the first half of Revelation 19 described the marriage supper of the Lamb, the last half describes the “supper of the great God” (see Matthew 24:28; Luke 17:37). The word flesh occurs six times in this paragraph. While John’s immediate reference is to the human body, eaten by the vultures, there is certainly a deeper meaning here. Man fails because he is of the flesh and relies on the flesh. The Bible has nothing good to say about fallen human nature. Recall the Lord’s words before the Flood: “My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh” (Genesis 6:3, see also John 3:6; 6:63; Romans 7:18; Philippians 3:3.) In his Epistle, Peter states that “all flesh is as grass” (1 Peter 1:24) and must be judged.

This is the account of the well-known battle of Armageddon, which was anticipated earlier (Revelation 14:14–20; 16:13–16). Just as it was when He created the heavens and the earth (the Lord said … and it was so), Jesus only needs to speak the Word, and “the sword of His mouth” will “strike down the nations.” Like the unsaved dead that preceded them, they will go to Sheol (Hebrew) also translated as Hades (Greek). Discussion to follow on Sheol and Hades.

The Two Beasts – The second to be defeated by Christ will be the anti-Christ and the false prophet. Since Satan’s henchmen are the leaders of the revolt, it is only right that they be captured and confined. They are cast into the lake of fire (see Revelation 20:10, 14–15), the final and permanent place of punishment for all who refuse to submit to Jesus Christ. The beast and false prophet are the first persons to be cast into hell and will be the sole occupants for 1,000 years. Satan will follow 1,000 years later (Revelation 20:10), and will be joined by those whose names are not recorded in the Book of Life (Revelation 20:15). Discussion to follow on hell and the lake of fire.

Satan – Last to be defeated by Christ is Satan. Christ will cast him into the Abyss, or bottomless pit. The “bottomless pit” spoken of in Revelation 20:1 is not the same as hell, Hades or Sheol. It is the “abyss” that we have seen before in our studies (Revelation 9:1–2, 11; 11:7; 17:8). Satan is not cast into hell immediately, because God still has one more task for him to perform. Rather, Satan is confined in the bottomless pit for 1,000 years. Discussion to follow on the Abyss and the bottomless pit.

First, Satan was cast out of heaven (Revelation 12:9), and now he is banished from earth, unable to deceive the nations anymore. Some Bible students feel that Satan was chained when Jesus died on the cross and arose from the dead to ascend into heaven. While it is true that Jesus won His decisive victory over Satan at the cross spelling his doom, the sentence against the devil has not yet been carried out. He is a defeated foe, but he is still free to attack God’s people and oppose God’s work (1 Peter 5:8). Paul was sure that Satan was loose (Ephesians 6:10), and John agreed with him (Revelation 2:13; 3:9).(6) We need only to look around us to know this as well.

Up Next – Destination of Departed Souls

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References

  1. Boraas, R. S., & Powell, M. A. (2011). Armageddon. In M. A. Powell (Ed.), The HarperCollins Bible Dictionary (Revised and Updated) (Third Edition., p. 50). New York: HarperCollins.
  2. Tan, P. L. (1996). Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times (p. 164). Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc.
  3. Tan, P. L. (1996). Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times (p. 165). Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc.
  4. Tan, P. L. (1996). Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times (p. 1198). Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc.
  5. Hubbard, K. (2003). Armageddon. In C. Brand, C. Draper, A. England, S. Bond, E. R. Clendenen, & T. C. Butler (Eds.), Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (p. 115). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
  6. Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, pp. 618–619). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

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