In northern Galilee of the state of Israel lies a legendary site, the world's most contested piece of territory. Bible prophecy tells us it will once again be a focal point for a battle almost beyond comprehension.
Rising out of the pastoral Jezreel Valley is a hill containing the remains of a city whose foundations go back several millennia. On a modern map, it is called Tel Megiddo. A "tel" is a geographic feature, a hill rising out of a flat plain, marking the site of a city dating from ancient times. Megiddo is a site that has seen more battles than any other location on earth. It will be the staging ground for the final battle prior to Christ's return.
In Revelation:16:16 we read where the armies of the kings of the east are "gathered...together to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon." This is the only place in Scripture where the term Armageddon is mentioned. The word Armageddon comes from the Greek rendering of the Hebrew name Har Megiddo (the Hebrew prefix Har means "hill" or "mountain").
Today the site of Megiddo is one of the crown jewels of Israeli archaeology. Remains of more than 25 cities, representing every period of ancient history in the land of Israel, have been uncovered. Understanding why the armies of the world will gather here requires that we understand the history of the site and its importance in the ancient world.
Megiddo controlled a narrow strategic stretch of road called the Via Maris, "the Way of the Sea," a major international highway in the ancient world. This road stretched from Egypt in the south to Babylon in Mesopotamia, linking the major empires and trade routes of the day. Megiddo's position on this highway made it a prime mercantile city. Whoever controlled Megiddo controlled access to trade all along this road. Megiddo was a choke point, therefore, for the empires of the ancient world. Control of Megiddo was crucial to controlling any regional empire.
Many battles in history took place at Megiddo. In 1479 B.C., Egyptian Pharaoh Thutmose III launched a campaign near Megiddo to assert dominion over territories in and north of Canaan.
Thutmose marched his armies north and paused just south of Megiddo and engaged his generals in a war council. The Egyptian generals proposed attacking along a circuitous route that provided easy access to Megiddo and the flat Valley of Jezreel. Thutmose preferred a more direct, yet dangerous route. His generals said, "How is it possible to march upon this road which becomes narrower"?
Thutmose's plan prevailed and caught the Canaanite troops completely by surprise, routing them easily. Megiddo eventually fell and the Egyptians asserted control once again over this vital location.
Megiddo in the Bible
In Joshua:12:21 we have the first reference to Megiddo in Scripture. Here is a list of Canaanite kings defeated during the Israelite conquest. In Joshua:17:11 we see that Megiddo fell within the inheritance of the tribe of Manasseh.
In 1 Kings:9:15 we see reference to the largest period of building at Megiddo during the reign of King Solomon of Israel. Solomon made Megiddo one of his district capitals as well as one of his three main fortress cities. Archaeologists have uncovered evidence of several structures built by Solomon to garrison soldiers with their horses and chariots. The massive gates that stand today at the entrance to Megiddo date from this period and are evidence the city was a strategic regional site.
During the reign of Judah's King Josiah, another Egyptian pharaoh, Necho, came to Megiddo to engage the king of Assyria. Against God's instructions, Josiah involved himself in this battle and was killed (2 Kings:23:29). Josiah's death at Megiddo was a stunning blow to Judah. He was the last good king before the nation's destruction at the hands of Babylon.
Megiddo as a city went into decline during the Babylonian and Persian periods. However, in modern times the site continued to see battles. Both Napoleon (1799) and the British General Allenby (1918) defeated Turkish forces here. The area has never lost its significance as a battleground for control over this crucial crossroad of empires.
Megiddo in Revelation
Megiddo today is a major archaeological site that tells a rich story of past civilizations. But it is the future story that captures our attention. Holy Scripture reveals to us that this is more than simply one more tourist site of dust and bones from past times.
The living words of God in the book of Revelation convey to those who will understand, that the greatest gathering of armed forces in history is yet to occur here. At the end of the age, the Valley of Jezreel, in which Megiddo is located, will be the gathering place for an immense army that will fight the returning King of Kings, Jesus Christ, the Messiah. This will be the culminating event of the Day of the Lord.
The setting of this battle is found in Revelation 16 where we see "bowls of the wrath of God" poured out upon the earth. There are seven "bowls" of plagues representing God's final terrible judgment upon an unrepentant humanity. The intensity of these judgments will be severe, indicating that time is very short till the coming of the Lord. The impact of these plagues alone would bring life on earth to a halt.
The first bowl brings painful sores upon those marked with the sign of the ruling Beast power. The second turns the sea to blood. The third fouls the fresh water of the earth by turning it to blood as well. A voice from the altar pronounces these as "true and righteous" judgments of God.
As if this is not enough, the fourth bowl impacts the heat of the sun as its energy is increased and scorches mankind with great heat. And still, there is no repentance from men to give glory to God. The fifth bowl brings darkness upon the throne of the Beast, and the pain and anguish produces only blasphemy against God (verse 11).
It is the sixth bowl that deals with the gathering of forces at Megiddo. "Then the sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up, so that the way of the kings from the east might be prepared. And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs coming out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty... And they gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon" (verses 12-14, 16).
Powerful demons influence the political and religious leaders of the world to send armies into this region of the modern state of Israel. Prior to this there has been war, involving possible nuclear exchanges, between nations that has led to a movement of troops into this region (Revelation 9; Daniel:11:40-45).
It is a struggle for global dominion that involves the armies of the Beast power and armies from beyond the Euphrates River, all moving toward a final confrontation. It is the final battle that Christ prophesied when He said all life could be destroyed if not for divine intervention (Matthew:24:22).
Popular telling of this final battle has led to it being called the Battle of Armageddon. Armageddon has become the term to describe the war to end all wars. But notice that Revelation:16:14 calls this the "battle of that great day of God Almighty."
Megiddo is merely the gathering place for the forces. Other scriptures tell us this is not the actual place of the battle. That takes place in Jerusalem, several miles to the south. The broad flat plains of the Jezreel Valley are only the staging area for this climatic confrontation.
Old Testament prophets speak
Zechariah 14 tells us more details of where this will be. "Behold, the day of the L ord is coming, and your spoil will be divided in your midst. For I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem... Then the L ord will go forth and fight against those nations, as He fights in the day of battle" (verses 1-3).
Now go to the prophet Joel's account of this time: "Blow the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in My holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble; for the day of the L ord is coming, for it is at hand" (Joel:2:1). Jerusalem is the location of Zion and God's holy mountain.
Joel also indicates the specific location within Jerusalem. Notice: "I will also gather all nations, and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; and I will enter into judgment with them there on account of My people, My heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations; they have also divided up My land" (Joel:3:2).
So it is in Jerusalem that the battle of the great day of God Almighty is fought. The steep valley that is today called Kidron, between the Old City of Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives, will be the focal point. Christ will descend with a spirit army and tread the winepress of His wrath (Revelation 19). Revelation:14:20 indicates the blood from the carnage will run several feet deep. It will indeed be a great battle, the final battle that will end in the peace of the Kingdom of God.
Megiddo and the Jezreel Valley provide an ideal staging point for this battle. We can imagine forces flowing in through the port of Haifa, a few miles to the northwest.
Transport planes, helicopters, troop carriers and tanks will ferry men and materiel into the region. Jet fighters and missiles will no doubt be engaged in a battle that suddenly turns its attention to a force coming from an unexpected location—the heavens above Jerusalem. In their folly and deception, they will fight Christ, never recognizing Him as the Messiah.
It is difficult to imagine this today as we read these scriptures and ponder the modern geopolitical landscape. Not that we cannot easily see that the current Middle East conflicts could quickly lead to war, even nuclear war between antagonists. But how could political leaders of nations in Europe and Asia be led by deceptive spiritual forces to move massive forces into Jerusalem and fight Jesus Christ, the Son of God?
The answer may lie in one verse we skipped over in Revelation 16. Notice that verse 15 is a thought injected by Jesus Christ, the author of the book. "Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame." Here is Christ saying to those with ears to hear that there is a way to avoid being part of this great end-time deception.
Remember, we saw that Megiddo was a crucial site on the Via Maris. Whoever controlled Megiddo controlled this vital link in world commerce. Megiddo represents man's last effort to control his world apart from the guidance of his Creator. Is there something deeper at Megiddo to help us understand this grand deception?
Perhaps a key to the answer lies back at the site of ancient Megiddo. We'll go there in the second part of this article, to appear next month. WNP