Megiddo (or Armageddon), an ancient city in northern Israel and site of some of the world's earliest battles, is mentioned in Revelation 16:16 as the gathering place for the armies of the kings of the earth prior to the return of Jesus Christ.
It will be a time of global struggle for world dominion involving the armies of the Beast power and armies from beyond the Euphrates River. They will move toward Jerusalem and the prophesied "battle of that great day of God Almighty" (Revelation 16:14).
How could this happen? What will bring the world to this day of battle and judgment? More importantly, how can you avoid the same deception that will grip our world, sending it careening into battle against God Himself and threatening to, as stated in Matthew 24:22, bring all life to an end? This will be a time unlike any we can imagine, and it's critical that you understand the times to avoid the trap of deception.
In Revelation 16:15, right at the peak of the narrative, Jesus Christ injects a warning: "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."
In Revelation 19:8 we are told that the Bride of Christ, the Church, will "be arrayed in fine linen . . . for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints." Before one can engage in righteous acts, he or she must be able to discern between righteousness and unrighteousness. On that point, we can return to the site of Megiddo and learn a lesson about how our world has developed.
Megiddo's sacrificial altar
In the lowest excavation levels of the huge mound at Megiddo, archaeologists uncovered a large sacrificial altar about 29 feet (nearly nine meters) around.
Within this area, called the sacred precinct, are the remains of a large temple, which indicates the importance of this part of the city. Large concentrations of animal bones and ashes have been found in the vicinity. Scholars also think that this altar saw the most insidious form of sacrifice in the ancient world—human beings.
The chief deity worshipped on this altar would have been the Canaanite god Baal, thought to be ruler of the earth. His worship was connected to nature, especially rainfall. Baal supposedly controlled thunder and lightning, and his blessing on the land was considered essential for soil fertility and successful crops.
The inhabitants of Megiddo would have been addicted to the seductive forms of worship associated with Baal. The worship would have included animal sacrifice, ritualistic meals and licentious dancing. Sacred prostitutes lived in the temple buildings and at prescribed times would perform licentious dances before assembled crowds.
To the beat of drums and other musical accompaniment, the chants of priests and the increasing cries of the enthralled citizens, these rituals would inflame the passions of all present and end in a mass orgy of sexual activity for everyone assembled. This was done in the belief that it would ensure fertility for the crops and the well-being of the populace.
Asherah was the female consort of Baal. She and her colleagues dealt in sex and war, and her shrines were temples of legalized vice. In some manifestations she appears in fantastic bloody orgies of destruction, butchering people young and old, while wading ecstatically in human gore up to her knees.
Versions of this goddess have been found throughout Canaan, adding to the evidence that human sacrifices were offered at places like Megiddo.
It's no wonder that God gave instruction to the Israelites to wipe every vestige of such religion from the land when He gave them their inheritance. Yet the story of ancient Israel reveals that they rarely obeyed God's every instruction.
The gods of Canaan—Baal and Asherah—were a perpetual snare for the Israelites. The extent to which Israel embraced the worship of Baal is seen in the dramatic clash between Elijah and the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel, not far from Megiddo (1 Kings 18).
It's difficult to understand how a people could be led by religious and political fervor to carry an infant to an altar, hand the child to a priest and then stand by to watch it burned in a blazing cauldron of fire—all in the name of a god.
Yet it happened at Megiddo as a routine part of life, accepted by everyone as necessary for the well-being of their society. The pagan idolatry of the land reached its lowest form with this readiness of people to sacrifice their own children. The gods people worship determine the morals and values of those people.
The gods people create with their own minds and hands are a poor substitute for the God who revealed Himself to Abraham and Moses. Those pagan gods led the Canaanites and later the Israelites into destruction and captivity. History shows that any culture that practices child sacrifice to its gods of convenience eventually falls from power and is eclipsed.
Continuing struggle between good and evil
Megiddo serves as a symbol of the age-old struggle between good and evil. The struggle echoed in Elijah's stirring words: "How long will you falter between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him" (1 Kings 18:21). In our modern world not everyone bows down to gods of stone or wood. We are too sophisticated for that. We have fashioned gods of money, power, celebrity and status.
Instead of idolatry, which prophets like Elijah railed against, we have formed with our own hands a neo-pagan worship called relativism.
Instead of one God, there are many gods one may worship. Instead of one way, clearly defined by the one true God, the common belief today is that there are many ways to access a spiritual life and worship the deity. Instead of "traditional values," many subscribe to the philosophy of "different strokes for different folks." The great issue of our time is whether there is one God, one way and one law—not two or more.
In 45 years the West has gone from the idea that "God is dead," proclaimed loudly from the pages of a leading newsweekly, to the present where we have created the multicultural gods of diversity.
In our supposed enlightenment, we think there is no source of revealed truth to which we can appeal as a standard of righteousness. Every religion is as good as any other. Every culture is equal. Every man can decide for himself what is right and what is wrong. This falsely makes human beings equal to God and is the essence of idolatry.
It's the problem God found with ancient Israel when He said through the prophet Isaiah: "Woe to those who draw iniquity with cords of vanity, and sin as if with a cart rope; that say, 'Let Him make speed and hasten His work, that we may see it; and let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw near and come, that we may know it.' Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!" (Isaiah 5:18-20).
This describes not only ancient Israel but also our world today. We cannot distinguish right from wrong, good from evil, because we have forgotten God and abandoned His spiritual law.
We are a people who do not want to admit that God has a sovereign claim on our lives and who are unwilling to submit to Him in obedience. What Paul wrote applies to our society: "And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting" (Romans 1:28).
A culture is "debased" when it sacrifices its children and their future in the fires of idolatry. Our people do the same today when we "sacrifice" our children through abortion, thus offering them up to our self-made god of personal convenience (the reason for abortions more than 90 percent of the time).
When abortion on demand is justified as a right and made possible by whatever human statute is legally required, we are seeing a society turned inside out, incapable of telling right from wrong, unable to discern righteous judgment.
It's little wonder that judgment has fled when the prime consideration in evaluating a candidate for America's highest court, the Supreme Court, is his or her willingness to uphold the "right" to abortion. That is a sad commentary on American culture, and unless the nation awakens to the gravity of this unconscionable tragedy, it will go the way of ancient Israel.
Back to Megiddo
Jesus Christ's statement in Revelation 16:15 shows a key to avoiding the end-time deception that inspires the armies of the world to gather in Megiddo. You will know how to discern righteousness based on the "commandments of God and . . . the testimony of Jesus Christ" (Revelation 12:17).
The deception that grips today's world prevents understanding the true gospel of the Kingdom of God. It also prevents the world from knowing Christ's real personality.
The image of Jesus presented to today's world is not the Christ of the Gospels. He is not fully understood by religionists today, and that is why, at His return as King of Kings in full glory, He will not be recognized. Mankind's resistance to God will increase to the point that they will fight to the death, not knowing they do the work of the real Baal, the god of this world, Satan the devil (2 Corinthians 4:4).
The idolatry that shoves the true God out of the picture leads to a self-deification, where man decides what is right and wrong, something that is the prerogative of God alone. So it has been since the beginning of the human family. This idolatry of the self will find its final and supreme expression at a place called Megiddo, in the last battle of the great day of God Almighty.
Don't be too sure that you are clothed with the proper garments of righteousness. Examine your values in light of Christ's teachings and make sure you love His commands more than the spirit of this world. Only then can you be sure to escape the deception of the time of the end. Your eternal life depends on it! GN