Armageddon: The End of the World?

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Armageddon

The End of the World?

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What does the Bible really say about Armageddon? It tells us that the last great battle of man's age will take place in the Middle East. The armies will gather at a place Scripture calls Armageddon. So, not surprisingly, Armageddon has come to portray our worst nightmare: the end of the world.

Some Bible scholars claim that Armageddon is predicted to terminate society as we know it. More-detailed speculations speak of it as a battle of cataclysmic proportions, possibly a nuclear war that will annihilate mankind. Even Ronald Reagan, the former U.S. president, spoke of Armageddon in such terms. That Armageddon is named in the Bible (Revelation 16:16 Revelation 16:16And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.
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) and that it serves as the prelude to "the battle of that great day of God Almighty" (Revelation 16:14 Revelation 16:14For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.
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) deserves our concern and attention.

The meaning of Armageddon

The word Armageddon can be traced to Megiddo, a significant fortified town in Palestine in ancient times. Most scholars think Armageddon comes from harmegiddon, meaning "hill of Megiddo." The area has quite a history. Excavations of Megiddo have revealed 20 layers of occupation dating from the fourth millennium B.C. to about 450 B.C. The site is about 18 miles south-southeast of the Port of Haifa in northern Israel and about 55 miles north of Jerusalem.

Megiddo's strategic location gave it greater importance than its size would suggest: a mere 13 acres within the city's ancient walls during the time of Solomon. Megiddo overlooked the narrow entrance to Israel's northern mountains from the Plain of Megiddo-also known as the Valley of Esdraelon, or Jezreel-a level expanse some 20 miles long and 14 miles wide.

Northern Palestine, especially the area of the Plain of Megiddo, was militarily important because it guarded part of the easiest route across the Fertile Crescent, which stretched from Mesopotamia to Egypt. Throughout ancient history, the great powers of Mesopotamia-Assyria and Babylon-contended with Egypt for control of this area.

The territory of the ancient kingdom of Israel was at the crossroads of three continents-Africa, Europe and Asia. Bounded on the west by the Mediterranean Sea and on the east by the Arabian Desert, this relatively small area between sea and desert was the strategic land link between the three continents. So important, so desirable, so coveted was this narrow land bridge that ancient armies frequently and regularly battled for control of it.

In modern times the Arabian Desert has been prized for its great oil reserves. In ancient times parts of the territory of Israel were coveted for their militarily crucial passes. Megiddo guarded one of those passes. More than 200 battles have been fought at or near there (Alan Johnson, The Expositor's Bible Commentary, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 1981, Vol. 12, p. 551). One scholar calls the area "the battle ground of the centuries" (Merrill F. Unger, Unger's Bible Dictionary, Moody Press, Chicago, 1966, p. 89).

What about the future of Megiddo, or Armageddon? Does the Bible reveal anything about this strategically vital area?

Prophecy of Armageddon

Although Armageddon is mentioned in the book of Revelation ("And they gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon" (Revelation 16:16 Revelation 16:16And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.
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), Scripture says nothing about armies actually attacking each other there. It does indicate, however, that armies assemble on the Plain of Megiddo, apparently using the large, level area as a staging ground to prepare for a great battle. But who is being gathered, who is gathering them, and for what purpose?

Those being gathered appear to be two political and military coalitions-"the kings of the earth and of the whole world" (Revelation 16:14 Revelation 16:14For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.
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) and "the kings from the east" (Revelation 16:12 Revelation 16:12And the sixth angel poured out his vial on the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared.
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), from east of the Euphrates River. These leaders aren't necessarily "kings" as we use the word today; the original word means ruler, leader or commander. We might use descriptions like president, prime minister, chairman, chancellor or general to refer to such leaders today.

At that point in history, many heads of nations will have banded together to support the mighty "beast" power mentioned in Revelation 17. In describing this confederation of peoples, nations and rulers as a beast, God is likening this enormously powerful alliance to an animal driven by ungodly instincts and motivations.

Those comprising this alliance "are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast" (Revelation 17:12-13 Revelation 17:12-13 [12] And the ten horns which you saw are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast. [13] These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength to the beast.
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). The book of Revelation shows that demonic spirits performing miraculous signs will influence these leaders to gather "to the battle of that great day of God Almighty . . . to the place called Armageddon" (Revelation 16:13-16 Revelation 16:13-16 [13] And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. [14] For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty. [15] Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame. [16] And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.
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).

Why will the armies of these nations gather at Armageddon? Apparently these military powers will invade the Middle East for a showdown over who will control the world.

However, instead of fighting each other, they will turn on the returning Messiah, Jesus Christ, to fight Him!

We don't normally think of people actually daring to go to war against God. People war against other people. But the Bible reveals that men will actually try to fight the returning Jesus Christ. These end-time dictators and demagogues covet rulership of the world, and they hope to succeed through their immense armies and destructive weapons-weapons powerful enough to destroy all life from the planet.

God knows that, unless He sends Jesus Christ to intervene in human affairs at that critical juncture, "no living thing could survive" (Matthew 24:22 Matthew 24:22And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened.
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, New English Bible, emphasis added throughout).

Satan and Armageddon

Behind the scenes another powerful leader figures prominently in gathering the armies to Armageddon. Satan, as "the god of this age" (2 Corinthians 4:4 2 Corinthians 4:4In whom the god of this world has blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine to them.
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), will have deceived all nations (Revelation 12:9 Revelation 12:9And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceives the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
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). As the adversary of humanity (1 Peter 5:8 1 Peter 5:8Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour:
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), his avowed purpose is to deceive and destroy the human family. The massive armies that will arise in the end time will, to him, seem the ideal vehicle for accomplishing such incredible destruction (Isaiah 14:12 Isaiah 14:12How are you fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how are you cut down to the ground, which did weaken the nations!
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, Isaiah 14:17 Isaiah 14:17That made the world as a wilderness, and destroyed the cities thereof; that opened not the house of his prisoners?
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).

But what the nations won't know, and Satan won't accept, is that God allows him to deceive such arrogant leaders into thinking that this decisive battle will enable them to take control of the world!

God Himself will enter into battle with those deceived nations bent on destruction (Zechariah 14:1-3 Zechariah 14:1-3 [1] Behold, the day of the LORD comes, and your spoil shall be divided in the middle of you. [2] For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city. [3] Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle.
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). God will prove that He is all powerful, not Satan nor those whom he deceives. And God will not allow man to completely destroy himself (Matthew 24:22 Matthew 24:22And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened.
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).

With this background, we can better understand the purpose of Armageddon when we read how the armies will be gathered "to the battle of that great day of God Almighty" (Revelation 16:14 Revelation 16:14For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.
American King James Version×
).

The prophet Zechariah also describes this climactic time: "Behold, the day of the LORD is coming . . . For I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem . . . Then the LORD will go forth and fight against those nations, as He fights in the day of battle. And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east" (Zechariah 14:1-4 Zechariah 14:1-4 [1] Behold, the day of the LORD comes, and your spoil shall be divided in the middle of you. [2] For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city. [3] Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. [4] And his feet shall stand in that day on the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall split in the middle thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south.
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).

Military forces gather

The Expositor's Bible Commentary offers another insight into Armageddon: "It is surprising that no one has suggested taking magedon as deriving from the secondary sense of the Hebrew gadad that means 'to gather in troops or bands.' The simple way in Hebrew to make a noun from a verb is to prefix a ma to the verbal form. Thus we have maged, 'a place of gathering in troops,' and the suffix o, meaning 'his,' yielding 'his place of gathering troops.' This is almost equivalent to the expressions in vss. 14, 16-'to gather them (the kings and their armies) for the battle on the great day of God Almighty'-and would allude to the prophetic expectation of the gathering of the nations for judgment" (Johnson, p. 552).

In Joel 3:9-10 Joel 3:9-10 [9] Proclaim you this among the Gentiles; Prepare war, wake up the mighty men, let all the men of war draw near; let them come up: [10] Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears: let the weak say, I am strong.
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God depicts these rulers and their preparation for invasion and warfare: "Proclaim this among the nations: 'Prepare for war! Wake up the mighty men, let all the men of war draw near, let them come up [to Jerusalem, Joel 3:12 Joel 3:12Let the heathen be wakened, and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat: for there will I sit to judge all the heathen round about.
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, Joel 3:16-17 Joel 3:16-17 [16] The LORD also shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake: but the LORD will be the hope of his people, and the strength of the children of Israel. [17] So shall you know that I am the LORD your God dwelling in Zion, my holy mountain: then shall Jerusalem be holy, and there shall no strangers pass through her any more.
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]. Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears; let the weak say, I am strong.'"

The prophecy indicates that the leaders will disrupt societal needs, converting facilities for manufacturing agricultural implements to produce armaments and munitions.

The armies will gather near Armageddon, almost filling the surrounding plain, and continue their deployment throughout other areas of the Holy Land. But the actual battle will take place some 55 miles south of Armageddon, around Jerusalem.

In truth that great battle will not be much of a contest. God will allow the armies to gather at Armageddon so that, in the end, there will be no question that He rules supreme. By permitting Satan, his demons and deceived human leaders to stir up nations to pit their massive forces against Him, God will allow those armies who would resist Christ's rule to close in on Jerusalem-only to be destroyed in their battle against Him.

Armageddon, therefore, becomes a symbol of a great battle, not between mighty nations and military alliances, but between the forces of good and evil. That climactic battle will be fought at and around Jerusalem.

The battle is joined

The Bible describes that time of earth-shaking events as "the day of the Lord" (Isaiah 2:12 Isaiah 2:12For the day of the LORD of hosts shall be on every one that is proud and lofty, and on every one that is lifted up; and he shall be brought low:
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; Isaiah 13:6 Isaiah 13:6Howl you; for the day of the LORD is at hand; it shall come as a destruction from the Almighty.
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,  Isaiah 13:9 Isaiah 13:9Behold, the day of the LORD comes, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate: and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it.
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; Jeremiah 46:10 Jeremiah 46:10For this is the day of the Lord GOD of hosts, a day of vengeance, that he may avenge him of his adversaries: and the sword shall devour, and it shall be satiate and made drunk with their blood: for the Lord GOD of hosts has a sacrifice in the north country by the river Euphrates.
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; Zechariah 14:1 Zechariah 14:1Behold, the day of the LORD comes, and your spoil shall be divided in the middle of you.
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)-the time during which God will intervene in human affairs to put an end to man's rebellion against Him.

Continuing the prophecy recorded in Joel, God says: "Let the nations be wakened, and come up [to Jerusalem] to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; for there I will sit to judge all the surrounding nations. Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Come, go down; for the winepress is full, the vats overflow-for their wickedness is great. Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision" (Joel 3:12-14 Joel 3:12-14 [12] Let the heathen be wakened, and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat: for there will I sit to judge all the heathen round about. [13] Put you in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe: come, get you down; for the press is full, the fats overflow; for their wickedness is great. [14] Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision.
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; compare with Revelation 14:15-19 Revelation 14:15-19 [15] And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to him that sat on the cloud, Thrust in your sickle, and reap: for the time is come for you to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe. [16] And he that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped. [17] And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle. [18] And another angel came out from the altar, which had power over fire; and cried with a loud cry to him that had the sharp sickle, saying, Thrust in your sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe. [19] And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great wine press of the wrath of God.
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).

Jesus Christ will deal with these massive armies at His return: "Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations . . . He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God" (Revelation 19:15 Revelation 19:15And out of his mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treads the wine press of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.
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). Birds gather to feed on the remains of those who war against Jesus Christ (Revelation 19:17-18 Revelation 19:17-18 [17] And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the middle of heaven, Come and gather yourselves together to the supper of the great God; [18] That you may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and great.
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, Revelation 19:21 Revelation 19:21And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat on the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh.
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).

Apparently the carnage isn't limited to the area immediately around Jerusalem. Revelation 14:20 Revelation 14:20And the wine press was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the wine press, even to the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs.
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indicates that it will extend for some 200 miles.

Armageddon: prelude to peace

Jesus Christ will finally be recognized as humanity's Savior and Deliverer, its King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 17:14 Revelation 17:14These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful.
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; Revelation 19:16 Revelation 19:16And he has on his clothing and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.
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). Mankind will recognize the futility of rebellion against God.

The prophet Malachi also spoke of God's supreme authority: "For from the rising of the sun, even to its going down, My name shall be great among the Gentiles [nations]; in every place incense shall be offered to My name, and a pure offering; for My name shall be great among the nations, says the LORD of hosts" (Malachi 1:11 Malachi 1:11For from the rising of the sun even to the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered to my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen, said the LORD of hosts.
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).

God will at last be acknowledged as Supreme Ruler of mankind. For millennia Satan-the god of this world-has palmed himself off as the god of mankind (2 Corinthians 4:4 2 Corinthians 4:4In whom the god of this world has blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine to them.
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; 2  Corinthians 11:14). However, God has prophesied that one day He will fulfill His plan for mankind, for which He created the earth.

When this happens the human family will enjoy unprecedented peace and unparalleled prosperity on earth. This peace has been promised to mankind for thousands of years (2 Timothy 1:9 2 Timothy 1:9Who has saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,
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; Titus 1:2 Titus 1:2In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began;
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; Isaiah 11:1-10 Isaiah 11:1-10 [1] And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: [2] And the spirit of the LORD shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD; [3] And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears: [4] But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth: with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked. [5] And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins. [6] The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatted calf together; and a little child shall lead them. [7] And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. [8] And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice' den. [9] They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea. [10] And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious.
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).

Armageddon, while a symbol of the destruction of the forces of evil, is also a prelude to humanity's salvation. It is then that human misrule will come to an end. At Armageddon the greedy, power-mad demagogues of that time will be gathered into one place so that Christ can put an end to the misery they have wrought on mankind.

Armageddon signals the end of fear, pain, destruction and untimely death. Sadly, there is simply no other way for mankind to learn its lesson. God must finally step in, intervening in human affairs to force peace on this foundering world (Revelation 19; Zechariah 14; Joel 3).

Christ will replace this world's social, economic, political, educational and religious systems and build a world based on God's ways (Daniel 2:44-45 Daniel 2:44-45 [44] And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever. [45] For as much as you saw that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God has made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure.
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).

How to understand mankind's future

God has given to mankind several annual festivals that unlock the mystery of our future. For example, the Feast of Trumpets foreshadows the return of Jesus Christ "with a great sound of a trumpet" to vanquish the armies gathered against Him (Matthew 24:30-31 Matthew 24:30-31 [30] And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. [31] And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
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; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 [16] For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: [17] Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
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; Revelation 11:15 Revelation 11:15And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.
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).

The symbolism of the Day of Atonement reveals that Christ will bind Satan, preventing him from influencing humanity (Revelation 20:1-3 Revelation 20:1-3 [1] And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. [2] And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, [3] And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season.
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).

The Feast of Tabernacles depicts 1,000 years of peace and prosperity that will envelop the earth and its inhabitants (Revelation 20:4-5 Revelation 20:4-5 [4] And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark on their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. [5] But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.
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; Isaiah 11).

The Last Great Day signifies the time when all who didn't know the true God will be resurrected to learn His truth and receive their opportunity for salvation (Revelation 20:11-12 Revelation 20:11-12 [11] And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. [12] And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
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; Ezekiel 37).

Armageddon is not the end of the world. It's a gathering place for enormous armies, God's summons for deceived human leaders to enter into a decisive battle with Him at Jerusalem.

Rather than marking the annihilation of mankind, Armageddon is the preface to 1,000 years of peace and prosperity for all. Humanity will live on, for what begins at Armageddon establishes Christ as supreme ruler on earth and over all nations. The earth will then become immersed in peace and prosperity in the Kingdom of God.