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) and that it serves as the prelude to "the battle of that great day of God Almighty" (Revelation 16:14) 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), 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) and "the kings from the east" (Revelation 16:12), 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). 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).

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, 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), will have deceived all nations (Revelation 12:9). As the adversary of humanity (1 Peter 5:8), 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 14:17).

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). 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).

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).

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).

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 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 3:16-17]. 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 13:6,  Isaiah 13:9; Jeremiah 46:10; Zechariah 14:1)-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; compare with Revelation 14:15-19).

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). Birds gather to feed on the remains of those who war against Jesus Christ (Revelation 19:17-18, Revelation 19:21).

Apparently the carnage isn't limited to the area immediately around Jerusalem. Revelation 14:20 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 19:16). 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).

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 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; Titus 1:2; Isaiah 11:1-10).

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).

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; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17; Revelation 11:15).

The symbolism of the Day of Atonement reveals that Christ will bind Satan, preventing him from influencing humanity (Revelation 20:1-3).

The Feast of Tabernacles depicts 1,000 years of peace and prosperity that will envelop the earth and its inhabitants (Revelation 20:4-5; 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; 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.


  • rm

    It's funny how we always like to assign these prophecies a place in the future. The Bible is a Jerusalem focused book. The longest rule of any Gentile power over the city of God was that of Islam, starting in the 7th century, ending in the 20th century. The last tentacle of this Islamic rule was that of Ottoman Turkey. In Rev 16:12, it is said as part of the sixth plague on the Beast powers, that the Euphrates river is dried up. Like so much in Rev, this is very figurative language. The Euphrates emanates from Turkey. A major river denotes a major power source. The Ottoman Empire ruled Jerusalem for about 400 years, but it's power over Jerusalem was "dried up" in WWI. The British captured Jerusalem in late 1917, but the final battle that determined the fate of the Ottoman Empire was fought in Sept 1918. It is known as "the Battle of Megiddo", is which area it was fought. Just google "Battle of Megiddo 1918". Jerusalem's liberation from the Beast powers opened the way for the return of the Jews later in the 20th century. This is what Rev 16:12-17 is about.

  • Lena VanAusdle
    @dusty It would seem our fundamental difference in belief on this topic is in timing. I would recommend reading this booklet: As well as this article: Acts 1:9-11 tels us that Christ will return to earth as He left Zechariah 14:4 says His feet will stand on the mount of Olives You are correct, it does say that the saints will be gathered from the four corners and they will meet Him in the air, it does not state that they will meet Him in heaven. They will always be with The Lord, but Revelation 21 and 22 detail the New Jerusalem coming to earth and being the throne of God ON EARTH.
  • dusty
    (cont. from prev post) You then refer to 1Thes 4:16 which says essentially the same thing. However, you should have included v 17, which states that the saints meet Him in the air and from then on would “ALWAYS BE WITH THE LORD”. That means they would be with Him in heaven before the throne of God, Rev 14:1, 4-5. Rev 15:2 shows them on the sea of glass. Rev 19:6 shows them at the coronation of Jesus (see also Dan 7:13-14). Then vv 7-9 refers to their marriage to Him. After this they do return to earth with Him (Zech 14:5; Jude 14-15) on white horses to defeat the world’s armies (vv 11-21) at the battle of that great day of God Almighty (Rev 16:14). Then, after Satan is bound, they begin their 1000 year reign on earth (Rev 20:1-4).
  • alan peters

    Where does everyone get the idea that the 1000 year "reign with God", is on EARTH? Jesus said he was "going to prepare a place for us" and then he would "return and TAKE US WITH HIM"
    Does this not suggest that The New Jerusalem has arrived for us and that we will be leaving with him, to go to the place he has prepared for us (another planet somewhere?)
    If so, then the only reason for our "reign with Him" being of a temporary nature, is the fact that when we get to wherever we are going, we will leave the ship and live normally again on the new planet which has been prepared for us. It seems the journey will take 1000 years, which would be a reasonable inter-stellar journey to another star system.
    After this journey, all those who did not board the New Jerusalem, because they had died before its arrival, will then be resurrected. Remember that the Book of Revelation says "the rest of the dead did not live again for 1000 years" That is, until journey's end! Also, at this stage "Satan must be loosed a little while" because, presumably, he also has to be resurrected and given a last chance to repent!
    Why else would we only be with Him for a limited time, even if it is 1000 years!

  • Sabrina Peabody

    The “rest of the dead” who live after 1000 years are believed to be all of those who never had the opportunity to know God or learn His way while they lived during our time now or before. People who may not have ever heard the name, Jesus Christ, will be resurrected to physical life. God wants everyone to be in His family, but gives people a choice. This aspect and period in God’s plan of salvation for humanity shows God’s fairness and mercy. ( At the end of the time where the “rest of the dead” learn about God, they are judged. Remember, the saints resurrected at the return of Christ were already judged by this point. Then, the New Jerusalem comes from heaven down to the earth (Revelation 21). Everyone who reflects God’s character will be spirit beings and live with Him in eternity.

  • Sabrina Peabody

    Alan, the Bible mentions that the saint’s will rule on the earth. “And have made us kings and priests to our God; And we shall reign on the EARTH” (Revelation 5:10). “Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the EARTH” (Matthew 5:5). This is speaking specifically to those who are called now and choose to follow Him. When Christ returns, they will be changed to spirit beings. “Blessed and holy is he that has part in the first resurrection: on such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years” (Revelation 20:6).
    During the Millennium, people who survived the Tribulation will live on earth under the Kingdom of God where they learn and live God’s way or be punished (Zechariah 14:16-19). It does not say that Satan is released for the purpose of having another chance to repent, rather it talks of Satan gathering people from the four corners of the world and a last rebellion against God (Revelation 20:1-3, Revelation 20:7-10). This may be allowed since those living on the earth during the Kingdom of God would not have had to overcome the temptation of Satan (since he was put away).

  • dusty
    Hello Lena: You stated concerning the saints and the 1st resurrection: “It is not the end of their life. It will be the beginning of their spiritual life, which will take place on earth.” That is true as far as it goes. The moment of their change to spirit life does occur on earth. However, you then quote Mk 13:24-27 to prove Christ returns to the earth at that time, and that passage does not say that. It states that He comes in the clouds and His elect are GATHERED FROM the fartherest part of the earth by angels sent by Him. (cont. next post)
  • Lena VanAusdle
    @TheYoungBeliever As the article states Armageddon is just the beginning, Mark 13:20 says, "And unless the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake, whom He chose, He shortened the days." The elect are God's saints, true Christians. It is not the end of their life. It will be the beginning of their spiritual life, which will take place on earth. Mark 13:24-27 says, "But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars of heaven will fall, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. And then He will send His angels, and gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest part of earth to the farthest part of heaven." This is where Christ returns. We find in Revelation 20:4 that the saints will live and reign with Jesus Christ for 1,000 years (on earth). 1 Thessalonians 4:16 tells us that The Lord Himself shall descend from heaven! Here is a great article that discusses this very thing:
  • Ivan Veller
    Dear Believer, It is my privilege to recommend the following thrilling, stirring, and inspiring scriptures outlining God’s magnificent plan for the salvation of humanity: “Armageddon…Christ will intervene to prevent human annihilation”: “[T]he faithful servants of God—inc[.] many who will have suffered severe persecution and martyrdom—will serve as the teachers and administrators of that wonderful world to come”: “God has scheduled…opportunity for repentance for everyone”: “‘No one [but Jesus] has ascended to heaven’”: “God will offer salvation to all”: “breathtaking…future…fantastic beyond belief!”
  • TheYoungBeliever
    To my understanding, Armageddon is the end of life for Christians on earth. However, God has made everyone who believes in the Messiah a house in Heaven.
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