What Is Armageddon?

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What Is Armageddon?

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On the hills outside the city of Nazareth in Galilee of Israel, you can stand and look out over the flat plain of the Jezreel Valley. To the west, at the end of the valley you can make out a hill. It's the site of a place called Megiddo. I've been to both Nazareth and Megiddo, and there is a connection.

Nazareth is where Jesus was raised by His parents, Joseph and Mary. It's not hard to imagine Jesus as a young man spending time in these hills overlooking the valley. Jesus, who was God in the flesh, knew the history of the land before Him. He also knew its future. He knew that one day, on that very spot, armies would gather to fight Him at His glorious second coming.

In a number of Greek manuscripts of the New Testament that place is called Armageddon. The story of Armageddon carries a powerful message for the world.

Armageddon is a real-life place on the map, and you can travel there today. It's a place no longer inhabited, and spread out before it is a long and wide valley.

The prophetic book of Revelation reveals that armies will gather in this valley to fight just before Jesus Christ returns in glory and power.

There's a powerful message for each of us in the prophecy of Armageddon. If you heed that message, it can change your life and prepare you for Christ's return.

In Revelation 16, we see seven devastating plagues that represent God's final judgment on the world—a world that has rejected Him. These plagues are symbolized by bowls being poured out on the earth.

The fifth of these bowls brings darkness on the throne of the evil ruler of the final superpower among the nations. This ruler and his empire are depicted as a beast. The impenetrable darkness will be so frightening that people will be gnawing their tongues out of despair. In their anger and their pain they will curse God. And instead of turning to Him for help, they will refuse to humble themselves or to repent.

Satan is the one pulling the strings behind that evil superpower, and in his rage against God he prepares to maneuver the world and its armies into a box canyon. There will be no way out.

A great war being prepared

Notice Revelation 16:12: "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 of the east might be prepared." In other words, great armies from the east will be on the move toward Israel.

The passage continues, "And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet" (Revelation 16:13). Who are the dragon, the Beast and this false prophet? The dragon is Satan. The Beast is the leader of the final, evil superpower—a last revival of the Roman Empire. And the false prophet is an evil religious leader who will deceive the whole world with his false religion.

Next we are told, "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" (Revelation 16:14).

What we're reading is an incredible look into the invisible spirit world. With views like this throughout the Scriptures, we know that there is another dimension that we can't see, feel, touch or taste. But it is very real. It's inhabited by good spirits or holy angels, servants of God, and evil spirits or rebellious angels, the demons led by Satan.

In this verse we see a figurative vision of what is going on in the spiritual dimension. It shows the dragon, Satan, spewing from his mouth evil spirits—represented here by frogs. What happens in the spirit realm has always had a connection with what happens in our physical realm. We are reading here about evil spirits causing chaos in the spirit realm and directly influencing events in our physical world.

Satan's rage behind the scenes will be what causes the armies of the world to gather in the land of Israel. They will be gathered in that place called Armageddon for what is going to be the largest, and certainly the most conclusive, battle in all world history. It will be "the battle of that great day of God Almighty."

Of all the great battles in history, this battle will be more significant than all the others combined. It has been named 2,000 years in advance.

The vision continues: "And they gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon" (Revelation 16:16). The word "Armageddon" is just the combination of two Hebrew words—the word har (meaning "hill") and the word Megiddo. Of all places, why Megiddo? Why do the armies gather there? A brief look at the history of the area can help us answer that question.

Megiddo a historical battleground

You can see the site of Megiddo on a map of the state of Israel. For thousands of years, it was a city where people lived. After it was destroyed in war, the people would build on top of the rubble. Today it's a hill at the western end of the broad flat Jezreel Valley. Archaeologists have excavated the site for several decades. Their work has exposed layer after layer of ancient settlements long hidden beneath its soil.

Megiddo has seen more battles than any other place on earth. Why? The land of Israel itself sits at the crossroads of three continents—Africa, Asia and Europe. And whoever controlled Megiddo controlled a narrow, strategic stretch of road at this nexus called the Via Maris (or Way of the Sea, as a large portion of it ran near the Mediterranean). The Via Maris was a major international highway in the ancient world. It stretched from Egypt all the way to Babylon, in what is now Iraq. In ancient times, the Via Maris was the link between the major empires and the trade routes of the day. In the ancient world, any nation that wanted control of this region had to control Megiddo.

Over the years, many battles took place at Megiddo. The Egyptian pharaoh Thutmose III launched a campaign near Megiddo to assert dominion over territories in and north of Canaan.

In the Bible, we see that King Solomon stationed troops and chariots and horses in Megiddo, using the city as a northern fortress (1 Kings 9:15). Today the massive gates he constructed still stand at the entrance to the ruins in Megiddo.

Later, during the reign of Judah's King Josiah, Pharaoh Necho II from Egypt came to Megiddo to fight against Assyria. Josiah got involved and was killed (2 Kings 23:29).

In more recent times, both Napoleon (1799) and the British General Allenby (1918) defeated Turkish forces at Megiddo. The area has never lost its significance as a battleground for control over this crucial crossroad of empires.

Megiddo is a historic gathering place for armies. It's also where armies will gather in the future before "the battle of that great day of God Almighty." But the actual battle will be fought somewhere else.

The battle will be fought in Jerusalem

Jerusalem is where the battle is actually fought: "Behold, the day of the Lord is coming, and your spoil will be divided in your midst. For I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem . . . Then the Lord will go forth and fight against these nations, as He fights in the day of battle" (Zechariah 14:1-3).

Christ will descend with a spirit army and tread the winepress of His wrath. "And the winepress was trampled outside the city, and blood came out of the winepress, up to the horses' bridles, for one thousand six hundred furlongs" (Revelation 14:20)—that's 200 miles, thus stretching over the whole land of Israel.

As human armies fight God the carnage will be so great that the blood, mixed with mud and gore, will run several feet deep. It will be a terrible battle. But what is most important is that it will be followed by the peace of the Kingdom of God.

Megiddo and the adjacent Jezreel Valley provide an ideal staging point for this battle. Transport planes and helicopters, troop carriers and tanks will ferry men and materiel into the region, with jet fighters screaming overhead.

Suddenly attention will be turned to a force coming from an unexpected location —the heavens above Jerusalem. In their folly and deception, the assembled armies will then proceed to Jerusalem to fight Jesus Christ, failing to recognize Him as the Messiah.

Today, this is difficult to imagine. We read these scriptures and ask, "How could political leaders be deceived into fighting Jesus Christ, the Son of God?"

The answer lies in a small statement in the middle of Revelation 16. Notice that Revelation 16:15 is a thought injected by Jesus Christ: "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 Jesus is saying that there is a way to avoid being part of this great end-time deception.

What is Jesus saying to us? What is in this message that we must understand? What is the spiritual lesson that Armageddon represents? It's this: Unless you obey Jesus Christ and His teachings every day, you too may be fooled into resisting Him on that day along with the majority of people.

The Bible says that the deception will be so subtle and so powerful that even somebody looking for it will be deceived. How? Look again at what Jesus says in Revelation 16:15 just quoted.

What are the "garments" mentioned? They represent keeping God's commandments, knowing right from wrong, discerning between good and evil. Remaining properly clothed here means enduring in worshipping the true God instead of the devil, the god of this age. The right garments represent the "righteous acts" of God's people (Revelation 19:8). In the final confrontation between God and Satan, God wins! And Christ is summoning us to a life where we stand with Him against the powers of darkness. That's what it means to keep one's garments.

What do your "garments" look like?

Are you standing with Jesus Christ today? Do you stand with God in truth when you see signs of spiritual and moral decay all around? Have you looked at popular culture lately? The signs of inner cancer are plain to see. Of course, we would all say that we try to stand our ground and keep our morals intact. It is so easy to slowly allow tolerance of sin to seep into our lives.

Megiddo was a place where empires sought to control the ancient world. In this prophecy, it represents sinful man's final effort to control the world apart from God. There is a parallel to our society today.

There is one vivid lesson from the old city of Megiddo that illustrates the point. Deep within the archaeological remains is a large circular altar. In ancient times people would offer sacrifices on this altar in the worship of a fertility god. Some historians even believe that human sacrifices were made here, including child sacrifice.

Imagine what one of those worship services might have been like. There would've been loud music, worshippers dancing, shouting and calling out to the fertility god. You would have seen a large fire roaring on the altar. And then you would've witnessed a small child thrown into the flames to die an excruciating, senseless death in honoring a false god. It's difficult to imagine how people could do such a thing. Today, we recoil in shock and horror at the thought.

But you know what? It happened in Megiddo way back then, and in a sense it happens today. We don't call it child sacrifice; we call it abortion. Every year we sacrifice millions of babies to our modern gods—the gods of convenience and personal choice. We can't bring ourselves to call it murder. We call it "planned parenthood." And rather than admitting the baby is a human child, we call it a fetus.

We have corrupted our sense of right and wrong. We call good evil and evil good. The stain of abortion today is but one of many sins that will bring God's judgment on our country and the whole world.

We've allowed many other sins to control us—greed, gluttony, adultery, drunkenness, and much more convict us before God. We are a society turned inside out, incapable of discerning righteous judgment.

Mankind's sin and rejection of God's way is exactly why this battle must take place. This final battle represents God's judgment on a world that has forgotten and rejected Him in favor of its own desires.

We have forgotten God and abandoned His spiritual law. We don't want to admit that God has a claim on our lives. We're unwilling to submit to Him in obedience. What the apostle Paul wrote applies to us: "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).

Megiddo was a key city in the ancient world. Whoever controlled it controlled a vital link in world commerce. And in the end of the age, Megiddo—or its other name, Armageddon—represents man's last effort to control the world without God.

But you and I don't have to be caught up in the spirit of this world. God is calling people right now to rise above the spirit of rebellion symbolized by Megiddo. Let God's words motivate you to discern this time and not be caught unaware, naked and ashamed!