What is “Armageddon”?

“Armageddon” is one of those words which has become embedded in a large measure of humanity’s vocabulary. Most understand it as “the end of the world” or “the last great battle between good and evil.” It is often applied to some kind of atomic World War Three. Those familiar with the Bible know it appears only one in Revelation 16:16? It is often associated with the large phrase “the battle of Armageddon.” What does this strange word mean?

Revelation 16:14-16 reads in the 21st Century Version of the Christian Scriptures - NCMM:

Revelation 16:14 These (frogs) are demonic spirits and they perform signs to lead together the kings of the whole inhabited earth to the War of the great Day of The Almighty God. Revelation 16:15 [Look! I am coming like a thief! Happy are those who stay awake and keep on their outer garments so they do not walk about naked and people look upon their shamefulness.] Revelation 16:16 And (the demonic spirits) led them together into the place that is called in Hebrew HAR-MAGEDON.

According to this “Har-Mageddon” is a “place.” [The Greek is TOPON = English “topology, topography.”] But, what kind of “place”? Some understand “Har-Mageddon” to mean a “city” and others a “mountain” [New Jerusalem Bible]. Others, both a mountain and a city. [Consider Bauer, Ardnt, and Gingrich page 106, “Megiddo and Jerusalem.”] One interpretation is that the whole word literally means “The Mountain [or, City] of the Assembly of Troops.” Clearly earth’s rulers and their armies [or, troops] are being gathering by demonic influence to a battle with God as represented by the Lamb and his Bride. [Revelation 17:14; 19:11-19]

It is our belief that the New Jerusalem descends before the Day of Wrath. [Revelation 14:20] Thus, Satan musters earth’s kings and their armies to a battle against the Holy City. Of course, the Holy City New Jerusalem is also called Mount Zion. [Hebrews 12:22, 23; Revelation 14:1; Psalm 2:6, 7] So, whether one understands Armageddon to mean a place, as in a city or a mountain, it matters not, as both are covered by an understanding of the Apocalypse.

There seems a strong likelihood that the Har-Maggedon of Revelation 16:16 is drawn from Zechariah 12:11 - “There will be great lamentation in grief on that Day in Jerusalem, just as the lamentation … in the valley of MEGHID-DOHN.” This later spelling is very similar to that form in Revelation 16:16 - har-MAGEDON. The Latin version of this is MAGEDDON. In several Hebrew versions of Revelation 16:16 the word used is HAR [mountain] MEGHID-DOHN’ [of Megiddo]

Anciently many battles were fought near Mount Carmel on the ocean plain of Megiddo. Thus, it was a “place” [a mount, or valley plain] of great lamentation. There are some interesting possibilities to an understanding of Zechariah 12 and 14. Zechariah 12:9, 10 -- “And it must occur in that day [that] I shall seek to annihilate all the nations that are coming against [New] Jerusalem. And I will pour out upon the house of David and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem the spirit of favor and entreaties, and THEY WILL SEE THE ONE WHOM THEY PIERCED., and they will certainly wail over Him as in the wailing over an only [son]; and there will be a bitter lamentation over him as when there is bitter lamentation over the firstborn [son].” A portion of this - THEY WILL SEE THE ONE WHOM THEY PIERCED - is also referenced at Revelation 1:7. If this verse in Revelation were applied to the parousia of Christ and his subsequent judgment against the nations, then it would not be unfair to move the prophetic context into that of Har-Magedon. There is a noticeable parallel between Zechariah 12:9 and Zechariah 14:16

The “kings of the earth and their armies” gather against the Holy City New Jerusalem [Mount Zion] which has settled down on its foundations here on earth. [For details see the book Nazarene Apocalypse on the Friends of the Nazarene web page, or in the Nazarene Commentary CD-ROM Biblical library.] The holy City has been under attack already for over 42 months. [Revelation 11:2, 3] Now the Satan-inspired governments of earth attack this “heavenly Jerusalem.” Note how Zechariah 14:2, 3, 12-16 describes this war and its aftermath:

“And I [Yehowah] will gather all the nations against [the New] Jerusalem for the battle [of Har-megeddon]. … And Yehowah will surely go out and battle with those nations just as in the day of combat, the day of battle. And his feet will actually stand in that day upon the Mount Olives … It will take place on that Day that confusion sent by Yehowah will spread among them and they will revolt against their own in complete anarchy. … Then, it will surely take place that every survivor from among the nations that fought against the [New] Jerusalem must make an annual pilgrimage to prostrate themselves in worship before the King, Yehowah..”

Yes, there will be “survivors” of the Great Day of Wrath. Even from among those who had actually fought against New Jerusalem will survive the Battle of Armageddon. These will be among the two-thirds of humanity who will be the first generation to live on into the Thousand Years, there to live under the judgment of the King and his Bride, the New Jerusalem.

Many sincere Bible students have noted that Revelation 16:14-16 occurs in the context of the Sixth Plague. Such careful readers of the Bible have learned from Revelation 15:1, 2 that the Saints are in heaven when the plagues begin. They have been called out of Babylon by the Rapture before the plagues befall the “great city.” [Revelation 18:4; compare Revelation 11:12, 13; 1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17]

However, some are confused by Revelation 16:15 which seems a caution to the Saints. Since it seems clear the Saints are all in heaven before the Sixth Plague breaks forth [Revelation 15:1, 2] this fifteenth verse is view as a parenthetical warning from the Lord Jesus. The language echoes Luke 21:36 and the exhortation to remain awake unto the Coming of the Christ. Thus some translations put verse 15 in parenthesis. [NEB, NWT]

The Sixth Seal describes only the preparations for the ensuing battle when our Lord returns with his Bride to fight the Battle of Armageddon. [Revelation 17:14; 19:11-19] The “gathering” occurs and then the battle takes place as two armies with their troops come together for this war. The kings come with their troops and the Lamb leads his troops to the “City [Mountain] of Assembly of Troops.”

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Nazarene Commentary 2000© by Mark Heber Miller

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