WHAT IS ARMAGEDDON?
Prophesy Series – Part 11
Today we are in part 11 of our series in Biblical prophecy. This morning we’re going to look at what is known as Armageddon – the Mother of All Wars, the Great War. WWII formerly ended on Sept. 2, 1945 after years of intense bloody global struggle and the devastating effects of two atomic bombs on Japan. It was on that fateful day American war hero General Douglas MacArthur issued a profound warning to the world: Men since the beginning of time have sought peace. We have had our last chance. Military alliances, balances of power, leagues of nations, all in turn failed, leaving the only path to be the crucible of war. The utter destructiveness of war now blots out this alternative. If we do not now devise some greater and more equitable system, Armageddon will be at our door. Years later, shortly before his inauguration as the 40th president of the US, Ronald Reagan assessing the never-ending complexities and tensions of the Middle East and the Soviet Union wrote in his diary on Friday May 15, 1981, Sometimes I wonder if we are destined to witness Armageddon. Only three weeks later, on Sunday June 7, Reagan received news that Israel had bombed the Iraqi nuclear reactor. That afternoon the president recorded in his diary: Got word of Israel bombing Iraq C nuclear reactor. I swear I believe Armageddon is near.
Armageddon is a word we’re hearing more and more. In 1998 Hollywood popularized it in a highly fictionalized sci-fi movie depicting an asteroid the size of Texas hurling toward earth. Economists speak of an impending financial Armageddon. Others vocalized their concerns of an ecological Armageddon, or a nuclear Armageddon. The late Stephen Hawking, sometimes noted as the smartest alive, said us we should prepare for a global nuclear holocaust by relocating ourselves in another solar system. Respected prophecy expert Dr. David Jeremiah writes, Obviously the popular imagination has captured the essence of the type of event that will occur at (the actual) Armageddon, but people have missed the inherent meaning of the word by a country mile. The word Armageddon comes directly from the Bible and is probably the best-known word in biblical prophecy. But it is also the least understood.
A number of weeks ago, we looked at the second coming of Christ. It has been well said that no generation of Christians have ever had more reason to believe Christ may return in their lifetime than ours. Dr. John Walvoord, who was probably the most renowned prophecy scholar in the 20th century was speaking at a prophecy conference about the times in which we live, I have been studying prophecy for many years [over fifty], and while I do not believe it is possible to set dates for the Lord’s return, I do sense in the world today an unprecedented time of world crises that can be interpreted as being preparatory for the coming of the Lord. If there ever was a time when Christians should live every day as though Christ could come at any time, it is today. I think it would be fair to say most of us here this morning would agree with Walvoord’s respected observation.
Today, we’re going to draw the curtain back just a little more and take a glimpse at another event that will take place simultaneous with Christ’s 2nd coming – Armageddon. What I want to do this morning is let the Bible clear up our confusion by briefly answering some key questions surrounding this major event: 1) What is Armageddon? 2) How will it happen? 3) Who will be involved?
I. What is Armageddon? When most people hear this word, they think of the end of the world.
It’s not unusual to hear of Athe battle of Armageddon, but nowhere does the Bible use that phrase. Armageddon is not a battle but a place of battle. Surprisingly, for all its attention, the word Armageddon is only used once in the Bible. Rev. 16:16, Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon (Rev. 16:16). It’s made up of two Hebrew words Har, meaning “mount” and Meggido meaning “slaughter” and Armageddon is “Mount of Slaughter.” It is a hill with the remains of an ancient city on it in the northern part of Israel that overlooks the valley of Meggido or the Valley of Decision which is about fourteen miles wide and twenty miles long (if you’re familiar with the Great Lakes, it is about the size of St. Clair, a lake connected to the Great Lakes sometimes known as the Sixth Great Lake). The valley itself is a little more than ten miles from Nazareth and 55 miles from Jerusalem. In 1992 my wife and I toured this area. It is literally an ancient city that has been built and destroyed many times over.
Revelation 16:12-16 says the valley it overlooks is the place where many armies of the earth will gather together in the last half of the Tribulation in an all-out suicidal effort to destroy God and His people the Jews when Christ returns. Initially, the armies of the earth will gather there due to their growing discontent with the failed leadership of the Antichrist. They will want to put an end to his rule of empty promises. That’s what the world sees. But Satan is gathering them to attempt to defeat the Jews and Christ at His second coming (Psalm 2:1-3; Rev. 16:14). Do you know Who is really in charge though? God! His purpose is to bring final judgement on a world that refuses to repent. All through the Tribulation God will be calling people to turn from their sin and trust Christ.
Why Armageddon? Why this valley? In 1799 Napoleon, one of the world’s greatest military figures, stood at Megiddo shortly before the battle that ended his own quest to conquer the East and rebuild the Roman Empire. Taking in the spacious plain where at least two-hundred battles have already been fought at or near there observed, All the armies of the world could maneuver their forces on this vast plain… There is no place in the whole world more suited for war than this…[it is] the most natural battlefield of the whole earth. Armageddon is not just the future battlefield in Israel, it is the battlefield of every heart that resists Christ and His forgiveness. Many are fighting that battle today resisting God. The irony is, they think they can win. You can’t fight against God and win. God always comes out the winner. You always come out the loser.
So, Armageddon is the “Mount of Slaughter.” It is not a battle as most people think. In fact, Armageddon will be a war, a campaign, with a series of battles in the land of Israel. Nor is Armageddon the last war on earth. There is one final war to come. It is when Satan is released from the bottomless pit after a thousand years and he revolts one final time against God (Rev. 20:7-11). Armageddon, then, simply refers to the great war in the land of Israel that will take place at and shortly before Christ’s return.
It is the final war of the angelic conflict that began in Heaven when Satan rebelled against God. That conflict was transferred to earth and will to an end when Satan attempts to defeat God using the forces of the world’s armies, Satan’s demonic army, the Antichrist, and the False Prophet. Armageddon will also be God’s final judgement on the nation of Israel for rejecting her Messiah (Jer. 30:7). As well, it will be God’s judgment on the nations for their persecution of Israel (Gen. 12:3). And it will be God’s formal judgment on the nations for rejecting Him as their Creator, their God, and their Lord and Savior (Rev. 19:15).
II. How will Armageddon happen? Armageddon is a series of complex battles unleashing
God’s wrath that will take place over the entire land of Israel, roughly one-hundred by two-hundred miles.
As I mentioned, the armies of the earth will be come together thinking they’re going to overthrow the Antichrist who has declared himself to be god and demands to be worshiped (2 Thess. 2:4). Satan, on the other hand, will bring them together in a desperate and suicidal attempt to defeat the Jews and Christ when He returns. But the Real Engineer behind the scenes is God B unleashing His wrath on a world that has rejected their only Savior.
First, the armies from the South will come against the Antichrist B then armies from the North will come: At the time of the end the king of the south will engage him in battle, and the king of the north will storm out against him…(Dan. 11:40). The Antichrist will crush these rebellions (Dan. 41-43). But, before he does, God will suddenly dry up the Euphrates River (the easternmost boarder of Israel) allowing the kings of the east with their 200,000,000 million man army (some think to be China) to suddenly join the war (Rev. 16:12).
Rev. 14:20 says this will literally be a gruesome bloodbath with blood flowing as high as the horses bridles for two-hundred miles. This is a battle of such grisly proportions no event in human history even remotely compares.
Describing a scene in miniature of this, Jewish historian, Josephus, recorded Rome’s bloody destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70: When they [Romans] went in numbers into the lanes of the city, with their swords drawn, they slew those whom they overtook, without mercy, and set fire to the houses wither Jews fled…they ran every one though whom they met with, and obstructed the very lanes with their dead bodies, and made the whole city run down with blood, to such a degree indeed that the fire of many of the houses was quenched with these men’s blood.
Herman A. Hoyt in his book “The End Times”, gives us a helpful description: The staggering dimensions of this conflict are can scarcely be conceived by man. The battlefield will stretch from Megiddo on the north (Zech. 12:11; Rev. 16:16) to Edom on the south (Isa. 34:5-6; 63:1), a distance of sixteen hundred furlongs approximating two hundred miles. It will reach from the Mediterranean Sea on the west to the hills of Moab on the east, a distance of almost one hundred miles. It will include the valley of Jehoshaphat (Joel 3:2, 12) and the plains of Esdraelon. And the center of this entire area will be the city of Jerusalem (Zech. 14:1-2). Into this area the multiplied millions of men, doubtless approaching 400 million, will be crowded for the final holocaust of humanity. The kings with all their armies will come from the north and the south, from the east and the west. There will be an invasion from hell beneath. And entering the scene at the last moment will be an invasion from outer space (Jesus Christ and His armies). In the most dramatic sense this will be the “valley of decision” for humanity (Joel 3:14) and the great winepress into which will be poured the fierceness of the wrath of almighty God (Rev. 19:15).
Just like Israel is the center of the media today, it will be the center of the last military campaign during Armageddon.
III. Who will be involved? Some mistakenly thought WWI and WWII were Armageddon, but they were not even close to what this War of All Wars is going to be like. Armageddon will involve all the armies of the earth and hell coming against God. The Gentile nations will see Armageddon as going to battle with God. But to God, it will be only a “great supper” for the birds. Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and he cried out with a loud voice, saying to all the birds which fly in midheaven, “Come, assemble for the great supper of God, so that you may eat the flesh of kings and the flesh of commanders and the flesh of mighty men and the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them and the flesh of all men, both free men and slaves, and small and great.” And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies assembled to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army (Rev. 19:17-19). The Lord Jesus Christ will descend from Heaven with His army. The Antichrist will persuade the armies of the earth to wage war against Christ. One commentator says this is going to be like persuading mice to declare war against lions. John says in Rev. 16:13-14 Armageddon will not only include the kings and armies of the earth, but it will also involve the demonic forces of hell. This will be the ultimate spiritual battle of man against God.
They are like much of the world today – unable to connect the Divine dots of prophecy that point to God. They don’t recognize God’s hand of miraculous blessing and protection on Israel. They don’t recognize every breath we take comes from God. And somehow, they will come to believe they can overthrow God. Isn’t that the height of lunacy? That’s like thinking you can tap dancing on a land mine!
Now, if you were God and you knew a 400-million-man army (all the armies of the earth) were going to march against you, wouldn’t you be just a little worried? Wouldn’t you lose a little sleep? Wouldn’t it concern you even just a little? Is God pacing the floor and wringing Hands? Listen to Psalm 2. “What fools the nations are to rage against the Lord! How strange that men should try to outwit God! For a summit conference of the nations has been called to plot against the Lord and his Messiah, Christ the King. Come, let us break his chains,” they say, “and free ourselves from all this slavery to God.” But God in heaven merely laughs! He is amused by all their puny plans. And then in fierce fury he rebukes them and fills them with fear. (The world will gasp in stunned amazement by the shock and awe of God!) For the Lord declares, “This is the King of my choice, and I have enthroned him in Jerusalem, my holy city” (Ps. 2:1-6, TLB).
Our struggle is we underestimate God’s immeasurable power and infinite wisdom. “Ah Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for You,…”(Jer. 32:17).
We often become complacent in our understanding of who God is in our lives; we stop growing in wonder and awe of His sovereignty. We impoverish God’s ministry to us the moment we forget He is Almighty; the impoverishment is in us, not in Him, charged Oswald Chambers.
Why does God tell us about Armageddon? So, we will understand Him better and trust Him more. One of the major reasons God tells us the future is so that we will understand Him better; so we will take Christ and His Word seriously. So we don’t lose hope! The temptation for you and me is not that we don’t believe Gods Word, but that we don’t believe it enough!
The sobering words of Bailey Smith come to mind: The Christ of the Bible has been reduced to a fallible humanitarian. Salvation has been repackaged into a feel-good experience. Forgotten in today’s “gospel revisionism” is the message that sent Christ to the cross and the disciples to martyrdom. Today’s gospel “lite” is hardly worth living for and certainly not worth dying for. God wants us to know time is short and if we’re going to make an impact for Christ we absolutely must take what He says about the future seriously.
What will Armageddon be like? One word: Unbelievable!!! We’ve covered a lot and yet, we’ve barely skimmed the surface of this amazing prophecy.
When reading my Bible, I often find myself asking God: Why did You write this? I think we need to ask ourselves the same question here as well: Why does God tell us all these things in advance? Why does He want you to know about Armageddon? There are two kinds of people hearing me right now: those who’ve turned from their sin and trusted Christ and those who haven’t.
For those who are followers of Christ, God wants you to know about Armageddon to strengthen your faith in your Savior and His Word. You may feel like giving up, throwing in the towel. God wants you to know your faith and your faithfulness to Him are not in vain.
Years ago, a hydroelectric dam was to be built across a valley in Maine. The people in the town were to be relocated and the town itself submerged. During the time between the initial decision and the completion of the dam, the town, which had once been well-kept, fell into disrepair. Why keep it up now? Explained one resident: Where there is no faith in the future, there is no work in the present. How is your faith meter? Just as true as Armageddon is, so is Heaven. So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless (1 Cor. 15:58, NLT).
Why does God want the person who hasn’t turned to Christ to know about Armageddon? Armageddon is not a fictionalized Hollywood movie. It is a future certainty. The battle of Armageddon may be taking place in you heart this morning. God is calling you to turn from your sin, stop fighting against God in your heart and trust His Son Jesus Christ. The Bible says, There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12, NAS). When you trust Christ as your Savior, the war in your heart is replaced with God’s peace and forgiveness.