Bible Basics

Armageddon: Fact or Fiction?

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While fixing a satellite the Space Shuttle Atlantis was destroyed by a meteor shower, killing the entire crew. Several other meteorites bombarded New York City and other parts of the world causing significant damage to wide areas.

It’s then that NASA discover an asteroid the size of Texas hurtling towards Earth at 22,000 miles per hour, and it will collide with the Earth in 18 days, threatening to wipe out civilisation.

After emergency meetings and collaboration with the Russians, Japanese and European space agencies, the only way it seems possible to stop this catastrophe is to denote nuclear bombs deep in the asteroid’s core splitting it in two and causing it to pass the earth on either side.

Two military shuttles are urgently launched after a brief period of training with the astronauts, and they slingshot round the moon at 22,500 miles per hour to intercept the asteroid and place the nuclear bomb and attempt to avert a global disaster.

This was witnessed in 1998. This is Armageddon. The Movie. Starring Bruce Willis.

Many other films to come out of Hollywood, while they might not be called Armageddon, embrace similar civilisation ending storylines. You may remember such classics as Independence Day as a race of aliens come to destroy the Earth; The Core when the Earth’s core stops spinning creating catastrophic disasters; The Day After Tomorrow when a sudden climate shift plunges Earth into a new Ice Age; there are many more!

This is the kind of scenario that is typically thought of when the word Armageddon is mentioned, and a dictionary definition puts it as: a catastrophic and extremely destructive conflict. World War I viewed as an Armageddon.

Armageddon is thought of as being a huge, violent event on a global scale, whether it be a natural disaster such as earthquakes, tidal waves, asteroids, volcanoes, or plagues, or something less natural like alien invasion or nuclear war.

The word Apocalypse conjures up the same kinds of events, and both have become synonymous with the destruction of the earth and mankind. That understanding though is a great misunderstanding of the true meanings of these words.

The Apocalypse is a Greek transliteration of our word revelation, and apokálypsis simply means unveiling or uncovering, or as is the case of the last book of the New Testament, The Revelation.

Armageddon only appears in the Bible once. That’s in Revelation 16:16.

And they assembled them at the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon. (Rev 16:16)

This word Armageddon comes from the Ancient Greek, Harmagedon and will be according to the Book of Revelation, the site of a battle during the end times, with some interpreting it as literal and others interpreting it as a symbolic location. It will be the battle when God sends Jesus and all the saints to battle against the nations that come against Israel.

There are a couple of thoughts as to where the word comes from, one of them being that it is made up of two Hebrew words, har and megiddo, meaning “mountain of Megiddo”.

Megiddo is mentioned twelve times in the Old Testament, ten times in reference to the ancient city and twice in reference to the plains of Megiddo. None of the Old Testament passages describe Megiddo as being associated with any particular prophecy which you would think likely if it was to be the scene for the battle at the end of the world. Neither is there a mountain at Megiddo, there is a range of hills, but not a mountain. Megiddo is in the north of Israel some 50 miles from Jerusalem.

Some conclude that Armageddon is symbolic place rather than a physical place because there are no mountains of Megiddo, only plains. Others think that the word is more likely to be har moed, or the mountain of assembly, which would then refer to Mount Sinai, and therefore to its replacement at Mount Zion, in Jerusalem.

But, as it was originally a Hebrew word we should perhaps we should be looking more carefully at the word in the Hebrew language. As there is only one letter ‘d’, it might be more correct to break it down in to ‘arma’ which is a heap of sheaves, ‘ge’ which is valley and ‘don’ which means judgement.

That translates as the nations will be gathered together as heaps of sheaves in the valley of judgement.

In Joel 3 with reference to the time when the Jews are a nation again, God will gather all the nations to the Valley of Jehoshaphat.

“For behold, in those days and at that time, when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem, I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. And I will enter into judgment with them there, on behalf of my people and my heritage Israel, because they have scattered them among the nations and have divided up my land, (Joe 3:1-2)

That Valley of Jehoshaphat means the valley of God’s judgement. Also you can compare that with v12-13 that talk of the harvest:

Let the nations stir themselves up and come up 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. Go in, tread, for the winepress is full. The vats overflow, for their evil is great. (Joe 3:12-13)

This is in keeping with the heap of sheaves in a valley of judgement. It can also be called the Valley of Decision, with decision meaning ‘threshing instrument’ to bring the judgement.

There doesn’t appear to be a physical Valley of Jehoshaphat and is perhaps only symbolic of where God chooses to bring judgement on his enemies, but some scholars have placed it just outside Jerusalem between the Temple Mount and the Mount of Olives. This would fit in with much of the end prophecy centred around the Mount of Olives so this Valley of Jehoshaphat is perhaps more likely to be the scene of the end battle, particularly when we read Zechariah’s prophecy of the last days, but as we’ve seen there are several interpretations of the word Armageddon and no-one will know for sure where it is until that battle takes place.

Then the LORD will go out and fight against those nations as when he fights on a day of battle. On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives that lies before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley, so that one half of the Mount shall move northward, and the other half southward. And you shall flee to the valley of my mountains, for the valley of the mountains shall reach to Azal. And you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the LORD my God will come, and all the holy ones with him. (Zec 14:3-5)

This shows that there will be a huge earthquake that splits the Mount of Olives in two, and we get more information in Revelation:

And they assembled them at the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon. The seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple, from the throne, saying, “It is done!” And there were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, and a great earthquake such as there had never been since man was on the earth, so great was that earthquake. The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell, and God remembered Babylon the great, to make her drain the cup of the wine of the fury of his wrath. And every island fled away, and no mountains were to be found. And great hailstones, about one hundred pounds each, fell from heaven on people; and they cursed God for the plague of the hail, because the plague was so severe. (Rev 16:16-21)

In v18 we see the great earthquake as described in Zechariah, and accompanied by lightning and thunder and massive hailstones. This is going to be the biggest earthquake ever felt, and seismologists have shown that a fault line running through Israel and under the Mount of Olives is connected to many other major faults lines and some have suggested the earthquake at Armageddon will be so powerful that its effects will be felt all around the world and when this happens everyone will know about it.

Ezekiel 37 to 40 outlines a period of prophecy that started with the return of the Jews to the land in Ezekiel 37 and ends with a vision of the kingdom in chapter 40 which hasn’t yet come to pass, so we are somewhere in the time of chapters 38 and 39 waiting for the gathering at Armageddon.

Armageddon TimelineFirstly, when is it going to take place?

There is no one place in the Bible where everything is laid out in sequence with a description of each stage. It’s a bit like trying to piece together a jig-saw puzzle without knowing the full picture from the box to copy. We might find that bits of the jig-saw puzzle don’t fit exactly where we thought they would, and the end picture is slightly different to how we imagined it would be, and in reality we may find that events happen much faster or slower, or at different times to what we expected.

The return of the Jews in 1948 is a clear sign that the era of Jesus’ return has begun, but it’s difficult to know when the next stage will start. All we can do is look for the signs that we are told of in the Bible.

They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive among all nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. “And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” (Luk 21:24-28)

This gives us a marker for determining when the return of Jesus is near, and from this passage we can see that when Jerusalem is back in Jewish hands the end of the Gentile times will be fulfilled and Christ’s return is near. 1967 was the year when the Jews finally regained control of Jerusalem after 1900 years, they don’t have full sole control over the whole of Jerusalem as of yet, but it’s certainly a significant development towards the end of the Gentile times. There will be a period of distress and perplexity, that word perplexity meaning ‘no way out’, so the nations involved will be so distressed that they will see no way out of the situation and v26 goes on to tell us that men’s hearts will fail them for fear. When you see these signs, look up and lift your heads, for your redemption is near. We don’t know the date, but we can see the beginning of the signs. It’s not until we see these signs though will the last final prophecies be fulfilled leading up to Armageddon and the nations will gather together to attack Israel and at some point before Armageddon, Jesus will return.

Who is going to be involved?

Ezekiel 38 is a well known prophecy about what will happen in the last days before Jesus returns.

The word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, set your face toward Gog, of the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him and say, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I am against you, O Gog, chief prince of Meshech and Tubal. And I will turn you about and put hooks into your jaws, and I will bring you out, and all your army, horses and horsemen, all of them clothed in full armor, a great host, all of them with buckler and shield, wielding swords. Persia, Cush, and Put are with them, all of them with shield and helmet; Gomer and all his hordes; Beth-togarmah from the uttermost parts of the north with all his hordes–many peoples are with you. “Be ready and keep ready, you and all your hosts that are assembled about you, and be a guard for them. After many days you will be mustered. In the latter years you will go against the land that is restored from war, the land whose people were gathered from many peoples upon the mountains of Israel, which had been a continual waste. Its people were brought out from the peoples and now dwell securely, all of them. You will advance, coming on like a storm. You will be like a cloud covering the land, you and all your hordes, and many peoples with you. “Thus says the Lord GOD: On that day, thoughts will come into your mind, and you will devise an evil scheme and say, ‘I will go up against the land of unwalled villages. I will fall upon the quiet people who dwell securely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having no bars or gates,’ to seize spoil and carry off plunder, to turn your hand against the waste places that are now inhabited, and the people who were gathered from the nations, who have acquired livestock and goods, who dwell at the center of the earth. Sheba and Dedan and the merchants of Tarshish and all its leaders will say to you, ‘Have you come to seize spoil? Have you assembled your hosts to carry off plunder, to carry away silver and gold, to take away livestock and goods, to seize great spoil?’ (Eze 38:1-13)

There are a number of nations mentioned here that join forces to invade Israel and will virtually wipe them out, and they will be, we are told in verse 3, led by the nation called Gog and with Gog will be the nations of Persia, Ethiopia, Libya, Gomer and Togarmah. Bible scholars and historians have tried to identify these nations with the nations that are in the world today. Some suggest that Gog refers to the country of Russia. In v3, where it says chief prince, Hebrew scholars say it should be the proper noun Rosh, and should be left as that and not translated into English. In other words, this nation of Gog is the prince of Rosh and is an ancient Hebrew word for Russia.

Others who will join with Russia might be as follows.

Persia – the land of Iran, Iraq and Qatar
Ethiopia – the land just below Egypt (Sudan)
Libya – Libya (same as today)
Gomer – France and western Europe (Gomer is the Hebrew word for the Gauls who settled in France and Western Europe)
Togarmah – Turkey
Magog – Germany

These countries may or may not be correctly identified, but what is certain is a group of nations will come and attack Israel and this will be a sign that Jesus is soon to return.

In v13, we are told that some nations will oppose the attack from Gog and the other nations.

The names we have are Sheba, Dedan and the merchants of Tarshish. Again scholars have attempted to put modern day countries to these names, and suggest that Sheba and Dedan are the southern countries around Israel like Oman, Yemen and Saudi Arabia, and the merchants of Tarshish are generally identified as the western powers such as America and Britain and their colonies. Whatever countries these are they will oppose the northern invasion headed by Gog, but Ezekiel 38 makes it clear that their opposition to the attack will fail.

If we go back to the prophecy of Zechariah, we shall see that there will be horrific scenes in Israel.

In the whole land, declares the LORD, two thirds shall be cut off and perish, and one third shall be left alive. (Zec 13:8)

The land refers to the Bible land of Israel, and so two thirds will die and the remaining third will in v9…

And I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘They are my people’; and they will say, ‘The LORD is my God.'” (Zec 13:9)

They will be persecuted to their limit until they are forced to call out to God for help. There will be some appalling things that happen in Israel and Jerusalem, and I’ll leave you to read Zech 14:2 for yourself to see what sort of things.

When the Jews finally call out to God for help, he will send Jesus back and the saints into the battle of Armageddon and that’s where we link up with the verses we looked at from Zechariah 14 earlier. That’s when the battle of Armageddon will begin. Armageddon isn’t the great wave of attacks that result in the near destruction of Israel, but the battle of Jesus and the saints against those invading forces afterwards.

What will the result be?

And there shall be a unique day, which is known to the LORD, neither day nor night, but at evening time there shall be light. On that day living waters shall flow out from Jerusalem, half of them to the eastern sea and half of them to the western sea. It shall continue in summer as in winter. And the LORD will be king over all the earth. On that day the LORD will be one and his name one. The whole land shall be turned into a plain from Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem. But Jerusalem shall remain aloft on its site from the Gate of Benjamin to the place of the former gate, to the Corner Gate, and from the Tower of Hananel to the king’s winepresses. And it shall be inhabited, for there shall never again be a decree of utter destruction. Jerusalem shall dwell in security. (Zec 14:7-11)

The invading nations shall be defeated and the Lord Jesus will reign over all the earth, and the nations that were defeated will experience some nasty things (as outlined in v12-15).

And this shall be the plague with which the LORD will strike all the peoples that wage war against Jerusalem: their flesh will rot while they are still standing on their feet, their eyes will rot in their sockets, and their tongues will rot in their mouths. And on that day a great panic from the LORD shall fall on them, so that each will seize the hand of another, and the hand of the one will be raised against the hand of the other. Even Judah will fight at Jerusalem. And the wealth of all the surrounding nations shall be collected, gold, silver, and garments in great abundance. And a plague like this plague shall fall on the horses, the mules, the camels, the donkeys, and whatever beasts may be in those camps. (Zec 14:12-15)

The nations that didn’t fight against Jerusalem will hand over their rule to Jesus.

Then everyone who survives of all the nations that have come against Jerusalem shall go up year after year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Booths. (Zec 14:16)

They will worship Jesus and the Lord God in the new kingdom age, a kingdom of harmony and peace.

Our subject was Armageddon – Fact or Fiction? Of course we can probably decide for ourselves that the Bruce Willis blockbuster released in 1998 was a work of fiction. It was the top grossing film for 1998 raking in over half a billion dollars. Don’t you think if a work of fiction was so appealing, the real Armageddon should be even more popular?!

How do we know it’s real though? How do we know Armageddon is going to happen?

It’s a perfectly valid question and one everyone should ask themselves. The answer is Bible prophecy. So many of the predictions that have been made in the Bible have come true, sometimes predictions that were made hundreds or thousands of years before they happened. There are plenty of prophecies that are still to be fulfilled, but no prophecy in the Bible has ever been shown to be false. That’s what makes the Bible so reliable.

The most striking area of Bible prophecy is the history of the Jews and in particular their return to the land of Israel after 1900 years. They are a tiny, but remarkable nation, having been completely removed from their homeland by the Romans in the first century and persecuted throughout the ages (the holocaust being one such incident) and with no land to live in, but yet they survived and are now back in their land in what is described by historians and scholars as nothing short of miraculous. The reason for this is that the nation of Israel is God’s people, but what is equally amazing is that the history of the Jews was accurately predicted in the Bible, long before it happened.

There are several passages in the Bible that speak of the scattering and the persecution of the Jews, and finally their return to the land. It has all come to pass as the Bible predicted and we have no reason to believe that the Bible predictions about the nation of Israel that are still to come in the future won’t also come to pass. It will happen.

So, when we think of Armageddon, it’s perhaps not the global disaster that we might expect. There will be plenty of destruction in the lead up to the battle of Armageddon, but the end result will not be total annihilation of mankind or the world, but the beginning of the glorious and beautiful Kingdom of God which will be ruled over by Jesus for ever and ever.

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