Prophecy by The Book: Chapter 7
By Dr. J. Rodman Williams
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The Battle of Armageddon
There is much talk today in prophetic circles about the battle of Armageddon.
Many are saying that the battle is near at hand, and that it will be a terrifying
day for the world, perhaps a nuclear holocaust and much else. What about Armageddon
according to the Book? How are we to go about understanding it?
Only one place in the Bible is the word Armageddon to be found, namely, in
Revelation 16:16: "And they assembled them at the place which is called
in Hebrew Armageddon." Prior to this, the Scripture speaks of "spirits
of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the whole world, to
gather them together for the war [or "the battle" niv] of the great
day of God, the Almighty" (v. 14 nasb). A difficult term to understand,
Armageddon means literally "mountain (Har) of Megiddo." Megiddo was
a populous city in Old Testament times. Today it is a mound of ruins. Throughout
its history, Megiddo was often an arena of warfare. The ancient city stood at
the entrance of a strategic passageway through the Carmel ridge. To the north
and east, it overlooked the broad plain of Esdraelon (Valley of Jezreel)a
plain that could easily accommodate a large battle. On that plain the armies
of Israel defeated Sisera and his host (Judges 5:19); and there the fatal struggle
took place between King Josiah and Pharaoh Neco (2 Kings 23:29).
Now with that background aside, the battle scene of Armageddon in Revelation
is quite extraordinary: (1) "The kings of the whole world" are therehence
this is far larger than any Old Testament encounter that was limited to two
sides battling it out; (2) Demonic spirits, "the spirits of demons, performing
signs ["miraculous signs" niv] had assembled themhow
are we to interpret what this means? It seems already like some very unusual
battle. Go back a few more verses and it may sound even more unusual and strange.
First, the Euphrates river is dried up "that the way might be prepared
for the kings from the east" (v. 12); and, second, there appear three evil
figuresa dragon, a beast, and a false prophetout of
whose mouths issue "three foul spirits like frogs" (v. 13). Those
foul, or unclean spirits, "go out to the kings of the whole world"
to assemble them for "the battle." How are we to understand all this?
Is this a battle of nations, for example, against Israel, with all her enemies
coming out against her (like the Arabic world today that could strike against
the nation of Israel)? It hardly seems like that. There is no mention of Israel,
although the geography could suggest an Israeli location. Further, although
all the kings are drawn to the battle, it does not appear to be their war at
all: it is called "the battle of the great day of God the Almighty"!
It looks like His war against them. Moreover, it is hard to picture "the
kings from the east" (not described) as well as all the kings of
the earth being assembled. Moreover, they seem to have no weapons, no armaments.
How did they all get there; what about countries without kings, etc.? It seems
increasingly clear that Armageddon must be more than, or other than, a military
battle. Note also it is not just one battle among many: it is the battle
not a, but of the great day of God the Almighty!
There is something else I have not mentioned. A strange verse occurs between
the going out of the spirits of demons to gather the kings for the battle (v.
14) and the actual assemblage at Armageddon (v. 16). In parenthesis (nasb, rsv)
are the words: "Behold, I am coming like a thief. Blessed is the one who
stays awake and keeps his garments, lest he walk about naked and men see his
shame" (v. 15). What is that all about? It is, undoubtedly, the voice of
Christ declaring His coming. Recall Matthew 24:43-44 where, after speaking of
a thief coming unexpectedly, Jesus adds: "Therefore you must also be ready;
for the Son of man is coming at an hour you do not expect" (also see 1
Thess. 5:2 and Rev. 3:3). It is a summons to believers to be ready and alert
(keeping one's "garments") for His return. But also it is now clear
that Armageddon is not only the great battle of God the Almighty, it is also
the great day on which Christ returns!
But still, how do we understand all this? It becomes more and more apparent,
I submit, that this is the final spiritual battle, or God's battle in Christ
against the world of evil. The important thing about the kings assembled is
not matters of how they could all get there (geography is quite irrelevant),
etc., but that they represent the whole world (except for those who belong to
Christ) under demonic influence. Let us go back in the Book of Revelation to
observe the significance of the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet from
whose mouth(s) come these spirits of demons. The dragon is Satan (see Rev. 12:9,
also called "the ancient serpent") the ultimate source of all evil,
and the other two are his evil forces at work in the world (see Rev. 13"the
beast...out of the sea" [v. 1] and "the beast...out of the earth"
[v. 11]). This evil trio (a kind of unholy trinity) dominates the world in its
bondage to Satan ("the god of this world" [2 Cor. 4:4]) and its devotion
to self-glorification (beast uttering "haughty blasphemous words"
[13:5]) and pseudo-religion ("deceives those who dwell on earth" [13:14]).
This is the unredeemed evil world from which believers have been delivered (while
still living in it), which in turn hates and persecutes the things of Christ
and His kingdom. It is the coming to fullness of evil and its final and total
For the full picture of this complete destruction, we must turn to Revelation
19:11-21 which gives a further view of Armageddon. The word Armageddon is not
there, but it is clearly the same battle, with the same basic characters. The
passage begins, however, with Christ's return (mentioned only almost parenthetically
in Rev. 16) from heaven ("I saw heaven opened"v. 11)
upon "a white horse...eyes are like a flame of fire...[with] the armies
of heaven...from his mouth...a sharp sword with which to smite the nations...[expressing]
the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty" [recall "God the Almighty"
in Rev. 16]). Next we behold that in addition to the kings already mentioned
in Revelation 16 there are "captains...mighty men...all men...free and
slave...small and great" (v. 18).
In other words, it is the whole anti-Christian world gathered against
Christ and His army of followers. Thus the battle of Armageddon is obviously
far more than a battle in Israel, or any other earthly local setting. It is
in Europe, Asia, Americaanywhere and everywhere at the end of our
present historywhen the anti-God world of all classes of people
will be destroyed at the return of Jesus Christ. Significantly, the Bible tells
of no physical battle. Neither the kings of earth nor any one else fire any
artillery. The evil forces of the beast and the false prophet are simply captured
by Christ, thrown into "the lake of fire" (v. 20), and all the rest
are "slain by the sword of him who sits upon the horse, the sword that
issues from his mouth" (v. 21). From a literal point of view this is a
strange battle indeed, because Christ does not wield the sword by his hand (no
mention even of bloodshed). Rather the sword which is the word from His mouth
The same Jesus Christ, the Word of God through whom all things were made, will
as that same Word destroy all that is evil and vile. Such is the meaning and
result of the battle of the great day of God the Almighty, the battle of Armageddon.
The same results are to be seen Paul's second letter to the Thessalonians,
chapters 1 and 2. In chapter 1 Paul speaks thus of the return of Christ: "When
the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels [note parallel
to Rev. 19"the armies of heaven"] in flaming fire, inflicting
vengeance upon those who do not know God and upon those who do not obey the
gospel of our Lord Jesus" (vv. 7-8). Since this is unmistakably the same
return of Christ as is also depicted in Revelation 19, the various designations
there of captains, mighty men, all men, free and slave, small and great are
included by Paul in his language about "those who do not know God and...do
not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus." It is the execution of "the
wrath of God" (Rev. 19) "inflicting vengeance" (2 Thess. 1) upon
all the anti-God world. This likewise is the battle of Armageddon: even though
some of the imagery varies. It is all the more apparent that this is no military
battle, no nations gathered against Israel, no war in the valley of Esdraelon,
but the final mighty battle of God in Christ against all His foesand
the ensuing total victory!
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Content Copyright 2003 by J. Rodman Williams,
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