The Battle of Armageddon - What is it?
The French military and political leader Napoleon Bonaparte once stood at the valley of Megiddo, which is a large tract of land and inland valley south of the Lower Galilee region in Israel, and remarked, "All the armies of the world could maneuver their forces on this vast plain." Napoleon at that time either knowingly or unknowingly made a prophetic statement, because the Bible specifically states that one day all the world's armies will indeed converge on that location and be met in battle by God Himself.
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The Apostle John, writing in the book of Revelation, describes the event: "The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up, to prepare the way for the kings from the east. And I saw, coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs. For they are demonic spirits, performing signs, who go abroad to the kings of the whole world, to assemble them for battle on the great day of God the Almighty. ('Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed!') And they assembled them at the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon" (Revelation 16:12-16).
The scene depicted in The Apocalypse (the book of Revelation, which means "the unveiling") is part of the Great Tribulation's bowl judgments that are delivered upon the earth, increasing judgments from God on an unbelieving world. The culmination of God's wrath is the gathering together of all the Antichrist's forces along with all other remaining armies into a singular location where God will destroy them.
In the Old Testament, the prophet Joel described the scene in this way: "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 … Proclaim this among the nations: Consecrate for war; stir up the mighty men. Let all the men of war draw near; let them come up. Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruning hooks into spears; let the weak say, 'I am a warrior.' Hasten and come, all you surrounding nations, and gather yourselves there. Bring down your warriors, O LORD. 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." (Joel 3:2, 9–13).
The focus of this great event will be Jerusalem, which is confirmed by the prophet Zechariah: "For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city shall be taken and the houses plundered and the women raped. Half of the city shall go out into exile, but the rest of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then the LORD will go out and fight against those nations as when he fights on a day of battle" (Zechariah 14:2-3).
John's vision of this day begins by describing the drying up of the Euphrates River, a river first mentioned in Genesis 2 and which acted as a natural border between east and west. What served initially to water humanity's cradle of civilization will turn into humankind's grave as it is dried up, thus erasing an impasse that allows an army to come, literally, "from the rising of the sun." A massive oriental invasion of Israel is thus prepared by God and aimed directly at the Antichrist's base of operations.
The oriental army is cajoled into acting along with other military legions around the world by three demonic spirits that proceed from the Antichrist, his false prophet, and Satan himself. All the world's armies are convinced to converge on Israel from the signs performed by the satanic trinity, with the true underlying purpose being to fight against God Himself: "And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who was sitting on the horse and against his army" (Revelation 19:19).
The actual location for this short-lived battle is described in Scripture as "Har-Magedon" (Revelation 16:16 NASB), which literally means "Mount Megiddo." There is actually no mountain by that name, but "Har" can refer to hill country. This being the case, it is likely a reference to the hill country surrounding the Plain of Megiddo, which is some sixty miles north of Jerusalem and the place described by Napoleon as being the perfect battlefield for all the world's armies.
In this location, all the worldly combatants will be met head on by God Almighty in the second coming of Christ to the earth and will be destroyed: "They [the world's armies] will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful" (Revelation 17:14). The end of Revelation 19 describes the doom of the Antichrist and all the armies with him this way: "And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur. And the rest were slain by the sword that came from the mouth of him who was sitting on the horse, and all the birds were gorged with their flesh" (Revelation 19:20–21).
Pastor and teacher John MacArthur describes the scene as "the greatest calamity in all of human history." That calamity will fall on all who reject Christ, but for those who receive Him as Savior and Lord, their future will be much different. David addresses both groups in the Psalms when he writes: "Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him" (Psalm 2:12).
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