What the Armageddon of the Bible Is
DANGER lies in meaningless “wolf calls,” namely, warnings that have no basis in fact. If cries of “Fire! Fire!” are made without there being a fire, the frightful possibility remains that people will not respond when a true alarm is sounded. When warning signs and signals are obscured, muffled or misrepresented, the effect is often calamitous. “For truly,” said Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, “if the trumpet sounds an indistinct call, who will get ready for battle?” (1 Cor. 14:8) Such is the hidden danger behind the misuse of the word “Armageddon,” also known as “Har–Magedon.”
It is no secret that world statesmen, clergy and the public press use the word “Armageddon,” but it is just as obvious that few people know its Biblical meaning. The word itself has come to mean many things to many people, thus diminishing and obscuring its true significance. For example, the Akron Beacon Journal, October 9, 1961, under the editorial heading “The Armageddon Bomb” said: “It is possible that Russia is building up to the test of an ‘Armageddon’ or ‘Doomsday’ bomb, of a hundred megatons—equal to a hundred million tons of TNT.” The implication here is that “Armageddon” has to do with a man-made “doomsday” precipitated by the use of nuclear weapons. Nothing could be farther from the truth, yet it is surprising how many hold to this view, or slight variations of it.
For instance, after a speech on the retaliation doctrine by Russia’s Marshal Malinovsky, the New York Times, June 1, 1960, said that it had become supremely urgent to define the vertical borders of territorial air. “We cannot afford to drift toward Armageddon simply because nobody bothers to face the obvious problem,” the paper said. On October 30, 1961, Francis Cardinal Spellman of the Roman Catholic Church, according to the New York Herald Tribune, called “for prayers to spare the world from ‘thermonuclear Armageddon.’”
The Armageddon that these men fear, however, is not the Armageddon of the Bible. They fear extinction wrought by man.
In a similar vein, referring to the gigantic struggles between nations of men as Armageddon, various writers frequently use the term. For example, in the July 1962 issue of Readers Digest appeared an article entitled “Prelude to Armageddon.” It was a short story about approaching a point of no return from World War I. The Saturday Evening Post, April 20, 1963, featured a major excerpt from a novel by Leon Uris called “Armageddon.” This is a powerful story of the American occupation of Germany following World War II.
As confusing as are such opinions about Armageddon, there are still other opinions to add to the confusion. The Newport Daily News, September 21, 1960, for example, under the subheading “Road to Armageddon” stated: “The gathering of leaders of many nations of the world for the General Assembly of the United Nations sets the stage for Armageddon, the conflict between good and evil.”
From such reports one might be led to believe that Armageddon was being fought by member nations in the conference rooms of the United Nations and that these political powers are waging an ideological war against the forces of evil in the world for the good of all mankind. But the idea ignores the fact that the battle against evil has been going on since the appearance of “evil” in Eden. All these opinions tend to do one thing, namely, confuse men as to the true meaning and significance of the Armageddon mentioned in the Bible.
BEHIND THE WORD “ARMAGEDDON”
The word “Armageddon” is not an invention of the political rulers and kings of the earth. Knowingly or unknowingly, they have borrowed the word from God’s Word, the Bible. Even in the Bible it appears but once, and this is in the passage found at Revelation 16:13, 14, 16: “And I saw three unclean inspired expressions . . . They are, in fact, expressions inspired by demons and perform signs, and they go forth to the kings of the entire inhabited earth, to gather them together to the war of the great day of God the Almighty. . . . And they gathered them together to the place that is called in Hebrew Har–Magedon,” or, according to other translations, “Armageddon.”
What is this “Har–Magedon” or “Armageddon”? From the Scripture text just cited it is clear that the word refers to the symbolic place of an all-out battle in which the political rulers of the earth, under the inducement of invisible demon forces, are gathered together to fight, not against one another in a nuclear war, but against God the Almighty and his Messianic king, Christ Jesus. And because of its association with this symbolic place, the war itself has come to be called Armageddon.
But how can political kings and rulers wage a war against an invisible God? An understanding of the name “Armageddon” will help us to answer these questions. The name is of Hebrew origin and seems to mean “Mountain of Megiddo,” referring to the Hebrew fortress city of Megiddo. It thus becomes clear that it is closely associated with the territory of God’s people who were, in ancient times, the Hebrews. It was at Megiddo or nearby that decisive battles were fought. Here is where Joshua defeated the king of Megiddo. Here Judge Barak gained a victory over Canaanite King Jabin, and in this battle Heaven is said to have fought for the victory of God’s people. Here is where King Josiah was mortally wounded. So at Megiddo kings of the earth gathered for their showdown battles. They fought against the soldiers of Israel, but this was no more than an indirect way of challenging the sovereignty of Jehovah, Israel’s God.—Josh. 12:21; Judg. 4:12-24; 5:19-21; 2 Ki. 23:29, 30.
ATTACK BY GOG OF MAGOG
Further enlightenment on this matter is found in Ezekiel’s prophecy regarding the attack of Gog of Magog. Addressing himself to Satan the Devil, under the symbol of Gog, Jehovah points to the time and the place of the attack and says: “In the final part of the years you will come to the land of people brought back from the sword, collected together out of many peoples, onto the mountains of Israel, . . . even a land that has been brought forth from the peoples, where they have dwelt in security, all of them. And you will be bound to come up. Like a storm you will come in. Like clouds to cover the land you will become, you and all your bands and many peoples with you.”—Ezek. 38:8, 9.
Thus we see that, under the influence of Satan or Gog, the political rulers of the earth, unable to attack the invisible Messianic kingdom of God to show that they refuse to recognize and surrender to it, vent their anger on the only part of the Kingdom’s realm that they can touch, that is, the place, “the land” or the holy estate of spiritual Israel, God’s anointed witnesses here on earth. Ever since the time of Abel Jehovah’s witnesses have been objects of the hatred of men and nations, but this attack is something more than the persecution they have experienced until now. It is a final, all-out attempt to destroy them. When it comes these witnesses will not all be located at any specific geographical location on earth. Neither does the name “Armageddon” appear on any geographical map. It does not refer literally to the neighborhood of Megiddo, now in the territory of the Republic of Israel, but it refers symbolically to the place within the realm of the experiences of Jehovah’s witnesses on earth where the final war is to be fought.
Notice how Ezekiel’s prophecy describes the destruction of God’s wicked enemies that takes place: “And I will . . . bring you in upon the mountains of Israel. . . . On the mountains of Israel you will fall, you and all your bands and the peoples that will be with you. To birds of prey, birds of every sort of wing, and the wild beasts of the field I will give you for food.”—Ezek. 39:2-4.
There is a striking similarity between this and the apostle John’s vision of the battle of Har–Magedon: “I saw also an angel standing in the sun, and he cried out with a loud voice and said to all the birds that fly in midheaven: ‘Come here, be gathered together to the great evening meal of God, that you may eat the fleshy parts of kings and the fleshy parts of military commanders and the fleshy parts of strong men . . . of freemen as well as of slaves and of small ones and great.’ . . . And all the birds were filled from the fleshy parts of them.”—Rev. 19:17-21.
THOSE INVOLVED IN THE FIGHT
Did you notice who are the ones who are reduced to mere carcasses for the birds of prey to feed on? They are the “kings,” “military commanders” and “strong men,” ‘freemen as well as slaves and small ones and great.’ This narrows the destruction of Har–Magedon down to the political kings and rulers of the inhabited earth and those who support them.
So it is vital for every person on the face of the earth to be alert, if he does not want to be numbered among those who will go down in destruction in “the war of the great day of God the Almighty.” One’s responding to the propaganda that teaches one to put confidence in the kingdoms of men instead of the kingdom of God means that one is being guided by “expressions inspired by demons.” One who heeds the urgings of human leaders who encourage one to be active in the affairs of the world, a part of it, so showing that one is on friendly terms with it, is actually being alienated from Christ and becomes an enemy of God. In unmistakable terms Jesus said of his followers: “They are no part of the world.” And the disciple James wrote under inspiration: “Whoever . . . wants to be a friend of the world is constituting himself an enemy of God.”—Rev. 16:13, 14; John 17:14; Jas. 4:4.
For those who thus align themselves against Jehovah God and his kingdom there is no hope for survival. While God may well cause the nations to turn against one another, resulting in much slaughter with their own weapons, as he did with the armies of Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir when they came up against his people in ancient times, he also has at his disposal all the forces of nature. These, too, he will unleash against his foes. And his appointed executioner Jesus Christ, with the angelic forces of heaven, will himself pursue the battle until the entire visible political organization under the control of Satan the Devil, “the god of this system of things,” with all its military and civilian supporters, is completely destroyed from the face of the earth.—2 Chron. 20:1-30; Judg. 5:19-21; Job 38:22, 23; 2 Cor. 4:4.
But does not Armageddon also include the destruction of the false religious element here on earth? No, it does not. As a reading of Revelation chapters 17-19 shows, this is something that will have already been taken care of in the period immediately before Har–Magedon begins. The kings of the earth, symbolized by the “ten horns” of the wild beast of Revelation chapter 17, will turn on the harlotrous system of Babylonish religion and “these will hate the harlot and will make her devastated and naked, and will eat up her fleshy parts and will completely burn her with fire.” (Rev. 17:16) This takes place before the kings make their Armageddon war against the representatives of God’s kingdom on earth. In fact, their pursuit thereafter on to Har–Magedon is nothing more than a demonized attack against anything that stands in the way of their selfish aims to perpetuate themselves in national governments, political systems and international alliances. So, having rid themselves of the religious harlot, they are lured on to the attack against the Messianic kingdom of God, which they refuse to recognize as the rightful government over earth. The Kingdom preaching of Jehovah’s witnesses becomes the object of their wrath. This attack means war, “the war of the great day of God the Almighty,” Har–Magedon.
What about Satan and his demons? Will they be killed or abyssed at the battle of Har–Magedon? No, this is something that comes after the battle of Har–Magedon is over. Then it is that the Angel of angels, Christ Jesus, comes “down out of heaven with the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand” to seize Satan and his demons and hurl them into a state of oblivion. Having witnessed first the destruction of the worldwide empire of false religion, then Har–Magedon from its start to its finish, they will be severely vexed through the humiliation of seeing that the apparently defenseless worshipers of Jehovah whom their human puppets sought to wipe out are the only ones left remaining in the earth.—Rev. 20:1-3.
It is among these worshipers of Jehovah that all lovers of righteousness want to be, and it is for this reason that we must understand what Armageddon really is and avoid the “inspired expressions” that endeavor to align men with the enemies of God at that universal war. False conceptions with regard to man’s immediate future can lead only to disaster. Watch for the outworking of God’s prophecies regarding the Armageddon of the Bible and work in harmony with his will for survival into a new order where “righteousness is to dwell.”—2 Pet. 3:13.