Armageddon—What It Is Not
Your destination is only a short ride from Haifa. Under the blaze of the Middle Eastern sun, your car speeds along south of the meandering Kishon River until the valley tapers. Through the narrow gap between the towering Carmel range and the Galilee hills you go, until suddenly the valley opens out before you like a wide, flat saucer—the Plain of Esdraelon. You are motoring on the south side of the plain when your eye catches sight of one hill with an unnaturally level plateaulike top. This is what you are looking for! The tell, or mound, of Megiddo, the source of the word Armageddon.
ARMAGEDDON is shrouded in mystery and misconceptions. Ideas as to its meaning abound. The word Armageddon, though, is derived from Har–Magedon, or Mountain of Megiddo.* It is a Bible word found at Revelation 16:16, which states: “And they gathered them together to the place that is called in Hebrew Har–Magedon [or, Armageddon].”
Who are gathered to Armageddon and why? Revelation 16:14 answers: “The kings of the entire inhabited earth” muster “to the war of the great day of God the Almighty.”
Those answers raise a host of other questions. With whom do “the kings” battle, and over what issue? Where will they fight? Will they use nuclear weapons? Can the war be prevented? Really, what is Armageddon?
Not a Geographic Spot
Armageddon could not be a geographic location. No mountain by that name actually exists—though a mound called Megiddo remains to this day. The real meaning of Armageddon casts its shadow back in history to warfare that centered in that area of Megiddo.
Megiddo has been the site of some of the most fierce and decisive battles in Middle Eastern history. It all began during the second millennium B.C.E. with Egyptian ruler Thutmose III’s smashing victory over Palestinian and Syrian rulers, and stretched through the centuries to the year 1918 when British field marshal Viscount Allenby inflicted a stinging defeat on the Turks.
But more important to Bible students, Megiddo witnessed the magnificent victory of the Israelite forces under the command of Judge Barak over King Jabin’s mighty Canaanite army led by war chief Sisera. Jehovah God intervened and provided the Israelites with a resounding triumph.—Judges 4:7, 12-16, 23; 5:19-21.
Therefore, Armageddon begins to take the form of a crucial battle, with only one clear victor.
Not a War Between Earthly Nations
The issue surrounding the battle of Armageddon—world rulership—is the great issue of today. But, although two opposing superpowers are now grappling for world domination, Armageddon will not be a world war, pitting one of these against the other. True, the world is in the most expensive and frenzied arms race in all history, prompting this comment from India Today: “All this is pushing the planet grimly to the edge of Armageddon—the ultimate war among nations.” But Revelation 16:14 indicates that “the kings of the entire inhabited earth” mobilize a united front at “the war of the great day of God the Almighty.”
Therefore, Armageddon is not man’s war. It is God’s war. Armageddon will find all earthly nations united in battling ‘the armies of heaven’ under the military command of the “King of kings and Lord of lords,” Christ Jesus. He is the rightful ruler of the world because God also “subjected all things under his [Christ’s] feet.”—Revelation 19:14, 16; Ephesians 1:22.
Not a Nuclear Holocaust
For many people, nuclear war is too chilling to think about. A 1983 joint study by 40 scientists estimates that in an all-out nuclear war one third to one half of the total world population would suffer immediate death. Their report, published in Science magazine, predicts a grim future for the survivors. It warns: “In any large-scale nuclear exchange between the superpowers, global environmental changes sufficient to cause the extinction of a major fraction of the plant and animal species on the Earth are likely. In that event, the possibility of the extinction of Homo sapiens cannot be excluded.”
Would Almighty God Jehovah allow such a horror? No! He did not create the earth “simply for nothing,” but as he reassures us, he “formed it even to be inhabited.” (Isaiah 45:18) At Armageddon God will “bring to ruin those ruining the earth,” not scorch it in a nuclear holocaust.—Revelation 11:18.
Not a Continuous Battle Between Good and Evil
Some religious leaders believe Armageddon to be a running struggle between the forces of good and evil, whether worldwide or in the mind. “Armageddon is occurring in some part of the world every day,” notes one Bible commentary. How could this be when the Bible promises that Armageddon will bring swift doom for all evil nations and people? Christ, as God’s anointed King at Armageddon, “will break them with an iron scepter, as though a potter’s vessel [he] will dash them to pieces.”—Psalm 2:9; see also Proverbs 2:21, 22; Revelation 19:11-21.
Not a World Economic Collapse
The world’s most powerful governments fear that a Third World default on debt would propel the global economic situation into what Business Life magazine calls an “Economic Armageddon.” A collapse of the world’s banking institutions would truly be tragic, but it would not be Armageddon. The Bible Armageddon is a worldwide situation involving war, not economics. The prophet Jeremiah describes it in these graphic terms: “There is a controversy that Jehovah has with the nations. He must personally put himself in judgment with all flesh. As regards the wicked ones, he must give them to the sword.”—Jeremiah 25:31.
Not a War in the Middle East
“Somewhere in time, the last conflagration will take place in the Middle East,” preaches world-renowned evangelist Billy Graham. On this matter, he echoes the views of many of his religious colleagues. Graham also believes that Armageddon can be delayed. “I think that the world is heading right now toward Armageddon,” he says, “and that unless there is a spiritual awakening and we turn to God, the world may face its Armageddon in this decade.”
The region of Megiddo could not begin to hold all “the kings of the earth and their armies.” (Revelation 19:19) Therefore, would this not rule out any fundamentalist teaching that Armageddon will be a world war squeezed into the literal plain of Megiddo? The prophet Jeremiah indicates that Armageddon will encompass “the remotest parts of the earth” and that the casualties will be seen “from one end of the earth clear to the other end of the earth.”—Jeremiah 25:32, 33.
And since Armageddon means “the war of the great day of God the Almighty,” no one can prevent it. There is nothing that humans can do that will delay it. Jehovah has set an “appointed time” for the battle to start. “It will not be late.”—Revelation 16:14; 11:18; Habakkuk 2:3.
Basis for Hope
Armageddon is not to be feared by people who love righteousness. To the contrary, it can be a basis for hope. The Bible says: “And I saw the heaven opened, and, look! a white horse. And the one seated upon it is called Faithful and True, and he judges and carries on war in righteousness.” (Revelation 19:11) The battle of Armageddon will wipe the earth clean of all wickedness and pave the way for the restoration of righteous conditions.—Isaiah 11:4, 5.
For more than a hundred years, the voice of Jehovah’s Witnesses has been heard proclaiming God’s future victory over the corrupt, unyielding rulers of this system. Especially since the year 1925 the Witnesses have had a clear view of what Armageddon is and they refuse to keep silent about it. Their desire is to help people to become Armageddon survivors, not casualties. So they urge all who listen to follow the advice of Joel 2:31, 32, which speaks of “the coming of the great and fear-inspiring day of Jehovah,” and adds: “Everyone who calls on the name of Jehovah will get away safe.”
Some, though, may still wonder: Although Armageddon is global in scope, will it start in the Middle East? How could a God of love allow an Armageddon? Will true peace follow Armageddon? Read the next three issues of The Watchtower, for they will address those questions.
Kittel, also McClintock and Strong, Biblical language scholars, are uncertain as to the meaning of the word “Megiddo,” but make reference to the fact that the word could mean “assembly” or “place of troops.”
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What Is Armageddon?
Armageddon IS NOT. . .
◆ a geographic location
◆ a battle between nations
◆ a nuclear holocaust
◆ a global economic collapse
◆ a struggle between good and evil
◆ a Middle Eastern conflict
Armageddon IS. . .
◆ the worldwide situation where all earthly nations will battle against God’s Son, Christ Jesus, and his angelic army in “the war of the great day of God the Almighty”
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At Armageddon God’s King, Jesus Christ, ‘will break all evil nations with an iron scepter, as though a potter’s vessel he will dash them to pieces.’—Psalm 2:9.