The Truth About Armageddon
“Demonic spirits . . . go abroad to the kings of the whole world . . . , and they assembled them at the place that in Hebrew is called Harmagedon.” (Italics ours.)—REVELATION 16:14, 16, New Revised Standard Version.
ARMAGEDDON, sometimes rendered “Harmagedon,” is the name of a place. That place, however, does not seem to have existed in any literal location on earth.
What, then, is the real significance of the word “Armageddon”? Why is it so often associated with an event, such as a war?
Assembled at the Place Called Armageddon
The original Hebrew word Har–Magedon literally means “Mountain of Megiddo.” Although no such literal mountain existed, a place known as Megiddo does exist. It is located at a strategic crossroads in the northwest of the area inhabited by the ancient nation of Israel. Many decisive battles were fought near that location. Therefore, the name Megiddo became associated with war.*
However, the real significance of Megiddo is, not what battles were fought there, but why they were fought. Megiddo was part of the Promised Land that Jehovah God gave to the Israelites. (Exodus 33:1; Joshua 12:7, 21) He vowed to those people that he would defend them against attackers, and he did. (Deuteronomy 6:18, 19) For example, it was at Megiddo that Jehovah miraculously defended the Israelites against the invading forces of Canaanite King Jabin and his army chief Sisera.—Judges 4:14-16.
Therefore, the word “Har–Magedon,” or “Armageddon,” has great symbolic significance. It is associated with a confrontation, one in which two powerful forces collide.
The prophecy in Revelation speaks of a time in the near future when Satan and the demons will motivate human governments to assemble their armies, thus issuing a defiant challenge to God’s interests. The attack will result in the death of millions of people when God defeats the invaders.—Revelation 19:11-18.
Why would God, whom the Bible describes as “merciful, slow to anger, and abundant in loving-kindness,” cause the death of so many humans? (Nehemiah 9:17) To understand God’s actions, we need to answer three questions: (1) Who starts the war? (2) Why does God become involved? (3) What lasting effect will this confrontation have on the earth and its inhabitants?
1. WHO STARTS THE WAR?
The war of Armageddon is not an act of aggression by God. Instead, God will defend good people from those who would crush them. The aggressors in this conflict are “the kings of the entire inhabited earth,” the world’s leaders. Why the attack? Because, like a puppet master, Satan will maneuver both governmental and military agencies into an all-out assault on those who worship Jehovah God.—Revelation 16:13, 14; 19:17, 18.
In view of the emphasis on freedom of speech and religion in some countries today, the idea that governments would crack down on or even try to obliterate any religious movement may seem far-fetched. However, such attacks occurred during the 20th century and are now taking place.* Even so, there are at least two major differences between previous attacks and the one associated with Armageddon. First, the scale of the attack will be global. Second, the response from Jehovah God will be of a magnitude greater than any action that he has taken in the past. (Jeremiah 25:32, 33) The Bible describes the confrontation as “the war of the great day of God the Almighty.”
2. WHY DOES GOD BECOME INVOLVED?
Jehovah instructs those who worship him to be peaceable and to love their enemies. (Micah 4:1-3; Matthew 5:43, 44; 26:52) So they will not take up arms to defend themselves when this vicious attack comes. If God did not step in to save his people, they would be wiped out. Therefore, Jehovah God’s name, or reputation, will be at stake. If the aggressors managed to do away with His people, it would make Jehovah appear to be unloving, unjust, or helpless. Such an outcome is impossible!—Psalm 37:28, 29.
God does not want to destroy anyone, so he gives fair warning of what he will do. (2 Peter 3:9) By means of accounts preserved in the Bible, he reminds all that in the past he has retaliated when his people were attacked. (2 Kings 19:35) The Bible also warns that in the future when Satan and his human puppets attack God’s people, Jehovah will again step in and meet force with force. In fact, God’s Word long foretold that Jehovah will destroy the wicked. (Proverbs 2:21, 22; 2 Thessalonians 1:6-9) At that time, there will be no doubt in the minds of the attackers that they have picked a fight with the Almighty himself.—Ezekiel 38:21-23.
3. WHAT LASTING EFFECT WILL THIS CONFRONTATION HAVE?
The war of Armageddon results in the saving of millions of lives. In fact, it is a prelude to a period of peace on earth.—Revelation 21:3, 4.
The book of Revelation talks about an unnumbered “great crowd” who will survive this conflict. (Revelation 7:9, 14) Under God’s guidance, these will help to restore the earth to the Paradise conditions that Jehovah originally purposed.
Do we know when this attack on God’s people will come?
Association of a place with war is not uncommon. For example, the Japanese city of Hiroshima, which was obliterated by an atomic bomb, is now a symbol of the threat of nuclear war.
The Holocaust is an example of one government’s attempt to stamp out religious and ethnic groups. During the Soviet era, religious groups within the U.S.S.R. were also severely repressed. See the article “A Peaceable People Defend Their Good Name,” which appeared in The Watchtower of May 1, 2011, published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
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Jehovah God has defended his people in the past
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Jehovah will defend his people again, during the war of Armageddon