Armageddon is not a literal place, but God’s judgment – the Day of the Lord

The final verse of the Sixth Plague is the only place in the Bible that explicitly refers to Armageddon:

They gathered them together to the place
which in Hebrew is called Har-Magedon

(Revelation 16:16 – NASB).

Verse 14 says that they are gathered together for “the war of the great day of God,” but verse 16 does not describe the war; only the gathering. 

SUMMARY

SYMBOLIC INTERPRETATION

There is no place called Armageddon (Har-Magedon in the NASB).

Interpreters offer many solutions to identify a specific geographical location, but none of these proposals are especially persuasive.  For this reason, we should interpret Armageddon figuratively.  Other reasons to prefer a symbolic interpretation include the following:

      • The SYMBOLIC context of the plagues;
      • MODERN WARFARE does not allow for a world war limited to one specific geographical location. 
      • The GLOBAL nature of the other plagues.

REPEATED

The book of Revelation describes Armageddon in many other places without using the word Armageddon:

There are many similarities between Armageddon in the Sixth Plague and the Return of Christ in Revelation 19.  For example, in both there are two groups of kings, with the kings of the world are gathered together for war to one place while the other kings move towards them. 

Both the harvest at the end of Revelation 14 and the war at the Return of Christ in Revelation 19 refer to the treading of the winepress.

The sixth seal is the “GREAT DAY of their wrath,” similar to the “GREAT DAY of God” in the Sixth Plague.

The sixth plague is the only place in the Bible where we find the exact phrase “the great day of God,” but outside Revelation variations of it appear in nearly 30 verses.

Since Armageddon is mentioned repeatedly in Revelation and since it is the same as the Old Testament war of the “Day of the Lord,” it cannot be a world war between the nations of the world that is limited to one geographical location on the globe.

THE DAY OF THE LORD

An analysis of the Day of the Lord passages in the Bible shows that it, and therefore Armageddon:

      • Is always near and coming very quickly;
      • Turns the sun into darkness and the moon into blood;
      • Is the day of the Lord’s wrath;
      • Is destruction from the Almighty;
      • Most importantly, is the day of judgment:

CONCLUSION

The kings of the earth are not gathered to a physical place, but the spirits of demons will unite world leaders in mind and spirit against God.  Armageddon will be a physical war, but it will be worldwide.

NO PLACE CALLED ARMAGEDDON

There is no place called Armageddon (Har-Magedon in the NASB).

Har means mountain.  Magedon is normally connected with Megiddo, an ancient fortress-city located on a plain in the southwest portion of the Valley of Jezreel (Jewish name) or Esdraelon (Greek name), some sixty miles north of Jerusalem.  Har-Magedon would mean ‘the Mountain of Megiddo’, but there is no such mountain.  Interpreters offer many solutions to identify a specific geographical location:

Armageddon could refer to the hill country surrounding the Plain of Megiddo.  Over time, more than two hundred battles have been fought in that region. OR

It could refer to Megiddo and Mount Carmel in one breath.  Mount Carmel hosted one of the most significant battles in Israel’s history—the battle in which the prophet Elijah defeated the prophets of Baal (1 King 18).  This spiritual battle may stand behind the battle of Armageddon.

One frequent suggestion is that it refers to Ezekiel’s prophecy of a great eschatological slaughter of the nations on “the mountains of Israel” (Ezek. 38:8-21; 39:2, 4, 17) and that the name Megiddo has been added as the place where, so often in Israel’s history, the enemies of God were destroyed.

Others interpret Armageddon without reference to Megiddo, but still as a specific geographical location.

None of these proposed solutions are especially persuasive.  For this reason, we should interpret it figuratively.  Other reasons to prefer a symbolic interpretation include the following:

The SYMBOLIC CONTEXT in which we find Armageddon in the Sixth Plague.

MODERN WARFARE does not allow for a world war limited to one specific geographical location.  A major part of warfare today is on the sea and by air.  Through missiles, aircraft and aircraft carriers a modern army can strike very precisely anywhere in the world.  

The GLOBAL NATURE of the plagues – the previous plagues all affect the entire world.  (See the previous articles.)

ARMAGEDDON IN OTHER CHAPTERS

If we accept a symbolic interpretation, then we will see that the book of Revelation describes Armageddon in many other places without the use of the word Armageddon:

REVELATION 19

The article – Kings from the East – lists many similarities between the Sixth Plague and the Return of Christ in Revelation 19:

In both, there are two groups of kings (16:12, 14; 19:16, 19). 

In both, the kings of the world are gathered together for war to one place (16:14, 16-Armageddon; 19:19) while the other kings move towards them (16:12; 19:14). 

In both, we find five entities:
– The Dragon,
– The Beast,
– The False Prophet,
– The Kings of the earth and
– The other group of kings (16:12-14; 19:20; 20: 2). 

Both are called “the day of God”.  That is explicit in the Sixth Plague but is implied in Revelation 19, for all sinners will be killed when Christ returns (19:21).  This—according to Isaiah 13:9 and Zephaniah 1:18—will happen on the “day of the Lord:”

Then God “will exterminate all sinners” (Is. 13:9).
He will make a complete end … of all the inhabitants of the earth” (Zeph. 1:18).  

On the basis of these similarities, it is concluded that the war at the end of Revelation 19 is also “the war of the great day of God, the Almighty” referred to in the Sixth Plague (16:14), which 16:16 refers to as Armageddon.

REVELATION 14

Both the harvest at the end of Revelation 14 and the war at the Return of Christ in Revelation 19 refer to the treading of the winepress (14:20; 19:15).  The harvest is, therefore, another description of Armageddon.

SIXTH SEAL

The sixth seal is the “Great Day of their wrath” (6:17), similar to “the Great Day of God” in the Sixth Plague, and therefore also describes Armageddon.

CONCLUSION

The sixth plague is the only place in the Bible where we find the exact phrase “the great day of God,” but outside Revelation variations of it appear in nearly 30 verses, such as:

Near is the great day of the LORD” (Zeph. 1:14).
The judgment of the great day” (Jude 1:6).

If we accept that Armageddon is mentioned repeatedly in Revelation and that it is the same as the Old Testament war of the “Day of the Lord,then it cannot be a war between the nations of the world that is limited to one geographical location on the globe. It must rather be interpreted consistent with the frequent references in the Bible to the “Day of the Lord.” 

THE DAY OF THE LORD

This section lists some characteristics of the Day of the Lord, which therefore also applies to Armageddon:

THE TIME IS NEAR

The most frequently mentioned characteristic of the Day of the Lord is that it is near and coming very quickly (Zeph. 1:7, 14; Isa 13:6; Ezek. 30:3; Joel 1:15; 2:1; 3:14; Oba 1:15).

We find the same principle in Revelation, which describes the predicted events as “the things which must SOON take place” (1:1) and “the time is NEAR” (22:10). 

SUN TURNS INTO DARKNESS

The second characteristic of that day is that “The sun will be turned into darkness And the moon into blood” (Joel 2:31; Act 2:20).  In Revelation, before describing the peoples of the world hiding from the Lord in caves and under rocks, the sixth seal elaborates on these signs:

The sun became black as sackcloth made of hair, and
the whole moon became like blood;
and the stars of the sky fell to the earth (6:12, 13)

THE LORD’S ANGER

The Day of the Lord will be “the day of the LORD’S anger” (Zep 2:2, 3) and “wrath” (Zep 1:18 NASB).  It is “Cruel, with fury and burning anger” (Isa 13:9).

Revelation represents that day similarly:

All the peoples of the world will scream “hide us … from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”  (6:16-17). 

He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God” (19:15).

DESTRUCTION

The Day of the Lord is “destruction from the Almighty” (Is. 13:6; Joel 1:15).  It “will make the land a desolation” (Is. 13:9).  “All the earth will be devoured in the fire” (Zeph. 1:18).  “The heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up” (2Pe 3:10).

This is also how Revelation presents that day:

The sky was split apart … and every mountain and island were moved out of their places” (6:14).
Every island fled away, and the mountains were not found” (16:20).

JUDGMENT

But the most important characteristic of the Day of the Lord is that it is a day of judgment:

As you have done, it will be done to you” (Oba 1:15).
Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision” (Joel 3:14).
God “will
exterminate all sinners” (Isa 13:9).
But God’s people will “be hidden in the day of the LORD’S anger” (Zeph. 2:3) and “
saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” (1Co 5:5).

In Revelation:

In the Sixth Seal, the lost try to hide in the rocks and caves (6:15), while the saved stand before the throne (7:9). 

The harvest symbolizes the lost as “the clusters from the vine” (14:18), which “was trodden outside the city, and blood came out from the winepress, up to the horses’ bridles” (14:20).  But it refers to the saved as the “harvest of the earth” (14:15). 

In Revelation 19, the lost are killed (19:21), while the saved “came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years” (20:4). 

This distinction is also described by the parable:

“All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left.  (Mt. 25:32-33)

VALLEY OF DECISION

It is worth reading the powerful description of the Day of the Lord in Joel 3 because of the many similarities to the three main Armageddon-passages in Revelation:

Verses 9 to 11 sound like the SIXTH PLAGUE:

Prepare for war! … let all the men of war draw near…   Assemble and come, all you nations, and gather together

Verse 12 focuses on JUDGMENT, something which Revelation does not mention directly: 

 Let the nations be wakened, and come up to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; for there I will sit to judge all the surrounding nations. 

Verse 13 is similar to THE HARVEST at the end of Revelation 14:

Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. … the winepress is full, the vats overflow; for their wickedness is great. 

Verse 14 is similar to the SIXTH SEAL:

Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the Day of the LORD is near … The sun and moon will grow dark, and the stars will diminish their brightness. … the heavens and earth will shake; but the LORD will be a shelter for his people …  (Joel 3:9-17)

Both Joel and Revelation, when describing the Day of the Lord, refer to a harvest, a winepress, preparation for war, assemble and gather together, sickle, signs to the sun moon and stars and terrible earthquakes.

Joel’s valley of decision and Armageddon is therefore the same place.  There God “will sit to judge” (Joel 3:12).  After thousands of years of religious persecution, God will make a distinction between His people and unbelievers.

CONCLUSION

The kings of the earth are not gathered to a physical place, but the spirits of demons will unite world leaders in mind and spirit against God.  The kings of the earth are “gathered” in the sense that they are all convinced to join forces against the enemy of the world, whom they see as the Lamb, represented by His people on earth.

Armageddon will be a physical war, but it will be worldwide.

 

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