From time to time, when a major international crisis is brewing, one that could escalate into a military confrontation, it is not unusual to hear pundits suggesting that failure to resolve the crisis peacefully will lead to “Armageddon.” Disregarding, for a moment that these pundits may be full of something that needs to be deposited into a porcelain plumbing fixture, what is “Armageddon.”
Because the word suffers from overuse, just like the word “awesome” the actual meaning of “Armageddon” in the minds of most people is somewhere between totally lost and a hazy idea about a catastrophic battle of great proportions. Just as your newest pair of blue jeans are less than awe-inspiring even though they fit decently, so too the latest saber-rattling over North Korea is not likely to signal the onset of “Armageddon.”
Okay, you may be thinking, just what is this “Armageddon?” To answer that, it is necessary to explain where the term first appeared so that it came to be as well-known or at least as much used as it is. In the last book of the Bible called Revelation (not pluralized by the way), an elderly follower of Jesus Christ by the name of John who happens to be on the island of Patmos off the coast of modern-day Turkey is given a peak into the future. You could think of this as an extensive audio-visual presentation spanning the next two-thousand years beyond his time (ca. 90 AD). John’s assignment is to produce a written account of what is revealed to him. He is not in the role of author but more of a secretary taking dictation. In Chapter 16 of this account, John describes a tremendous battle which occurs shortly prior to the establishment of a form of worldwide government which would not please the U.N.
We are told that this battle will occur at a place which is called “Armageddon” in the Hebrew language (see verse 16). This distinction is made because, as many of your will know, the New Testament was originally written in Greek, the term is borrowed. This place name could be translated into English a “mountain of Megiddo”. Megiddo is an ancient city site going back to the time of the Patriarchs, i.e. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (a.k.a. Israel) and earlier, having been in Canaanite hands in the Middle Bronze Age (ca. 2200-1950 B.C.).
To find the location in a current world atlas, find a geo-political map of the modern state of Israel. Let your eyes run up the Mediterranean coast side from Gaza to the border with Lebanon. Just south of the Lebanese border you’ll see an indentation on the coast where the present-day port city of Haifa is located (32°48N, 35°00E). Looking southeast from Haifa, you’ll see a seasonal stream, the River Kishon flowing to the Mediterranean in a valley flanked by a range of mountains to the south. The range begins with a tall peak near Haifa (Mt. Carmel).
Your atlas may show an oil pipeline with a terminus at Haifa as well. About 30 kilometers inland, southeast of Haifa, you’ll see a small city north of the streambed/stream by the name of Afula (32°36N, 35°17E). Near Afula, but on the south side of the stream you would be near the sire of ancient Megiddo.
So here you have a sheltered harbor and port facility good for off-loading military hardware, a pipeline of no doubt of some strategic value roads and highways good for moving armor, soldiers and material inland plus a valley for playing war in. About 90 kilometers south, you have an International Airport at Lod on the outskirts of Tel Aviv capable of handling the latest Boeing or Airbus. Once you have control of the airport, you can get a load of paratroopers to Megiddo in what, ten minutes? Fighter planes in five minutes, give or take? Ninety kilometers would be like flying from Eielson to Nenana, a piece of cake once you’ve established air superiority. The Israeli Air Force is very good. What would it take to overwhelm the guys flying the planes with the light blue star of David insignia? Just thinking, that’s all.
So now you are wondering, isn’t this a lot of stretching of one verse?
There’s more information in both the Old and New Testament on this Armageddon battle.
Now what? Are you worried that I’m leading to the part where I tell you where you need to go to church so you can confess your sins and give your heart to Jesus? You can relax, that’s somebody else’s racket. Hopefully, what you read here will prove to be halfway interesting, kind of like the rare English Lit class where you don’t want the end of the class period to come so you can run, not walk, to your chemistry lecture.
Okay, we know where this Armageddon battle will be fought. Who all is wanting to come to this blood-letting? So far all we know is who will be playing defense.
We get some insight into that question in the Old Testament book of Ezekiel chapters 38 and 39. (Sorry, if you want the part of interest to people heavily into UFO’s you want chapter 1). In both Chapter 38 and 39 we see that a nation called Magog, headed up by a guy called Gog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal is involved, also Persia, Cush and Put. One of these should not be so hard to figure out. Most of us with modicum of education know that Persia is just the old name for what is not called Iran. We get some help on figuring our Magog, in both Ch. 38 and 39 we are told that this nation comes to the battle from the Far North. You might whip out the old atlas and see which nations ring the Arctic Ocean. I see Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Norway, Sweden, and Finland. Also, Russia. Any bets? Another name for the chief prince is found in margin notes “the prince of Rosh.” This country can field an army also called a “great horde” (v. 15 ch 38) and it will be a job to get them all buried. Bulldozer job. Think D-10’s and 988 front end loaders. The valley even gets a new nickname, “Harmon Gog”, meaning Gog’s Hordes. The margin notes for Ch. 38 identity Cush as the upper Nile Region. Try looking south of Aswan in your atlas.
In the Book of Joel we get further information; that more than the aforementioned nations will be participants. Note verse 2 of chapter 3 which speaks of gathering “all nation to the Valley of Jehoshaphat” (another name for the valley where Megiddo was located). Or verse 11 “Come quickly, all you nations…. “Likewise, the 14thchapter of the book of Zachariah, verse 2. “I will gather all the nations to Jerusalem to fight against it.” Who might be organizing this mass effort against the Israelis now that the Trump Administration has recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Could this be an invasion by the Mother of all U.N. peacekeeping forces?
How big of an international effort are we talking about to wrest control of Jerusalem from Israeli control? Joel chapter 3 verse 14 describes the number a “Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision”! But that’s not an actual number you might argue. Okay, try this on for size. In Revelation chapter 9, verse 16 we read: “The number of the mounted troops was two- hundred-million. I (John) heard their number.” Although described as “mounted” I doubt they are coming on literal horses. That didn’t work out too well for Poland in September of 1939. Read the rest of the chapter for context and you may be convinced that the war machines described had not yet been invented at the time that John wrote the account of what was coming.
How will this battle of Armageddon work out for the inhabitants of the present-day state of Israel and the city of Jerusalem. I happened to be in Germany at the time of the Six Day War in which the Israelis triumphed over enemy countries which had a 40:1 population advantage. I remember walking past a sidewalk café where German men who were of an age to have served in the Wehrmacht in WWII gestured and spoke in admiration of the Israeli tactics by which they won control of the Golan Heights. Diagrams of the tank battles were on the front page of the newspapers they held in hand. This next conflict promises more difficult odds.
In the book of Zechariah chapter 14, verse 2, we read about Jerusalem’s fate. “the city will be captured, the house ransacked and the women raped. Half of the city will go into exile, but the rest of the people will not be taken from the city.” How will this battle go for the nations fighting against Jerusalem? Not so well either. There will be some kind of plague that rots the flesh of these people while they are yet standing, rots their eyes in their sockets and rots out their tongues. Furthermore, the erstwhile allies will take to fighting each other. This sounds about par for the course when the event is organized by the United Nations but the Biblical description infers that this turn of events is supernaturally inspired. To get the full scoop you may as well read all of Zechariah Chapter 14.
Whether or not the U.N. is the instigator or organizer of this invasion at the “valley of decision” it is going to be really pissed off about the “rest of the story” as Paul Harvey used to say. In the 19thChapter of Revelation we are told that Jesus Christ will be showing up to govern Planet Earth coming as “King of Kings and Lord of Lords”. Just after the death of King Solomon the Israelite nation divided into the ten-tribed Northern Kingdom and the Jews Benjamites and Levitical priesthood in the Southern Kingdom. With the return of Jesus Christ these people will be reunited, we are told, under the rule of resurrected King David. This described in Ezekiel Chapter 37. This will be a happy and prosperous time for mankind “when the reaper will be overtaken by the plowman and the planter by the one treading grapes”. Amos Chapter 9 provided addition details.
This may all sound like poppycock to you the reader even if you got this far but now you know what is behind the term “Armageddon”.