The Battle of Armageddon

The Battle of Armageddon

The current tensions in the Middle East and present concern over Islamic terrorism have sparked renewed interest in biblical prophecy. The April 6th, 2003 edition of the Washington Times reported that “the bloody conflict in the Middle East is again turning some evangelicals to the Bible for texts that speak of a final cosmic battle in those ancient lands.” This final cosmic battle is known as Armageddon. Mentioned by name only in Revelation 16:16, this prophetic image has captured the imagination of speculators for centuries.

Perhaps the most famous prophecy speculator in the last one hundred years is Hal Lindsey. His book, The Late Great Planet Earth, is one of the all time best selling books on the New York Times list. In many other books, on television and radio, and through the internet, Lindsey has repeatedly warned that the time of Armageddon is near. Lindsey believes that military powers from the Islamic countries in Africa, the European Confederation, Russia, and China, will converge upon Israel in this final military showdown.

Ezekiel predicts that a nation to the extreme north of reborn Israel will become Israel’s arch enemy. It will be a nation with a vast arsenal with which it will arm all of the Muslim nations. Russia is the only nation to the extreme north of Israel. And they are descended from the tribe of Magog through the Scythians, just as Ezekiel predicted. God Himself commands this power from the extreme north to take command of the confederated Muslim forces and lead them in an all out attack against Israel. This attack is the first battle of the war of Armageddon. (Hal Lindsey Website Ministries)

What are we to make of such elaborate schemes?

Armageddon means “mount of Megiddo.” Megiddo was a strategically located city in the region of Israel known as the Valley of Jezreel (also called the Plain of Esdraelon). This valley cut through the central mountain range in the land of Israel, and was therefore a key transportation route. Megiddo guarded this route. Since this region was so important strategically, many battles throughout world history took place there. It is the place where the Israelites led by Deborah and Barak defeated the Canaanites (Judges 5:19). It is also the spot where Josiah tried to intercept Pharaoh Neco (2 Kings 23:29). In 1917 British general Lord Allenby defeated the Turks there during World War I.

Since this place was the scene of so many pivotal battles in history, it made the perfect symbol to use to describe the conflict between the Lord and the forces of evil in Revelation. Lindsey’s scenario perverts this simple symbol into a complex political scheme. Here are some reasons why such views must be rejected:

1. It ignores the time indicators of the Book of Revelation. At the beginning and end of Revelation John says that the things written in the book “must soon take place” (1:1; 22:6) and that the “time is near” (1:3; 22:10). What would a battle in the Middle East in the 21st century have to do with John’s first century readers who were told the time was at hand for the events of Revelation to occur?

2. It ignores the symbolic nature of the prophecies in Revelation. Pressing Rev. 16:16 to mean a literal military campaign makes no more sense than arguing Mary was literally threatened by a great red dragon at the birth of Jesus (see Rev. 12:1–5).

3. It perverts Jesus’ kingdom into the very thing He denied. In John 18:36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.” Jesus’ kingdom is spiritual, and its weapons are not fleshly but spiritual (2 Cor. 10:4–5; Eph. 6:12–18).

While the Bible does not support the fanciful notions of Hal Lindsey, it does speak of a future day of reckoning. And on that day, the Lord Jesus will return to judge the living and the dead (2 Thess.1:7–9). God tells us this not to promote speculation, but to motivate us to prepare to meet Him.