Summary: Armageddon: How, who, when and where, you will be surprised to see how different it is, and remember, after this (after Armageddon) came a great voice out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, It is done! Rev 16:16-17.
Rev 16: 16 And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon. 17 And the seventh angel poured out his vial into the air; and there came a great voice out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, It is done.
Imagine this: Iran explodes several missiles carrying Sarin, a poison nerve gas, in as many Israeli cities, killing hundreds of thousands of Jews. Israel retaliates by annihilating Tehran and a few other Iranian cities, bombing them with nuclear weapons. The stunned Arab world mobilizes the armies of a dozen nations to respond to the provocation. The United States and the European Union begin saber rattling as well. And front-page headlines around the world proclaim that Armageddon has begun.
But when front-page headlines proclaim the battle of Armageddon, can we be certain it’s the real thing, as proclaimed in the Bible?
No such place
The terrifying image of a war of apocalyptic proportions is taken from Revelation: “They gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon” (Revelation 16:16). The popular imagination interprets this verse as referring to an actual place in Israel where earth’s final war will occur. Actually, however, Armageddon is only a symbolic name. You won’t find it on any map or in any world atlas.
The book of Revelation is crammed with symbols, most of which refer to or are derived from the Old Testament. Armageddon is just such a symbol. The term means “mountain of Megiddo.”* There is no Mount Megiddo anywhere in the world. However, there is a plateau in northern Israel that goes by the name of Megiddo. Mount Carmel rises above this plateau. And Mount Carmel is the place where Elijah faced off against the four hundred prophets of Baal. This is probably the imagery John the revelator had in mind when he called earth’s last battle “Armageddon.”
When Revelation borrows from the Old Testament, it incorporates the spiritual lessons associated with the Old Testament stories and symbols it uses. So with Armageddon. The name, pointing as it does to Mount Carmel, recalls the events of that fateful turning point in Israel’s history.
Ahab, king of Israel, and Jezebel, the queen, had led the Israelites into the worship of Baal, one of the Canaanite gods. So Elijah proposed a contest to reveal who was the true God. “ ‘How long will you waver between two opinions?’ ” he asked the people. “ ‘If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him’ ” (1 Kings 18:21). The contest was to be decided by fire— the true God revealing his divinity by sending fire from heaven to consume the sacrifice offered by his worshipers.
So, the prophets of Baal built their altar and called on their god all morning—dancing, singing, shouting, and slashing themselves with knives to reveal their ardor. They bled all over the altar, but their god did not respond.
Elijah mocked them. “Shout louder,” he suggested. “Maybe your god is sleeping, or traveling, or deep in thought.”
The priests of Baal continued their frenzied supplication throughout the day until the time of the evening sacrifice, when they finally collapsed.
Elijah calmly prepared a simple stone altar and placed wood and a sacrifice on it. He had the altar and sacrifice drenched with water. Then he knelt down and prayed a brief prayer. God heard his prayer and sent fire that consumed not only the wood and the sacrifice, but also the water and even the stone altar.
So, a great victory was won that day: The hearts of the nation were turned back to the worship of the Creator.
Like the contest on Carmel
Just as there was a conflict between true and false worship in Elijah’s day, so there will be in the last days. Revelation 13 introduces us to two beasts, which represent human institutional powers on earth. The second beast, representing a political power, will attempt to force everyone in the world to worship the first beast—obviously, a religious power. The beasts will threaten with death any who dare to refuse.
While it was God who brought fire down from heaven to consume Elijah’s sacrifice on Mount Carmel, in the last days it will be the evil beast of Revelation 13 that causes “fire to come down from heaven to earth in full view of men” (Revelation 13:13). This is an attempt to displace God.
Revelation indicates that the issues in earth’s final war will be global, not local. And the issues—and combatants—will be spiritual, not political.
The battle of Armageddon will pit the nations of the world against the armies of heaven. The “spirits of demons performing miraculous signs [will] go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty” (Revelation 16:14).