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Will There Be a Literal Armageddon?

Our question for this issue concerns the book of Revelation and the last times. One of our readers asks: "What do you hold concerning a literal battle of Armageddon?"

Armageddon or Megiddo (ar - mageddon means "Valley of Megiddo") is a famous valley in the land of Canaan where many battles were fought in the Old Testament. Barak and Deborah, Gideon, Saul, Ahab and Josiah all fought there.

The book of Revelation speaks of a great battle that will be fought there in the last times. Our question concerns that "when" and "where" of that battle and what kind of battle it will be. Much careless interpretation has gone into answering these questions.

Let us notice, first, that Revelation refers to this battle three times (16:14-16, 19:19-20, 20:8-9). Revelation 16:14-16 is the only passage that mentions Armageddon, but all the passages clearly refer to the same battle. All speak literally of "the battle" or "the war."

We should notice several things about this battle.

First, it takes place at the very end of the world, not a thousand years prior, as some teach. This is clear from all three passages. In Revelation 16 it precedes the seventh vial and the fall of Babylon (which chapter 18 shows to be the final overthrow of the wicked). In Revelation 19 and 20 it immediately precedes the final judgment .

Second, regarding Gog and Magog, who are participants in that battle, we need to note that Revelation 20:8 identifies them as "the nations which in the four quarters of the earth," i.e., all nations. The "four quarters of the earth" always refers to all the earth in Scripture.

Thirdly, it is the camp of the saints and the beloved city that they attack. That city is not the earthly city of Jerusalem, but the church. This is apparent from Revelation 21:9ff where the angel tells John that he will show him "the bride, the Lamb's wife" i.e., the church, and proceeds to show him that city, "the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God."

Indeed, in the book of Revelation, the name, "Jerusalem," is never used to describe the earthly city. Where the earthly city is referred to, Revelation calls it "Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified" (11:8).

Putting all of that together, we see, therefore, that the battle of Armageddon, is the final assault of the nations, the unbelieving world, upon the church. Strictly speaking it is not, therefore, a "literal" battle in the sense that it is fought with weapons and armies. It is nevertheless a real though spiritual battle.

As far as the book of Revelation is concerned, the battle of Armageddon is THE battle of which all other battles are but pictures and shadows. The book of Revelation from beginning to end concerns that battle.

The book is divided into two sections. Chapters 1-11 present that battle first as we experience it, i.e., the battle between the church and the world. Chapters 12-22 show us the same battle as it is in reality, the battle between Christ and the dragon.

In that battle, the church prevails finally and forever, for the judgment follows in which all who oppose her and her Lord are cast into the lake of fire. In it we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.

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Additional Info

  • Volume: 6
  • Issue: 2
Hanko, Ronald

Rev. Ronald Hanko (Wife: Nancy)

Ordained: November 1979

Pastorates: Wyckoff, NJ - 1979; Trinity, Houston, TX - 1986; Missionary to N.Ireland - 1993; Lynden, WA - 2002; Emeritus October 15, 2017

Website: www.lyndenprc.org/sermons/

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