Bible Topics
in the Christian Library
The Battle of Armageddon

Revelation 16:13-19; 19:11-21

John L. Kachelman, Jr.


I. "Russia's invasion of Afghanistan and its moves in Iran could signal the beginning of the last days by triggering the great war of Armageddon." Such is the lead-in sentence for an article written October 1980. It states the pandemonium of those in prophecy circles who see modern political events as fulfillment of biblical prophecy.

1. This flair for fulfillment is a dangerous threat because it undermines simple Scriptural truths and erects entire doctrinal philosophies upon "coulds," "maybes," and "probably."

2. In the past these "prophecy freaks" fixed 1988 as the date of Armageddon and the Lord's return to establish in Jerusalem His supreme Throne. Those in positions of great influence peddled this sensationalism to millions. One well-known radio preacher has stated that Christ would set up His Kingdom in 1988 as a result of a world-wide military conflict occurring at the end of Armageddon.

3. The "Battle of Armageddon" is the sensational doctrine of Premillennialism. It is the topic under consideration every time something happens in the Middle East region.

II. The biblical account of this great battle is found only in Revelation 16:13-19; 19:11-21; 20:8,9. The references in Rv 19 and 20 describe the final phases of the battle but are not described as "Armageddon" in the text.

1. John saw an unholy alliance between the dragon, the sea-beast, and the false prophet.

2. From the mouths of these 3 came unclean spirits like frogs. These frogs led the armies against God and His saints. 

3. The 2 forces gathered together for final combat at "Har-megdon".

4. 19:19ff reveals the evil forces gathered but were destroyed by Christ's great power.

5. A further reference is found in 20:8,9 when the battle of Armageddon is pictured as world-wide in scope. There God's saints are surrounded and Satan's final blow was about to be given when Christ's power destroyed all evil forces.

III. These symbols make sensational pictures. When they are taken out of context and made to fit together they present a very believable error. There is a great obligation for believers to look at this battle and make sure they understand it.

1. Is "Armageddon" a harbinger for WW III and a nuclear holocaust?

2. Is "Armageddon" political or spiritual?

3. How does "Armageddon" apply to John's readers as well as to modern readers?


I. The 2 general theories of Armageddon discussed.

A. It refers to a literal, political war in Israel. 

1. This is the common interpretation. Denominational preachers like Billy Graham believe and teach this point.

2. Texts used to support their position-- 

a. Rv 9:16-18. But this refers to those slain who were not sealed of God, hence it cannot be a world-wide event (4b). Also it is absurd to take this text literally (v. 7-10, 17-19).

b. Rv 14:20. This refers to the Final Judgement when Christ returns. It shows the harsh penalty awaiting all the wicked.

3. In summary here is the program for a political Armageddon. (Notice that this changes as the world's governments change and new political leaders arise.)

a. Russia will invade Israel having gathered allies (Libya, Ethiopia, Iran). These will briefly conquer Israel.

b. Red China begins to mobilize its forces and marches on Russia who is in Israel. Before Red China gets to Palestine, Russia has been destroyed by a nuclear attack from Europe. Now the forces of Europe unite with Red China and fight a final battle in the Valley of Megiddo. 

c. In this battle 200 million soldiers fight and blood runs as high as horses bridles for 200 miles. The final battle spreads over all the earth and at the very last minute Christ returns to save His saints.

B. It refers to a figurative battle and the term symbolizes the conflict between good/evil; Christ/Satan.

1. This conflict began in Genesis 3:15 and continues even today (2 Timothy 2:3, 4).

2. This conflict will end when Christ returns and consigns all enemies to Hell (Rv 16:15-17).

II. The key to understanding Rv 16 is the term "Armageddon".

A. The word refers to battles fought by Israel.

1. "Har" in Hebrew signifies "mountain"; hence John refers to "the mountains of Megiddo."

2. "Megiddo" was a city in Northern Israel where a number of important battles in Jewish history had been fought.

a. Deborah and Barak defeated Sisera even though outnumbered (Judges 4).

b. The "boy king" Josiah was killed in battle by Pharaoh Neco (2 Kings 23) and King Saul's defeat at Gilboa was nearby (1 Samuel 31).

c. At Megiddo Israel had won her greatest victories and suffered her greatest defeats. To any Jewish reader the mention of "Har- megedon" would mean the history of conflict and war. When John's readers saw the term they did not look for a literal battle but understood the symbolism.

B. It is not unusual for John to use a physical place to symbolize a spiritual concept.

1. He had done this before--Egypt and Sodom (11:8) symbolized worldliness; Euphrates (16:12) symbolized boundaries and limits of God's punishments; etc.

2. In our day we do the same--one who is going to meet his "Waterloo" does not have to travel to Belgium. The place symbolizes utter defeat such as Napoleon suffered in 1815 at that place.

3. Why should we make John's reference to Armageddon literal when we know he refers to other places in a symbolic manner?

III. The symbolic concept of Armageddon expresses the correct interpretation because of 2 facts.

A. Such is in harmony with Scripture.

1. Throughout the Bible conflict is presented. Those who follow God are in a war! They stand as ancient Israel at Megiddo, outnumbered and overpowered. This battle is constant (2 Corinthians 10:3-5; James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:8,9; etc.).

2. Numerous references are given which encourage saints to be steadfast in this battle with Satan (2 Timothy 2:3, 4; Ephesians 6:10-18).

3. The symbolism of Armageddon is in harmony with Scripture. God saved Israel before at Megiddo when all seemed hopeless and He will do so again. 

B. A literal, political battle at Megiddo in Palestine involves too many absurdities to be true.

1. We must accept these absurd facts if it is to be a literal war--

a. The invading armies must ride horses (14:20).

b. The implements of was must be ancient weapons such as bows and arrows, swords and spears (Rv 14:20; Ezekiel 38:4, 15).

c. The commander-in-chief of God's enemies (Gog) would use a bow and arrow (Ezekiel 39:3).

d. That FROGS would lead the enemy (Rv 16:13).

e. The calvary would ride grasshoppers (Rv 9:7-10, 17-19). 

f. That over 200 million men could fight a war on a portion of land 14 x 20 miles long! Note: There would be 200 million enemies and we are not told the number in God's army (cf 9:16).

g. That the ultimate blow would be struck by One riding a white horse whose only weapon was a sword sticking out of His mouth! (Rv 19:15).

2. Such absurd conclusions make a literal, political Battle of Armageddon a comical suggestion!

V. Observations arising from our study.

A. If Armageddon is a literal war then . . .

1. We are forced to accept absurdities in God's Word. 

2. We remove the relevancy of the text from John's readers, thus contradicting the promise of God to "all" who read and obeyed (Rv 1:3; 22:7).

3. We make God a liar because He said the things in Revelation would "shortly" come to pass (Rv 1:3; 22:6).

B. The logical, consistent, and reasonable conclusion is that the Battle of Armageddon is figurative. It presents, in well-known symbols, the constant conflict between Christ and Satan. It assures us that on the final day of the battle, Satan and his evil forces will be destroyed. 


I. Satan is adept at leading innocent hearts away form God (Acts 20:30; 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12). The sensationalism and date fixing by modern interpreters of prophecy must be exposed for what it is -- a perversion of God's divine Truth.

1. Sensationalism has found the car (Nahum 2:3, 4); the airplane (Isaiah 31:5); the submarine (Amos 9:3); the radio (Ecclesiastes 10:20); and now WW III by 1988!

2. Those who pervert the simple message of victory, in the book of Revelation, will stand damned on the Judgement Day by Almighty God!

II. The challenge of Armageddon -- Rv 16:15. "Watch your garments!" This means we must be vigilant and dedicated to God. We are thus prepared for the war and will not be put to shame!

Copyright 1998 by John L. Kachelman, Jr. may be reproducted for non-commercial purposes at no cost to others.

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