What is Armageddon?

 
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Armageddon. Apocalypse. The end of the world. The nature of the human civilisation’s end—and what may come after—has captivated the imagination of humankind for millenia. Philosophers and entertainers alike have attempted to explain how or why this could occur, but in terms of concrete details on how the world will end, we know very little. In this article, former Signs Editor Kent Kingston speaks with Hillview Adventist Church Pastor Danny Milenkov about how the end may come—at least, according to the Bible.

Kent Kingston: Conspiracy theories are constantly going around, talking about the end of the world, especially with COVID and the COVID vaccine. “It’s a hoax, a Bill Gates plot, part of the New World Order.” That sort of thing. Why are these conspiracy theories popping up?

Danny Milenkov: Well, there are a ton of conspiracy theories. To be honest, I don’t really have time to look at them. I kind of focus my time on planting my myself in the Bible because I have found that the Bible has withstood the test of time. There have been countless conspiracy theories and countless theories down through the centuries and down through the millennia. But the Bible has always proven time and time again, to be a reliable source of information, a reliable source of truth. So, regarding all these conspiracy theories I share with people, there is only one who knows exactly what’s going on, and that is God.

He is the only one that ultimately knows and understands, but what we can clearly see from the COVID situation—and the whole entire world situation—is that things are coming to a climax. So these are all labor pains as Jesus used that analogy in Matthew 24, they’re all labor pains. And we all know, or we should be aware that labor pains, they increase in intensity and frequency as the delivery of the baby draws near. And so, as we see the second coming of Jesus drawing near there will be more of these labor pains.

Sadly, there’ll be more conspiracy theories out there with the internet. That’s just a perfect platform for every man and his dog to be, to be sharing the latest and the greatest ideas they have—even if they may be downright dangerous. The Bible says that in the end times is going to be a lot of confusion. There’s going to be a lot of anxiety, a lot of fear—all things we can see in the conspiracy theories online.

Kent: it seems that at the fringes of religious organizations at the fringes of politics is where you mostly hear these conspiracy theories, but some of the languages, not just at the fringes, some of the language we hear is like right at center stage in the mainstream. We hear journalists using words like “disasters of biblical proportions”, or “this is an apocalyptic event”. What I want to talk about today though, more specifically, is the word “armeggedon”. What does this mean?

Danny: Well, people may be most familiar with the word from the film Armageddon, with Bruce Willis. It’s about an asteroid the size of Texas which threatens to destroy the earth unless he can stop it. People can watch it if they want to, and they can go to Wikipedia and read up on it.

That word is often used to describe the end of all things—Armageddon being used to refer to this possible nuclear all-out war that will destroy life on planet earth, or be an asteroid which Bruce Willis must stop. It’s often referring to just bringing life as we know it to an end. That’s what the word implies out there in the mainstream media. And if you ask people, that’s probably what they’ll tell you.

Kent: I’ve had that impression too, that when people use the word Armageddon, they’re generally talking about some sort of World War III, a great battle or epic war, possibly with a nuclear conflagration thrown in for good measure. But the Bible only mentions it once, so I have to ask: Is that at all an accurate use of the word Armageddon?

Danny: That’s right. The Bible uses it once in Revelation 16, it’s in the context of the seven last plagues and it’s the sixth plague immediately prior to the coming of Jesus.

So in answer to your question “Is this speaking of WWIII?” No. The simple answer is no. This is not speaking of a physical war. This is speaking of a spiritual battle. This is a war of worship. This is a war of who you will give your allegiance to.

It’s a battle for the mind and a battle for the heart. This is not a battle over missiles. This is a battle over whether we will choose to be faithful and loyal to Jesus Christ and worship Him or whether we will choose to be faithful and loyal to the enemy and worship him. It’s this Great Controversy that will bring that will bring this world to the point of the second coming of Jesus.

Kent: So Armageddon is the final battle in a great conflict that’s been going on for thousands and thousands of years?

Danny: Yes. Armageddon is immediately prior to the coming of Jesus. Look at those at those verses which reference it and we can understand it a bit better: “The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up to prepare the way for the kings from the East. Then I saw three impure spirits that looked like frogs; they came out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet. They are demonic spirits that perform signs, and they go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty. ‘Look, I come like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake and remains clothed, so as not to go naked and be shamefully exposed.’ Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.” (Revelation 16:12-16).

Kent: Okay, well that’s a lot of information—even for someone familiar with the Bible. One thing I did notice there, it mentions their river Euphrates. Now the Euphrates is a river that exists in Iraq even today. Is Armageddon also a place that exists geographically?

Danny: Yes, we do know where this place is. In the Hebrew tongue Armageddon comes from two words combined—”Har Megiddo.” The first Hebrew word Har, means mountain and Megiddo refers to a place. This is a place that if you go to Israel today—and I had the opportunity of going there twice before—you can go to the Valley of Meggido. There is no Mount Megiddo there—no Har Magedon, if you will—but there is a very important mountain that overlooks the valley of Meggido: Mount Carmel.

Kent: Why is this mountain important?

Danny: This mountain is extremely significant because the Old Testament tells us that on Mount Carmel Elijah has a battle. It’s a worship war with the prophets of Ba’al (1 Kings 18). It’s not a battle involving swords and shields and those kind of clashes. It’s a spiritual battle where Ba’al’s prophets issued a challenge: whoever can get their God to bring fire down from heaven will be declared the true God. So the prophets of Ba’al, they go first and they’re not able to, and then Elijah prays and God brings fire down from heaven and consumes his sacrifice.

The point of this battle that took place on Mount Carmel was that God was the true God. It was a spiritual battle between the true God and the false God. “Who you will serve,” said, Elijah, “Will you serve the God of heaven? Or will you serve the gods of this world?”

Kent: And this battle happened in front of hundreds of witnesses, right?

Danny: Yes. There was King Ahab, the king of Israel at the time. And Elijah had summoned the King and all the people of Israel to Mount Carmel for the showdown. And the Bible is saying at the end of time there will be another showdown between true and false worship.

Kent: Right, so anyone who’s familiar with the Bible will say, “Ah, this is similar. This is a true God versus false God, it’s a worship battle,” they will make that reference. But the difference seems to be that this is much larger than the Mount Carmel thing. Kings coming from the east, people coming from other countries as well—this is an international thing, a larger thing, surely?

Danny: Yes. It says there will be signs that will be performed in order to deceive the Kings of the earth and of the whole world. This will be global, and we know that this final showdown will, separate the world into two groups. One that are faithful and honor and want to worship God as the creator and the other that don’t this. And this will be worldwide—it will capture every single man, woman and child on the planet, according to Revelation.

Kent: That’s hard to imagine in, in some ways. I have some Muslim friends and they also believe that there’s going to be a last battle. They also believe in an antichrist and a prophetic figure called the Mahdi who will come and battle on the side of God. There are also some Muslims who actually believe they need to train themselves physically with martial arts or weapons skills, because the people of God will be asked to fight in this last battle. What you said so far sounds quite different.

Danny: Well, in contrast to many of the important battles we learn about in history class, the Bible says that this final war will not be with physical artillery. It’s not a physical battle because it’s impossible to fit the armies of the world into Megiddo. A lot of Christians believe that, but it’s impossible. You just cannot fit. And we don’t, we don’t fight that way anymore. You don’t need armies turning up in a valley like they did thousands of years ago to fight a war, to fight a battle.

Now we just use missiles, you know, missiles that can be pumped out from thousands of kilometers away. Specifically designed to hit a target area. So you don’t need people eyeing each other off to fight a battle today.

But even more specifically, we know that it is not a physical battle, but instead a spiritual one. And the reason we know that is it speaks of this “battle” called Armageddon. And that word “battle” is also the word for “war” in Greek.

Now in Revelation 12:7, it says there was war in heaven. Now that word war, or battle, in the Greek is the word “Polemis”, which in English we get the word polemic from. And polemic, according to the dictionary, refers to a dispute about something, an idea, or a concept or an opinion. It’s a war of ideas or a dispute. So in heaven there wasn’t a literal physical battle between Christ and his angels and the devil and his angels.

And that’s that same word that’s used here in the context of Armageddon. But this battle of Armageddon is not going to be where people decide who they worship. This takes place at the end of the sixth plague and Revelation say, there’ll be two groups before the plagues arrive on planet earth: a group that has chosen God, and a group that has chosen allegiance against Him.

Kent: Polar opposites.

Danny: Exactly. They’re polar opposites. And those who go against God according to revelation, they sadly will experience the full wrath of God, which is the seven last plagues. They will experience the fruit of their decision. And we can see that these sides are for and against God because Revelation 16:14 references the Lamb and its followers overcoming one side—and the Lamb represents Jesus Christ. And the Bible says that those that haven’t chosen Christ as their Lord and Savior will be destroyed by the brightness of his coming.

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Kent: One thing that some people may have trouble with is that Revelation mentions earthquakes and mentions Jesus coming and we assume it means these things literally. But then there’s the battle which is not a literal battle with swords or bombs or guns. What does this mix of metaphor and literal event mean for the destruction mentioned here. Is this a metaphor for the classic image of an eternally burning hell, or is it something more final?

Danny: Well, the Bible clearly describes the wages of sin as death—eternal separation from God. And we know that there is no possibility for life to exist without God, because God is the life source of the universe. So if you choose to disconnect yourself from God, you are choosing to disconnect yourself from the only life force of the universe you will become nothing. On the other hand, the opposite is true—the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus, our Lord.

In some ways this is the most merciful and the most loving thing that he can do. Those that do not want to be a part of God’s plan, who do not want to be part of his peace and love, will get exactly this. They will not suffer forever in a lake of fire—something which does not fit with the biblical character of God—He honors freedom of choice, but those that reject him are ultimately choosing to experience nothingness.

Kent: So what difference does this interpretation of Armageddon have on how we may live our everyday lives.

Danny: That’s a great question. And, you know, in order to answer that, I want to just simply take a look at the words Jesus speaks in this passage about Armageddon: “Look, I come like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake and remains clothed, so as not to go naked and be shamefully exposed” (Revelation 16:15)

Jesus says he is coming. This second coming of Jesus is the focus of the Bible, and it’s here that Jesus is encouraging us to prepare for his soon return. The battle of Armageddon puts an end forever more of all the pain suffering and the sorrow and the sin.

He also says “Blessed is he who watches” in some translations. That reminds us of Jesus in Matthew 24 where he says you must watch. So how do we watch? We watch by putting our faith and trust in God. By putting our faith and trust in Jesus and in his word. And he says, you know, watch, and keep your garments lest you walk naked.

And that reminds us that there is only one way to be ready for the coming of Jesus. One way to be ready to be on the right side of Armageddon, because we will all be at Armageddon. So this whole message of Armageddon is couched in an appeal from Jesus, for us to give our hearts and our lives to him, and to be ready to meet him when he comes to be on his side.

Curious about some of the key beliefs of Christianity? Check out the other articles in our Fundamentals series to see if you can find the answers you need. Want something more? Get in touch with our help team with your questions or requests and we’ll do our best to help you.

Kent Kingston is the former editor of Signs of the Times Australia. Currently he works with disability advocacy groups.

Danny Milenkov is the Pastor of Hillview Adventist Church.