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C. Tribulation

 

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Where is Armageddon?

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Question:  Where is Armageddon?

Response:  Armageddon is not Megiddo (contrary to popular opinion) but Jerusalem.  That is where the final battle of the Great Tribulation will be fought out.  The subject of the battle of Armageddon, our Lord's victorious conquest of the armies of antichrist at His second advent, is covered in detail in part 5 of the Coming Tribulation series: "Armageddon and the Second Advent".  Here is the section of that deals with the identification of "Armageddon" in Revelation 16:16:

Armageddon: Armageddon is the scene of the last battle of the Tribulation, the place where our Lord will destroy the massive armies of antichrist on the “great day of God the Almighty” just as they are on the point of destroying Israel and all who have recently sought shelter within her borders. Contrary to popular belief, Armageddon has nothing to do with “Megiddo”, an ancient city located in the north of what today is the state of Israel. Armageddon is, rather, a prophetical name for Jerusalem, the place where the unbelieving rebels and the saints recently escaped from Babylon make what appears to be their “last stand”.

The popular (and misinformed) association of Armageddon with Megiddo rests entirely upon the similarity in spelling between these two proper names. This is not an unreasonable place to begin a consideration of what scripture means by the name “Armageddon” (a word that occurs only here in Revelation 16:16), but further investigation will show that, while the perceived etymological connection is illusory, scripture leaves us in no doubt whatsoever about the fact that, just as we ought to have expected, it is at Jerusalem that the final battle of the Tribulation will occur (while, on the other hand, the Bible is entirely silent about Megiddo on this score; cf. Ps.2:1-6; Is.4:3; 22:1-14; 25:6-7; 31:9; 33:3-5; 33:10-22; 40:1-2; 40:9-10; 52:1-8; 60:1-3; 62:11; Joel 3:1-2; Zeph.3:14-17; Rom.11:26):

(1) Woe to you, Ariel, Ariel, the city where David encamped (i.e., Jerusalem)! Add year to year, let your festivals run their course, (2) but I will besiege Ariel so that there will be mourning and lamentation, and she will become to Me like an “Ariel” (lit., “God's [sacrificial] altar”). (3) For I will beleaguer round about with palisades, and surround you with siege works. (4) You will be brought low and speak from the ground, and from the dust your speech will be humbled. Your voice will come ghost-like from the earth, and your speech will come muttering from the dust. (5) But the multitude of your enemies will become like pulverized powder, even like chaff sweeping away [on the wind] that multitude ruthless [enemies]. And it will come to past in an instant that (6) you will experience visitation from the Lord of Hosts [Himself], with thunder and quaking [of the earth] and a loud voice, with tempest and whirlwind and devouring flames of fire. (7) And the hordes of the nations mustering against Ariel will become like [just] a dream in the visions of the night, even all those who camp against her and her fortress and besiege her. (8) And it will be as when a hungry man dreams he is eating, but when he awakes his appetite remains unfulfilled, or as when a thirsty man dreams he is drinking, but when he awakes his thirst remains. This is how it will be for the multitude of all the nations who are going to marshal themselves against Mount Zion.
Isaiah 29:1-8

(9) Break forth [in song] and rejoice altogether, O ruins of Jerusalem! For the Lord has had compassion on His people. He has redeemed Jerusalem. (10) The Lord has uncovered His holy arm in the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God!
Isaiah 52:9-10

(18) As they have done, so He will repay them, wrath to His adversaries and recompense to His enemies. Even unto the islands (i.e., the remotest lands of the west) He will repay the recompense [due them], (19) so that they will fear the Name of the Lord in the west, and His glory from the rising of the sun (i.e., the east). For although the enemy (i.e., antichrist) will attack like the River (i.e., the great Nile or Euphrates; cf. Dan.11:22; 11:26), the Spirit of the Lord will put him to flight. (20) For the Redeemer will come to Zion, even to those in Jacob who turn away from their transgression.
Isaiah 59:18-20

(30) For I will display wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. (31) The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the Day of the Lord, that great and terrible [day]. (32) And it will come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved. For on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance as the Lord has said, even among the survivors whom the Lord calls.
Joel 2:30-32

(12) Let the nations be roused [from their places], and let them come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat (i.e., the valley of “the Lord judges”). For there I will sit in judgment over all the nations on every side. (13) Send forth the sickle for the harvest is ripe! Come down into the winepress for it is full and the vats overflow. For great is their wickedness. (14) Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of doom! For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of doom. (15) The sun and moon will darken, and the stars will gather up their light. (16) Then the Lord will roar from Zion, and from Jerusalem He will let sound His voice, and the heavens and the earth will quake.
Joel 3:12-16

(15) For the day of the Lord is near against all the nations. Just as you have done, it will be done to you, and your recompense will return on your own head. (16) For just as you have drunk on My holy mountain, so all the nations will drink continually. They will drink and swallow down [the Lord's cup of wrath] and will be as if they never were. (17) But on Mount Zion there will be deliverance.
Obadiah 1:15-17a

(2) For behold, I am going to make Jerusalem a cup of reeling for all the nations round about. And Judah also and Jerusalem will be besieged. (3) And it will come to pass on that day that I will make Jerusalem a burdensome rock for all the nations. Everyone who tries to lift it will surely be injured. For against her (i.e., Jerusalem) will be gathered all the nations of the earth.
Zechariah 12:2-3

And it will come to pass on that day that I will make it My purpose to destroy all the nations which are attacking Jerusalem.
Zechariah 12:9

And this is the plague with which the Lord will smite all the peoples who marshal themselves against Jerusalem: Their flesh will rot even as they stand on their feet, and their eyes will rot in their sockets, and their tongues will rot in their mouths.
Zechariah 14:12

Thus the precise place where our Lord was crucified and resurrected, and to which He is prophesied to return, is where this final battle of the Tribulation will take place (cf. Acts 1:11):

(1) The Lord said to My Lord, “Sit down at my right hand, until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” (2) From Zion the Lord will send forth your mighty scepter. Rule in the midst of your enemies! (3) Your people will volunteer on the day of your valour[ous victory]. In the holy chambers, from the womb of the dawn, your young [troops] will [come] to you like the dew. (4) The Lord has sworn and He will not recant, “You are a priest forever in the manner of Melchizedek.” (5) The Lord is at your right hand. He will crush [those] kings on the day of His wrath. (6) He will render judgment on the nations. He will crush [their] head (cf. Gen.3:15) broadly throughout the land filled with corpses [as a result]. (7) [But as to His troops], they will drink from a brook beside the way. Therefore He will lift up their head.
Psalm 110:1-7

Thus says the Lord: I will return to Zion and dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. And Jerusalem will be called "the City of Truth", and "the Mountain of the Lord, the Mountain of Holiness".
Zechariah 8:3

Rejoice greatly, daughter of Zion. Shout [for joy], daughter of Jerusalem. Behold, your King will come to you. Righteous and victorious He is; humble and riding on a donkey, even on a colt, a donkey's foal.
Zechariah 9:9

(2) For I shall gather all the nations to Jerusalem to fight against her. The city will be captured, its houses will be sacked, and its women will be ravished. (3) Half of the city will be taken away captive, but the rest of the people will not be cut off from the city. Then the Lord will go forth, and He will fight against those nations as when He fights on a day of battle. (4) For His feet will stand on that day on the Mount of Olives which lies before Jerusalem on the east.
Zechariah 14:2-4a

And I looked, and behold, the Lamb stood upon Mount Zion, and with Him were the 144,000, having His Name and the Name of His Father written upon their foreheads.
Revelation 14:1

Given the overwhelming testimony of scripture to the fact that Jerusalem will be the focal point of the final battle of the Tribulation, it is indeed strange that the name “Armageddon”, a hapax legomenon occurring only here at Revelation 16:16, has had such a profound (and negative) influence on the interpretation of these events. A few words about the true etymology of this word are, therefore, in order here. The first thing to notice is that the similarity between “Megiddo” and “Armageddon” is primarily one of correspondence between the Septuagint's most common transliteration of Megiddo (at e.g., Josh.12:21) and what we find here at Revelation 16:16 (i.e., Μαγεδών versus Ἁρμαγεδών). However, a number of other transliterations are attested in the LXX (i.e., Μεγεδδω, Μαγεδδων, Μαγεδδω, Μαγεδω, Μαγεδωρ, Μακεδω, Μαγδω, Μαγεδαων, Μαγεδδωδ, Μακεδδω, Μαγεδει), with this variety of renderings sufficient to show that at least some degree of care should be taken before seizing upon the Megiddo-Armageddon identification. In the preceding list, the first alternate transliteration given, Μεγεδδω, is, for our purposes here, the most interesting. For the Hebrew word for this place (מגדו, Megiddo), is really best reflected by this first rendering Μεγεδδω / Megeddo.FN1  But our English rendering of this place name, “Megiddo”, is in fact a more accurate transliteration of the Hebrew than any of the Septuagint's attempts. Using this information then, it is easy to see the disparities between the two names: Megiddo versus Har-Mageddon. The pre-formative “a” in the latter, its medial “e” versus the “i” of the first form, and the addition of the letter “n” at the end are not insignificant differences. Alone, they would invite us to seek a more plausible etymology for “Armageddon”, and this is especially the case since John under the Spirit's influence comments that this is “a place called in Hebrew, 'Armageddon'”. Therefore it is to the Hebrew that we must look for our etymological clues, not Greek transliterations in the LXX version.

Most interpreters agree that the Har- of Armageddon (the “h” sound present in the Greek being commonly if unfortunately left out in the traditional transliteration of this name) is the Hebrew word for “mountain” (and it should be noted in passing that the most common geographical feature that has recommended Megiddo to exegetes has been its extensive plain rather than any “mountain”). This leaves us to explore the second part of this compound place name, -Mageddon. First in this respect it is best to take the Ma as a pre-formative mem used here in the locative sense, i.e, “Mountain-which-is-a-place of _________”. The use of the letter “m” as a prefix indicating “place of” whatever root it is attached to is a well-attested phenomenon in Semitic languages.FN2  This leaves us to derive -geddon from either the “double ayin” root gdd גדד, or the hollow root gud (
גוד). The distinction is largely academic here, as both roots have the same essential meaning in BH: “attack, cut, go in troops or throngs”. Given that the most commonly attested substantive from either root, ghedhudh (גדוד), generally refers to military formations, the most likely meaning of Armageddon is “Mountain of Troops” or “Mountain of [mustering] Troops”. As such, it is a very clear reference to the assembly from the world over of all the forces of antichrist to Jerusalem. Here they will assemble, at Jerusalem called here prophetically and appropriately “the Mountain of [Assembly of] Troops”,FN3  for here all of the beast's worldly armies will be annihilated by our Lord. Indeed, it is for this very purpose that they will be so assembled:

And it will be as when a hungry man dreams he is eating, but when he awakes his appetite remains unfulfilled, or as when a thirsty man dreams he is drinking, but when he awakes his thirst remains. This is how it will be for the multitude of all the nations who are going to marshal themselves against Mount Zion.
Isaiah 29:8

(2) For behold, I am going to make Jerusalem a cup of reeling for all the nations round about. And Judah also and Jerusalem will be besieged. (3) And it will come to pass on that day that I will make Jerusalem a burdensome rock for all the nations. Everyone who tries to lift it will surely be injured. For against her will be gathered all the nations of the earth.
Zechariah 12:2-3

And this is the plague with which the Lord will smite all the peoples who marshal themselves against Jerusalem: Their flesh will rot even as they stand on their feet, and their eyes will rot in their sockets, and their tongues will rot in their mouths.
Zechariah 14:12

Understood in this way, we can then see in Micah 5:1-5a the locus classicus, for “Armageddon”, that is, the passage which John under the guidance of the Spirit had in mind when coining this prophetic name. In Micah 5:1-5a, we see that this predominantly second advent passage also brings in testimony about our Lord's first advent, weaving the two events together in a wonderful, poetic way, a common phenomenon in Hebrew prophecy as we have seen:

(1) But now marshal your [own] troops (<gdd, גדד, O city (lit., “daughter”) of troops (<gedhudh, גדוד) [which are marshaled against you]. For they have laid siege to us. For they have struck on the cheek with a rod the Judge of Israel. (2) But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, too small to be numbered among the clans of Judah, from you I will bring forth the One who is to rule over Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, even from the days of eternity. (3) For He will give them over [to the oppressor] until the time when [Jerusalem] labors [like] a woman in labor. At that time the rest of His brethren will return to the sons of Israel (i.e., prior to the second advent; see section II below). (4) For He (our Lord Jesus at His return) will arise and will be their Shepherd, in the might of the Lord, and in majesty of the Name of the Lord His God. And they (i.e., His flock) will abide, for then He will be great, even to the ends of the earth. (5) For this One will be our Peace.
Micah 5:1-5a

[Go to:  Part 5: Armageddon and the Second Advent]


Notes:

FN1:  Only once out of twelve occurrences do we find this form concluded with the Hebrew letter “n” or nun מגדון Megiddon). That is at Zechariah 12:11 where it is entirely possible that the reference there is not to “Megiddo” at all (the LXX, for example, certainly does not see “Megiddo” at Zech.12:11).

FN2:  See S. Moscati et al., An Introduction to the Comparative Grammar of the Semitic Languages (Wiesbaden 1969) 80-81. What we have here is most likely a maqtil “ground form” on the order of machshelah (מכשלה), “a ruin” or “a place of falling”, from chashal (כשל), “to fall or stumble”. See Gensenius' Hebrew Grammar, ed. E. Kautzsch (Oxford 1980) 237.

FN3:  See Alan Johnston “Revelation” in The Expositor's Bible Commentary ed. F.E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids 1981) v.12, p. 552.


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