The word Armageddon is used generically today to refer to any type of catastrophic conflict, especially if it’s seen as likely to result in widespread destruction or the annihilation of human life. In the Bible, Armageddon refers to a climactic future battle between God and the forces of evil, as recorded in the book of Revelation. The word ultimately comes from the Hebrew word Har-Magedone, which means “Mount Megiddo,” the predicted location of the battle.
Revelation 16:12–16 is the record of what will happen toward the end of the tribulation, when an angel pours out the sixth bowl judgment on the earth. The word Armageddon makes its only appearance in the Bible in this passage:
“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. . . . Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.”
In Revelation 19:11–20, a final battle occurs at Christ’s second coming as the conquering Christ defeats the forces of the Antichrist. We take this to be a description of the Battle of Armageddon mentioned in Revelation 16:
“I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. ‘He will rule them with an iron scepter.’ He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.
“And I saw an angel standing in the sun, who cried in a loud voice to all the birds flying in midair, ‘Come, gather together for the great supper of God, so that you may eat the flesh of kings, generals, and the mighty, of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, great and small.’
“Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to wage war against the rider on the horse and his army. But the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who had performed the signs on its behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped its image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. The rest were killed with the sword coming out of the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh.”
The exact location of Armageddon is unclear because there is no mountain called Meggido. However, since Har can also mean “hill,” the most likely location is the hill country surrounding the plain of Meggido, some sixty miles north of Jerusalem. Throughout history, armies have fought countless battles in that region: Egyptians, Assyrians, Greeks, Romans, and Crusaders fought in Megiddo, as well as the armies of Napoleon. Megiddo was the site of battles during World War I and the Arab-Israeli War of 1948 (Weintraub, P., “Rewriting Tel Megiddo’s Violent History,” Discover, Sep 30, 2015). In the future, the plain of Megiddo and the nearby plain of Esdraelon will also be the focal point for the battle of Armageddon.
The plain of Megiddo, or Armageddon, was famous for two great victories in Israel’s history: 1) Barak’s victory over the Canaanites (Judges 4:15) and 2) Gideon’s victory over the Midianites (Judges 7). Armageddon was also the site of two great tragedies: 1) the death of Saul and his sons (1 Samuel 31:8) and 2) the death of King Josiah (2 Kings 23:29–30; 2 Chronicles 35:22).
According to the futurist interpretation of Revelation, which is our view, the Battle of Armageddon will be a real battle in the future, near the end of the tribulation. Demonic influences will cause the kings of the earth to gather their armies for an all-out assault on Jerusalem. The Antichrist will be leading the charge (Revelation 16:13–16). Jesus Christ will return to earth with the armies of heaven (Matthew 25:31; Revelation 19:14); His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives (Zechariah 14:4); He will defeat the forces of evil (Revelation 19:15–16); He will cast the Antichrist and the false prophet into the lake of fire (Revelation 19:20); He will bind Satan; and He will set up His kingdom on earth for 1,000 years (Revelation 20:1–6). At Armageddon the Lord Jesus Christ “treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty” (Revelation 16:19), and all things will be made right.