What exactly is the battle of Armageddon? Is there going to be a literal battle, as Revelation 16 seems to indicate? And how can we prepare for this awful battle at the end of time?
To begin with, the battle of Armageddon -- Armageddon comes from the Hebrew har-Megiddo, hill/mountain of Megiddo -- is not necessarily a literal battle. Revelation is a book rich with symbolism, including some 500 allusions to the Old Testament. The general environs of Megiddo was a frequent battleground. What would Revelation 16:16 conjure up in the mind of the reader/listener familiar with O.T. history? Warfare. A showdown. I personally do not understand Armageddon in any literal sense, though is true that one of the central messages of Revelation is that the forces of good will ultimately triumph over the forces of evil.
There are many obstacles to taking the language of Revelation literally; I am afraid the preachers on pop religious radio are misleading many. The earliest recorded "battle of Armageddon" took place nearly 4400 years ago, and there have been dozens -- perhaps scores -- of battles in the region of Megiddo since that time. In other words, "Armageddon" is an image of warfare, for it reminds us of the battles waged by men of God there from time immemorial. (As you will see in the table below, there have been a good number of battles waged there by pagans, as well.) If this is not a literal battle, there is no way to prepare for it physically. And yet both testaments urge us always to be ready to meet God.
Rather than stockpiling water, canned goods, and ammunition -- as some survivalist groups practice -- it is the Lord's will that we heap up righteousness and good deeds, sharing what we have (not hoarding it) with as many as possible. If you are like me, you will be amazed at the sheer number of battles that have been waged in close proximity to the hill of Megiddo. As we have suggested, there will be no literal "Battle of Armageddon," radio preachers notwithstanding! Yet through the millennia, there have been numerous literal battles in the vicinity of Armageddon, and following is a table of the ones history has seen fit to record for us.
A table of the battles was presented at a lecture at the 2000 Biblical Archaeology Seminar in Nashville by Eric H. Cline. It can also be found in Cline's The Battles of Armageddon: Megiddo and the Jezreel Valley from the Bronze Age to the Nuclear Age (University of Michigan Press, 2000).
As we have seen, by the time the Lord employed the Armageddon metaphor through John in the book of Revelation, at least a dozen battles had been fought in the area of Megiddo. An apt picture of the cosmic battle between God and Satan, indeed! God's word assures us, in the book of Revelation, that ultimately he will vanquish every cause that sets itself up against him, his son, and his kingdom. And in order to walk the walk of disciples, we need that assurance!
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