In a world filled with terrorism, chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction, "rogue" nuclear nations and social unrest, is "Armageddon" at our door? Will our political and military leaders destroy our planet, or is there hope? Your Bible has the answer!
A hundred years ago last month—on June 30, 1908—the mysterious "Tunguska explosion" toppled trees across an 830 square mile region of central Russia. Scientists estimate that the Tunguska explosion released an energy blast a thousand times more powerful than the nuclear bomb that ravaged Hiroshima, Japan, in August 1945.
Most scientists believe the Tunguska event was caused by an exploding meteor falling from space. A few theorize that it was an asteroid or comet colliding with Earth. Some physicists have speculated that it might have been caused by a "black hole" or piece of cosmic anti-matter colliding with our planet.
Shortly after the Tunguska explosion, a few Russian farmers thought it signaled Armageddon; they expected the end of the world would soon come. They were wrong, of course. But Scripture does tell of a time when meteors will fall from the sky, and devastation will spread across planet Earth. What does your Bible really say about "Armageddon"—and what lies beyond?
Mankind does not need to look to space for devastation—it has a long record of creating its own on the earth. There have been more than 250 major wars since World War II, and three times as many people have been killed in wars in the last 90 years than in all the previous 500 combined!
The 20th century saw as many as 50 million people executed under the Communist regime of Mao Zedong. More than 30 million are estimated to have died in Mao's "Great Leap Forward" between 1958 and 1961 alone. More than 20 million were killed in the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin. In the Sudan, since 1983, more than 2 million of the Dinka, Nuba and Neur peoples have been systematically murdered, and millions more have been displaced. In the eight-year-long civil war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, more than 3 million are estimated to have died.
Right now, at least 20 major civil wars or armed conflicts are raging around our world. Iraq's Sunni and Shiite Muslims continue to kill each other, and U.S.-led coalition forces have sustained thousands of casualties. Several nations are working hard to join the "nuclear club"—to possess nuclear weapons—even while the United States and Russia continue to maintain a stockpile of more than 30,000 nuclear warheads between them.
Throughout world history, nations, alliances, and empires have battled one another. Mankind has practiced warfare as a way of life! Have we ever enjoyed decades and centuries of global peace? What is our historic record? Historians Will and Ariel Durant researched that question, and concluded: "In the last 3,421 years of recorded history only 268 have seen no war" (The Lessons of History, p. 81).
Knowing human nature, we can be sure there will be more wars in the future. Jesus Christ confirmed this Himself. When His disciples asked Him what would be the sign of His return, and of the end of the age, He said: "Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows" (Matthew 24:4–8).
Jesus warned of a conflagration that will envelop the whole world. "For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect's sake those days will be shortened" (Matthew 24:21–22).
If God does not intervene, that time will end in total destruction. Is it possible for mankind to totally destroy itself through war? Before the nuclear age, many would have said, "No." But now we can understand more clearly than ever the potential consequences of humanity's immense warring power. The atomic bomb that fell on Hiroshima, Japan on August 6, 1945, weighed nearly 9,000 pounds. Today, a "suitcase nuke" weighing less than 300 pounds could deliver even greater devastation across a large city.
Will human beings bring about "Armageddon"? Or will the world's military powers lay down their weapons and find peace? Scripture fills in the details—and we need to know what it tells us!
Just what is Armageddon? The word Armageddon is a transliteration of the original Hebrew har megiddo which means the "hill of Megiddo" or "the mountain of Megiddo."
Megiddo is located about 55 miles north of Jerusalem in Israel. In ancient times, Megiddo guarded the main trade route between Egypt and Damascus. Megiddo overlooks the largest plain in Israel, which Scripture calls the Valley of Jezreel. The Old Testament records several major battles that took place at Megiddo. In recent history, just 90 years ago—in September 1918—British general Edmund Allenby defeated the armies of the Ottoman Empire in what became known as World War I's "Battle of Megiddo."
It is important to realize that the great battle foretold in Scripture does not occur at Armageddon. Revelation 16 reveals the actual sequence of events. Armageddon is the gathering place where the armies meet before that great final battle (Revelation 16:16). Your Bible does not call that great final battle "Armageddon," but rather calls it, "the battle of that great day of God Almighty" (v. 14).
Would the world's armies really put our planet at risk of total nuclear cosmocide? Many of you readers may remember that we have been in frightening danger, in the not-too-distant past. In 1962, the United States and the Soviet Union played nuclear brinksmanship during the Cuban Missile Crisis. In 1973, President Nixon placed U.S. military forces on nuclear alert when the Soviet Union threatened to intervene in the Middle East war between Israel and its Arab neighbors. Could this happen again? Scripture says: "Yes!"
Where does this great battle fit in the overall panorama of Bible prophecy? The sixth chapter of Revelation lays out the prophetic outline. Here, the Apostle John describes his vision of the famous four horsemen of the Apocalypse. The horsemen symbolize false christs and false religion, war and its devastating effects, famines that normally follow on the heels of war, and the pestilences and disease that follow after famine. John wrote: "So I looked, and behold, a pale horse. And the name of him who sat on it was Death, and Hades followed with him. And power was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, with hunger, with death, and by the beasts of the earth" (Revelation 6:8).
Even the mass killing we have seen since the end of World War II will pale in comparison to the death that will cover the earth at this prophesied time. Billions of human beings will die as war, hunger, and disease engulf the planet.
After the four horsemen, who represent the first four seals, comes a fifth seal, revealing a martyrdom of Christians during a two-and-a-half-year-long period of tribulation (Revelation 6:9–11). After that, we see the sixth seal, known as the heavenly signs. "I looked when He opened the sixth seal, and behold, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood. And the stars of heaven fell to the earth, as a fig tree drops its late figs when it is shaken by a mighty wind. Then the sky receded as a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved out of its place" (Revelation 6:12–14).
Meteors streaking toward earth will bring fear and shock to human beings around the world, making the Tunguska event seem minor by comparison. Massive earthquakes will also shake the earth. These signs introduce the Day of the Lord—the time of God's wrath and judgment on our unthankful, rebellious world.
Judgment? Yes. Jesus Christ, the Lamb, will be wrathful! He will execute God's righteous judgments. The Day of the Lord is called "the great day of His wrath!" (Revelation 6:17).
After this, the seventh seal will be opened, consisting of seven trumpet judgments, or plagues, delivered during the year-long Day of the Lord. "When He opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and to them were given seven trumpets" (Revelation 8:1–2). The trumpets will sound a warning to sinning humanity! The seventh trumpet will consist of the "seven last plagues" mentioned in Revelation 15:1.
The fifth, sixth and seventh trumpet plagues are called "woes." The word "woe" is an exclamation of grief. "And I looked, and I heard an angel flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, 'Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the remaining blasts of the trumpet of the three angels who are about to sound!'" (Revelation 8:13).
Revelation 9 describes the first woe—the fifth trumpet plague. The fifth angel sounds a trumpet that begins a military action lasting for five months. Then comes the second woe—the sixth trumpet plague—an intense military counter-attack pictured by symbols of horses and horsemen.
We read: "One woe is past. Behold, still two more woes are coming after these things. Then the sixth angel sounded: And I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God, saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, 'Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates'" (Revelation 9:12–14).
At this point in prophecy, an army of 200 million will move west across the Euphrates River to destroy a third of the earth's population. "So the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour and day and month and year, were released to kill a third of mankind. Now the number of the army of the horsemen was two hundred million; I heard the number of them. And thus I saw the horses in the vision: those who sat on them had breastplates of fiery red, hyacinth blue, and sulfur yellow; and the heads of the horses were like the heads of lions; and out of their mouths came fire, smoke, and brimstone. By these three plagues a third of mankind was killed; by the fire and the smoke and the brimstone which came out of their mouths" (Revelation 9:15–18).
Can you imagine? This is describing world war on an unprecedented scale. This phase of World War III will see the deaths of billions of human beings. As Jesus warned, unless those days would be cut short, no flesh would be saved—all life on earth would be destroyed.
After all this, the seventh trumpet will sound. For Christians, the sounding of the seventh trumpet will be good news—because it will announce Jesus Christ's return, and His establishing the Kingdom of God on earth. We read: "Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, 'The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!'" (Revelation 11:15).
For Christians, this will be a time of joy. But how will the world react? Scripture tells us: "The nations were angry, and Your wrath has come" (v. 18).
Armies of the angry kings of the east will move westward, across the Euphrates River. The world's armies will encounter each other at Megiddo, overlooking the Valley of Jezreel. Scripture describes this gathering as the sixth of the seven last plagues: "Then the sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up, so that the way of the kings from the east might be prepared. And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty" (Revelation 16:12–14). Then: "And they gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon" (v. 16).
Fallen angels—Satan's demons—will cause the opposing forces to join together in fighting against Christ at His coming. After gathering at Megiddo, they will move south toward Jerusalem to fight against Christ. Notice: "For behold, in those days and at that time, when I bring back the captives of Judah and Jerusalem, I will also gather all nations, and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; and I will enter into judgment with them there" (Joel 3:1–2).
What the Bible calls the Valley of Jehoshaphat, between the Mount of Olives and the city of Jerusalem, is today called the Kidron Valley, extending quite a distance toward the south. It is here, not at "Armageddon," where the battle of the great day of God Almighty will take place. Jehoshaphat, in Hebrew, means "judgment of the Eternal." At this climactic battle, God will judge the nations.
Among them, God will judge and punish the European superpower called the "Beast" in the book of Revelation. The armies of this haughty superpower will actually try to fight against Christ at His coming! "And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse. And all the birds were filled with their flesh" (Revelation 19:19–21).
Yes, God will defeat those rebellious nations that choose to fight against the Prince of Peace at His coming! As the Apostle Paul wrote, "The way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes" (Romans 3:17–18).
When men turn to war, failing to fear God, what happens? On September 2, 1945, right at the end of World War II, U.S. Army General Douglas MacArthur gave a famous speech aboard the USS Missouri, summarizing the historic lesson of war: "Military alliances, balances of power, leagues of nations, all in turn failed, leaving the only path to be the way of the crucible of war. The utter destructiveness of war now blocks out this alternative. We have had our last chance. If we will not devise some greater and more equitable system, our Armageddon will be at our door. The problem basically is theological and involves a spiritual recrudescence and improvement of human character that will synchronize with our almost matchless advances in science, art, literature and all material and cultural developments of the past two thousand years. It must be of the spirit if we are to save the flesh."
Human nature has not changed since MacArthur spoke. Nations have not learned their lessons. As General Robert E. Lee famously observed during the U.S. Civil War, "It is well that war is so terrible—or we would grow too fond of it." Sadly, the nations of Earth will keep growing so fond of war that mankind will soon face total cosmocide—death of all life on earth—unless God Almighty intervenes to save us. And He will.
But, in the meantime, nations continue to develop weapons of mass destruction. As General MacArthur predicted, Armageddon will soon be at our door.
Our nations need to repent of their godless and immoral ways of life. But even if it is too late for your nation, you can still repent personally. God can protect you through the dangerous times ahead. Jesus exhorted His followers: "Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man" (Luke 21:36). Are you praying for God's Kingdom to come? Are you praying for the return of Jesus Christ—the King of kings—to this earth?
Christ's return will usher in a thousand years of peace and prosperity for the whole world. Christ will return as King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 19:16). The millennial prophecies in your Bible reveal a coming world with renewed life, sustainable agriculture, and peace among nations as they all come to the temple in Jerusalem to worship the King. Nations will beat their swords into plowshares. "Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore" (Isaiah 2:4).
What wonderful news that is! Beyond Armageddon lies the Kingdom of God and lasting world peace. Thank God for the ultimate future He has planned for you and me! We each need to be planning, now, in our own lives, for that future. Be sure you are praying and reading your Bible daily. Be sure you are asking Christ to help you to learn His precepts and to live by them. As you do so, you will be preparing yourself well for Armageddon—and beyond!