God's Final War
against the LORD and against his Messiah."
The Jezre'el Valley, looking broadly south & west from Har Tabor.
In the Bible, “Armageddon,” is not the apocalyptic end of life on earth.
Contrary to cultural mythologies, Armageddon has nothing to do with an angry Mother Earth exacting dues on us for our ecological negligence and selfish indulgence. It won’t be caused by melting icecaps and glaciers, or by earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes, or rampages by biological frankensteins.
Nor will the End come when a great Nibiru appears out of a space-time wormhole to slay Goliath Earth with a well-aimed NEO from Mother Cosmos’s davidic slingshot.
More mundanely, it won't come with a shower of Allah Akhbar nukes from Tehran when the 12th Imam, the great messianic Mahdi of Muslim eschatology, initiates the end of Western, Christian and Jewish civilization and establishes a universal Islamic state.
No. It's not going to happen that way.
Armageddon, in the Bible, is God’s final war that he wages against a coalition of nations — because of their unrelenting sinfulness, rebellion against His will, and refusal to obey His Messiah Yeshua (Jesus of Nazareth), whom He sent as agent of human redemption and regeneration.
The word “Armageddon” occurs only one time in biblical literature: in the book of Revelation chapter 16 in the New Testament:
The Final Conflagration
Thus, Armageddon begins as an all-out, demonically-inspired war against the Messiah Yeshua — not people versus people or nature versus people. But it ends with God destroying his enemies.
Armageddon is not only an event, it is also place where God punishes unrepentant, evil human beings, so that his creation will be free of their influence.
Let’s look at Hebrew backgrounds for these apocalyptic passages.
In the Hebrew Bible, Megiddo is a town, not a mountain (Jos 12:21; 2 Kgs 23:29; Zech 12:11), though like most towns and cities it is situated on a hill. The site of Tel Megiddo today is situated on the edge of the Carmel mountain range southeast of Haifa, overlooking the Plain of Esdraelon or Jezreel Valley in northern Israel. “Har Megiddon” might mean the hill country around Megiddo and the valleys or plain below.
Megiddo = War
The town of Megiddo overlooked the Valley of Jezreel, where “the stars fought from heaven” against the chariots of Sisera, using the armies of Barak and Deborah (Judges 45; esp. 5:20). Wicked King Ahaziah later fled to Megiddo and died there after being shot with arrows of judgment from Jehu's men (2 Kings 9:27). And there the righteous but foolish King Josiah was needlessly slain in battle with Pharaoh Neco (2 Kings 23:29; 2 Chron 35:22). Archeologists found a large fortress and cavalry post there, apparently built by King Solomon.
Megiddo and the Jezreel valley thus symbolize war and defeat — usually of the enemies of God.
The archeological digs at the city of Megiddo.
The Coalition War Against Jerusalem
The Hebrew prophets often picture an end-time war waged by the nations against Israel and its capital Jerusalem.
These passages assume humankind will still exist to face “the War of the great Day of God” (Rev 16:14).
Therefore, we earthlings won’t destroy ourselves with NBCs (nuclear, biological, chemical weapons) or environmental contaminations, or be vaporized by interstellar invasions. We may suffer greatly from what we’ve created, unleashed or mismanaged. But our final Armageddon is noted in Someone else’s iPad.
We are all — according to the prophets — headed for an End Game with God, not with ourselves.
God’s Transnational, Non-Preferential,
“They will look on me . . . they will mourn for him.”From the context of the passage the “me” is evidently God himself (verses 8-9). But there is no clear referent to the pronoun “him,” unless we continue reading.
Note what the Lord of hosts commands in the next chapter:
Awake, O sword, against my Shepherd,
And against the Man, my Associate,
Declares the LORD of hosts.
Strike the Shepherd that the sheep may be scattered . . .
In the ancient world, "shepherd" is another term for king. David ben Jesse was a shepherd in two senses of the word. The word “man” is not adam but gever, which denotes a warrior or hero. King David is called “the gever who was raised on high ... the anointed one [mashiach] of the God of Jacob” (2 Samuel 23:1).
“My associate” (amiti) comes from the root amah denoting society, fellowship, or relation. David is said to have been “a man after [God’s] own heart”; an allusion to sharing intimate counsel and society, of being of one mind (1 Sam 13:14).
But David was dead by the time of this prophecy, by some 400 years. So the allusion must refer to another David, the second “David” the prophets foretold would come (Hosea 3:5; Isa 16:5; Micah 5:2; Jer 23:5; 30:9; Ezek 37:24-25). As his namesake he too is someone close enough to God to be His amit.
In my view, the slain shepherd in Zechariah 13:7 refers back to the “only son” over whom Jerusalem will mourn (Zech 12:10). They mourned King David when he died of old age. They will again mourn the David whom they pierce.
To Strike David is to Strike God
But the prophecy says it is God who receives the wound: “They will look unto me whom they have pierced” (Zech 12:10).
Either God is David, or we conclude that when God’s Associate is stricken by a sword wielded by Jerusalem — an act ordered by God himself (Zech 13:7; cf. Acts 4:28) — it penetrates the being of God. Of course, that would be in character. As it says, “In all their affliction, He was afflicted” (Isa 63:9).
Yeshua once said the things done “to the least of these brothers of mine” are done to him (Matt 25:40).
Even though the Creator feels the pain and loss of allowing his Associate to be slain, Zechariah said God’s spirit of grace will flow and a fountain of forgiveness will open when Jerusalem mourns her son. Healing follows war for those who mourn rightly. Mourning is not how it must end.
In one sense, the gathering of nations against God is not just an end time event. It’s been going on for ages.
Three millennia ago, the psalmist said, “The kings of the earth take their stand, and the rulers take counsel together against the LORD and against His Messiah” [al YHVH ve-al meshicho] (Psalm 2).
The leaders of your country and mine have throughout history (some to greater degrees than others) all resisted and even actively opposed the will of God. Armageddon is merely their final, corporate effort to be done with that “intolerant, oppressive, biblical God and his Messiah-is-King-of-kings doctrine.” Note v. 3 in Psalm 2:
"Let us tear off their chains and free ourselves from their restraints."
The true Armageddon is not a non-historical final disaster from fill-in-the-blank causes. That pop interpretation was co-opted by people who didn’t read the Scriptures in detail, or by revisionists who don’t like the biblical storyline and want to rewrite it.
Accountability & Decision
In truth, Armageddon is a day of finally being accountable to the God of the Bible and of deciding whether His pierced “David” will be king or not — and of then facing the consequences of those decisions.
There is reason to fear the Day of Armageddon. There can be reason to welcome it with open and humble arms.
[See C. S. Lewis's thoughts on"The World's Last Night" (PDF).]
Hebrew-Greek Transliteration [PDF]