The time was 5:45 A.M. The date was March 20, 2003. I know you’re aware of what happened at that moment on that day, even though at first glance you probably don’t remember, so I’ll tell you. It was the beginning of a war codenamed “Operation Iraqi Freedom.” Nearly 300,000 American, British, Australian, and Polish troops invaded Iraq. Baghdad fell on April 9, ending President Saddam Hussein’s 24-year rule.
The war was very real to those of us who watched it on our television sets, but it was a thousand times more real to those who experienced it.
I have bad news for you. Another war is just around the corner, and it’s going to make the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan seem like a kids’ game of cowboys and Indians. Revelation calls it Armageddon. Fortunately, we aren’t left in the dark about this war, because several chapters in the second half of Revelation give us the details.
I suspect that most people, including non-Christians, think of Armageddon as the final battle on planet Earth, and they’re right. However, the war began long before that in what most people think of as the most ideal place to live. Revelation 12:7 says, “There was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back” (italics added). Fortunately, Michael and his angels won the conflict, and Satan and his evil angels were cast out of heaven to planet Earth. This war has been fought on our planet ever since, and even now we are entering its final phase. Revelation 12:17 introduces us to that final phase with the following short sentence: “The dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring.”
So who or what does this dragon represent? Who is the “woman” it’s attacking? And who are the woman’s offspring? Revelation 12 tells us exactly who the parties in this conflict are. The dragon is “that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan” (verse 9), and the woman and her offspring represent “those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus” (verse 17). These are God’s people, and they’re under attack by Satan!
Immediately after the report about the dragon’s attack on the woman and her offspring, Revelation introduces us to a powerful creature that stalks out of the ocean. Jesus’ disciple John, who wrote Revelation, says, “I saw a beast coming out of the sea. He had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on his horns, and on each head a blasphemous name” (Revelation 13:1).
This beast is very powerful, because Revelation says that people all over the world will follow it, and they will ask, “Who is like the beast? Who can make war against him?”(verse 4). This beast is invincible! Nobody can attack him and win.
Revelation goes on to say that the beast was “given power to make war against the saints” (verse 7). The saints—that’s God’s people—will resist this beast, but they will pay a heavy price for their opposition, because Revelation says that the beast will conquer them. God’s people are doomed!
Or are they?
The next reference to Armageddon comes in Revelation 17. The chapter begins with a word picture of a prostitute riding on a scarlet beast that, like the beast from the sea, has seven heads and ten horns (verse 3). The reference to war comes in verse 14, which says that "they will make war against the Lamb” (verse 14; italics added).
So who are “they”? They’re the ten horns on the scarlet beast. Verse 12 explains that these horns represent ten kings, that is, heads of state. Today we would refer to them as presidents and prime ministers. And since there are far more than ten nations in today’s world, Revelation’s “ten kings” should probably be understood to represent all the nations of the world at the time of this final conflict.
Now note this: “They [the nations of the world] will make war against the Lamb.” The Lamb in Revelation represents Jesus Christ. But how can the world’s nations do that when Jesus is hundreds and perhaps thousands of light-years away in a place we call “heaven”?
The world’s nations will attack Jesus by attacking His people! Again, it appears that God’s people are doomed— but they aren’t, because Revelation goes on to say that “the Lamb will overcome them [earth’s nations] because he is Lord of lords and King of kings” (verse 14).
So how will this happen? Revelation 19 tells us.
Revelation’s final picture of the battle of Armageddon comes in chapter 19. John said, “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 makes war” (verse 11). Revelation goes on to say that “the armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean” (verse 14). That’s military language! (The phrase “armies of heaven” probably refers to the angels.)
We know, of course, that Satan will be on the other side of this war. So will anyone join him? John said, “I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to make war against the rider on the horse and his army” (verse 19; italics added).
The participants in Revelation 19 are exactly the same as those in chapter 17—Jesus and His followers on one side and the devil and his followers on the other. And chapter 19 also tells us that Jesus will win this conflict. It says that “the beast was captured”—taken prisoner of war, if you please!—“and was thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur” (verse 20).
A moment ago we read the question in Revelation 13:4, “Who can make war against [the beast]?” Chapter 19 answers that question: Jesus, the Rider on the white horse can make war against the beast—and defeat him!
Let’s find out what else Revelation tells us about Armageddon.
When will it happen?
Earth’s final conflict will have two phases. The first phase will begin a short time before Jesus’ second coming. In this phase, the war will take the form of persecution against God’s people all over the world. For example, the forces of evil will decree that anyone who refuses to worship in the politically correct manner will be killed (Revelation 13:15). At this stage of the war, it will appear that the devil and his followers are winning. That’s why the prophet John said that the beast “will make war against the saints and . . . conquer them” (verse 7; italics added).
The second phase of the battle of Armageddon will be fought at Christ’s second coming. Most Bible commentators agree that the word picture in Revelation 19 of Jesus and His armies riding out of heaven on white horses is a symbolic description of His second coming. And, as we shall see in a moment, Christ and His followers will win this part of the war.
Where will it happen?
In the Hebrew language, the word Armageddon means “Mount of Megiddo.” There is no Mount Megiddo in Palestine, but there is a valley of Megiddo. This has led many Christians to conclude that earth’s final conflict will take place in that valley.
However, as we have seen, this battle will take place between Christ and Satan and their respective followers. Since every human being will be on one side or the other, we can conclude that Armageddon will not be limited to one spot on earth. The battlefield will be the globe.
Armageddon, you, and me
Armageddon is simply the final phase in a war that’s been going on in our world since Satan tempted Adam and Eve in Eden. It’s the age-old conflict between good and evil, and throughout history it’s been fought in the minds and hearts of human beings.
Every person involved in a war has to make choices, from the general who plans the overall strategy to the soldier crawling through the mud and grass, trying to decide whether to shoot the enemy or take him prisoner.
The battle between good and evil in your heart and mine also involves choices. What choice do you make, for example, when you have the opportunity to cheat on your income taxes and get away with it? What happens when you’re burning up mad at someone and you can either explode or keep your cool? What do you do when someone at work seems more attractive than your husband or wife?
You and I are confronted with choices like these every day. The war is real right now!
Earth’s final battle—what we call Armageddon—is still future. But it, too, will involve choices regarding spiritual and moral issues. If you don’t remember anything else in this article, I hope you keep the following in mind: You and I will make the same spiritual and moral choices in earth’s final conflict that we are making right now.
The powerful beast that emerges from the sea in Revelation 13 appears to be invincible. During the first part of this conflict, no one can make war against him. The saints try (that’s you and me), but the beast defeats them. In Revelation 19, however, the Rider on the white horse engages this beast in battle, defeats him, and throws him into a lake of burning sulfur.
Revelation 17:4 says that the nations of the earth “will make war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will overcome them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings—and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers.” The most exciting part about this verse is that Jesus Christ is going to win the battle of Armageddon! And the next most exciting part is that you and I will be with Him!
Actually, I’d like to turn that around and say that Jesus will be “with” you and me during the battle of Armageddon. Isn’t that what He promised 2,000 years ago? He said, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20; italics added).
The battle of Armageddon can’t hurt us, because our Leader is King over all the kings of the earth and Lord over all its lords, and He will defeat all of our enemies, including the devil himself, who has been trying desperately to destroy us.
If we join His side today, we are assured that He will keep us on His side during the battle of Armageddon— the final, most intense battle this world has ever known.