“Armageddon” is the most frightening concept the mind can imagine: a global war so violent that it destroys the planet and brings human history to an end. Though it’s a religious concept, these days international tensions, pandemics, and the climate crisis make Armageddon seem like all too real a possibility. Some people even believe it has already begun. On the other hand, people of every era have thought their own time was so bad that the world couldn’t go on much longer. But is there another possibility? Could it be that Armageddon has already been raging for thousands of years, unnoticed by us but deeply affecting our lives? Check out 9 points about Armageddon below, including some useful things you can do with this idea if you’re not a religious person.
1. Armageddon is Found in Many Religions
The concept of a great battle that brings an end to the world is part of the teachings of Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Germanic and Nordic paganism, Hinduism, and other religions. They commonly teach that the world will decline into immorality, selfishness, and violence that culminates in a massive war. This is not only a physical battle, but a spiritual conflict between good and evil, fought not only by humans but by spiritual beings such as angels and demons. When all appears lost, a Messianic figure appears to initiate a new creation. The Messiah, Jesus Christ, the Mahdi, or Kalki are some of the names given to this figure by world religions. In the rest of this article, we will focus on the Christian concept of Armageddon, as that is where the term itself originated.
2. “Armageddon” Comes From the Bible
The word “Armageddon” is from the Christian Bible, where it occurs only one time, in Revelation 16:16. That verse says that evil spirits will gather the kings of the world there for battle. It comes from two Hebrew words meaning “the mountain of Megiddo.” Megiddo is a real place, but not exactly a mountain. It’s a large plain in northern Israel with a low mound where fortresses in ancient times guarded the important trade route between Egypt, Syria, and Mesopotamia. Many ancient empires fought battles there for control of the region and its lucrative trade. When ancient Israelites heard “Megiddo,” no doubt they thought right away of war.
3. Natural Disasters Will Be Part of Armageddon
Chapter 16 of Revelation describes angels pouring out “bowls of God’s wrath” on the Earth. These are punishments for the world’s people because they rejected God’s forgiveness and chose to follow Satan and believe his false promises. The punishments include an outbreak of sores on people’s skin, the water of the rivers and seas turning to blood, a scorching sun that sears the planet, darkness, the drying up of the Euphrates, lightning, thunder, a massive earthquake, and a hailstorm with 100-pound hailstones. Many of these are similar to the plagues described in the book of Exodus when God cursed Egypt to force the pharaoh to let the Israelites leave captivity. This may suggest that one purpose of the “end times” plagues will be similarly to liberate God’s people from oppression.
4. One Sign of Armageddon is Literally Happening
Revelation 16:12 predicts that the Euphrates River will dry up to clear the way for the “kings of the East” to bring their armies to Armageddon. Turkey, where the river originates, has built 22 dams on it to create reservoirs for irrigation and hydroelectric power. Together with drought and climate change, this has reduced the water flow by 50% downstream in Syria and Iraq. The Iraqi government forecasts the river could dry up completely by 2040. A report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies outlines the scope of this crisis and what it could mean for the region. In 1990 Turkey cut off the flow of the Euphrates when Iraq invaded Kuwait, showing that it was prepared to manipulate the water level to influence geopolitics and military strategy.
5. Armageddon Will Be Demonically-Driven
According to Revelation 16:13-14, people will not just decide on their own to fight the suicidal battle of Armageddon. They will do so because they are deceived by demonic spirits sent by “the dragon” (Satan) and his henchmen. The way they will do this is by performing “signs.” A sign is an omen or event that conveys a spiritual message. These could be supernatural miracles, or simply circumstances that the world’s leaders interpret to mean that going to war is God’s will, or at least, the best decision for their countries. This will be a disastrous mistake.
6. How Does Armageddon End?
The end of Armageddon in the Bible comes in Revelation 19:11-21 with a description of Jesus Christ leading the armies of heaven against the beast (Satan) and the armies of the earth. Although Christ is described with seemingly archaic weapons – riding a white horse and wielding a sword – no power in heaven or earth can stop him from winning this ultimate battle. Chapter 20 describes how, in the end, Satan, the other demons, and humanity will be judged and sent to their final destinations in Heaven or Hell.
7. What Are People Supposed to Do About It?
In Christian thought, it is not possible to change a future that God has decided and predicted will happen. Therefore, Christians believe Armageddon will happen, no matter what we might do to prevent it. Most of them still think we should work for peace and reconciliation in the world to reduce suffering, but they do not believe this will ultimately prevent the end that God has predicted.
So then why does the Bible tell us these things? Remember that this is a book written by and for Christian people. It portrays the ultimate victory of Jesus and his followers despite going through the worst possible circumstances. So to believers, it is ultimately a book of hope and encouragement. For those who do not believe, it extends an invitation to align oneself with the winning side. Revelation 22:17 expresses this idea as an invitation to anyone who is “thirsty” to take “the free gift of the water of life.”
8. Is Armageddon a Literal War?
What if we’re totally on the wrong track thinking of Armageddon as a literal war, though? Revelation is written in highly symbolic language, where colors, numbers, and creatures have spiritual, not literal, meanings. Jesus said he would return “like a thief” at an unexpected time. If the described events lined up literally as described, it makes it hard to see how his impending return would be a surprise. What’s the alternative? Many Christians believe the Bible uses figurative language to talk about a battle between good and evil that has been going on since the beginning of the human race. As we make decisions, we choose sides and participate in that spiritual battle. This will culminate in a day when Jesus will suddenly and unexpectedly reappear and people’s actions will be revealed, judged, and rewarded or punished.
9. What If You’re Not Religious?
You don’t have to be a religious person to benefit from insights from the world’s faiths and philosophies. The topic of Armageddon is serious and emotionally powerful for many people, so it’s worth thinking about why that is so. Here are some examples of takeaways that anyone could find useful as we navigate this topic for ourselves and together with others.
- Human beings have anxiety about their own future and the future of the human race. What can we do to help relieve this anxiety and enjoy our lives?
- How can wars and natural disasters motivate us to reprioritize and make different life choices?
- If a friend is making poor choices based on a perceived sign or omen, how could you help them rethink their interpretation?
- What are people looking for in a Messiah figure? Are any of those wishes things that people might do for themselves, whether or not they believe?
- How can you “agree to disagree” with someone you care about on these issues? Are religious differences deal breakers for you in your relationships, or can you live with diversity?
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