Armageddon, What Does It Mean?

The word ‘Armageddon’ occurs only once in the book of Revelation, sometimes called the Apocalypse by Bible students. The sentence in which it occurs is, “And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.” (Rev.16:16)

‘Armageddon’ refers to the city and mountains of Megiddo which is a town in the plain of Jezreel. It is the place where many battles were fought in ancient times from the times of Joshua onwards. Although a future battle may be fought here, it is probable that the term Armageddon is symbolic of a war involving the whole world. To get a more comprehensive idea as to what is involved, it is therefore necessary to examine the context in which the word Armageddon is used.

The word Armageddon occurs in a section about seven vials and at the end of the sixth vial. What are these vials all about? Revelation 15:1 gives the answer, “And I saw another sign in (the symbolic) heaven, great and marvellous, seven angels having the seven last plagues; for in them is filled up the wrath of God.” And again in verse 7, “And one of the four beasts gave unto the seven angels seven vials full of the wrath of God who liveth for ever and ever.” This chapter 15 is an introduction to chapter 16 which provides the details of these seven vials.

The Sixth Vial

The term ‘vials of God’s wrath’ sounds very ominous; what follows now is a brief outline of the sixth vial in order to indicate the time for the fulfillment of vials six and seven.

The first part of the sixth vial is poured out upon the great river Euphrates and its waters were dried up (16:12). The symbolic river refers to the Turkish Empire which existed in territory through which the Euphrates flowed. The waters were dried up when rebellious subject nations broke away during the 1800’s AD from Turkish rule so that its desolating power declined. Finally, during the First World War its main army in Palestine was defeated by the British in 1917 and a mandate was granted to Great Britain to administer the immigration of Jews to Palestine.

Three Unclean Spirits

The next verse (13) reads, “And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, …beast…and false prophet…” These unclean spirits are said to be like frogs because their governments are democratic. You may remember that the French Revolution in 1789 brought an effective end in France to government by the Monarchy and the Clergy. This was succeeded by rule ‘of the people, by the people’. This was effected by organizing a parliament; subsequently other European nations followed suit.

What were these unclean Spirits? I suggest they refer to major waves of anti-Semitism perpetrated first by the Russian Government, the dragon, led by Ukrainian forces in 1917 onwards. At this time an estimated 70,000 to 250,000 Jews were killed. These pogroms (organised massacres of Jews) resulted in a mass emigration of Jews to the U.S.A. Because the Jews are God’s people, any campaign of persecution against Jews may well be regarded as being led by an unclean spirit.

Prior to and during World War 2 (1939-45) the German government, the beast, led by their leader Hitler, rounded up and put to death 6,000,000 Jews in a futile attempt to exterminate their race. At that time the Roman Catholic Church, the false prophet, connived at what was going on in the concentration camps and did nothing to stop it. The Church led by the Pope, the false prophet, may yet make moves in opposition to Israel, the young Jewish State, over the question of Jerusalem.

These unclean spirits and the spirits of demons are said in verse 14 “to go forth unto the kings of the earth and the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty”.

This enormous campaign, organised by ungodly and foolish leaders, amounts to a war against an invincible Divine Power that will inevitably end in complete destruction.

The Second Advent of Jesus Christ

The next verse contains a remarkable parenthesis announcing the return of the Lord Jesus from heaven (with power and great glory Luke 21:27), “Behold, I come as a thief, blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame. And he gathered them into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.” (Rev.16:15-16)

By this interruption in the main theme one is made aware that the ‘he’ of verse 16 is the Lord Jesus who will also be involved in gathering the nations to Armageddon.

The Seventh Vial

The next verses, 17 to 21, describe the pouring out of the seventh and last vial of God’s wrath. We may assume that this vial embraces what is meant by ‘Armageddon.’ “And the seventh angel poured out his vial into the air; and there came a great voice out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, “It is done.” The pouring out of this vial ‘into the air’ could signify aerial warfare; but if the phrase is symbolic, it could mean the kingdoms of the whole world which are engaged in a war. Verse 18 reads, “And there were voices, and thunders and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such as was not since men were upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake and so great.”

The symbol of an earthquake has been used before; for example for the time of the French revolution (Rev.11:14). This earthquake is described in literal terms concerning the sounding of the seventh trumpet. “The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ and he shall reign for ever and ever.” (11:15)

One cannot imagine a more complete reversal of the powers that will rule the world in the age to come. The present nations will be brought into subjection by Jesus and the Saints in order to establish the Kingdom of God.

Verse 19 reads (ch.16), “And the great city was divided into three parts and the cities of the nations fell – (to invading forces supported by Divine power) and great Babylon came in remembrance before God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath.”

In this context of Armageddon it is not surprising that great Babylon, the Roman Catholic Church, whose judgement is more fully described in chapter 18, should be singled out for mention here. Throughout the past centuries, her activities have been political as well as religious and her persecution of ‘heretics’ has been notorious. Verse 20 (ch.16) reads, “And every island fled away and the mountains were found.” This verse is saying that every small nation will flee in trying to escape from the storms of judgement and there were no more mountains, major powers, to be found because they will all have been subdued by Christ.

Finally, “And there fell upon men a great hail out of heaven, every stone about the weight of a talent; and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail; for the plague thereof was exceeding great.” (v.21) This verse seems to be describing in more literal terms the way human life will be destroyed; enormous hail stones (or bombs?) on nations which will attempt to resist the commands of the Lord Jesus Christ to submit to his rule.


Revelation chapter 16 is not the only place where judgements of God are dealt with. In the Old Testament many prophets deal with the same matter. To illustrate this we will quote from Psalm 2 which adds an exhortation for us all:

“Thou (the Son of God) shalt break them (the heathen) with a rod of iron: thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel. Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.” (Ps.2:9-12)

Bro. Ralph Green (Torquay, U.K.)

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