Wednesday, June 8, 2011
A Happy Beginning
THE word “Armageddon” has its origin in the Hebrew expression “Har–Magedon,” or “Mountain of Megiddo.” It is found at Revelation 16:16, which states: “They gathered them together to the place that is called in Hebrew Har–Magedon.” Who are assembled to Armageddon, and why? Just two verses earlier, at Revelation 16:14, we read: “The kings of the entire inhabited earth” are gathered together “to the war of the great day of God the Almighty.” Naturally, those statements raise additional intriguing questions. Where do these “kings” fight? Over what issue do they battle, and with whom? Will they, as many believe, use weapons of mass destruction? Will there be survivors of Armageddon? Let the Bible provide the answers.
Does the reference to the “Mountain of Megiddo” mean that Armageddon will be fought at a certain mountain in the Middle East? No. For one thing, no such mountain really exists—at the site of ancient Megiddo, there is only a mound rising about 70 feet [20 m] above the adjacent valley plain. In addition, the area around Megiddo could not begin to hold all “the kings of the earth and their armies.” (Revelation 19:19) However, Megiddo was the site of some of the fiercest and most decisive battles in Middle Eastern history. Thus, the name Armageddon stands as a symbol of a decisive conflict, with only one clear victor.—See the box “Megiddo—A Fitting Symbol.”
Armageddon cannot be just a conflict among earthly nations, since Revelation 16:14 states that “the kings of the entire inhabited earth” form a united front at “the war of the great day of God the Almighty.” In his inspired prophecy, Jeremiah stated that “those slain by Jehovah” will be scattered “from one end of the earth clear to the other end of the earth.” (Jeremiah 25:33) Thus, Armageddon is not a human war confined to a particular location in the Middle East. It is Jehovah’s war, and it is global.
Note, however, that at Revelation 16:16, Armageddon is called a “place.” In the Bible, “place” may signify a condition or a situation—in this case, that the entire world will be united in its opposition to Jehovah. (Revelation 12:6, 14) At Armageddon all earthly nations ally themselves against “the armies that were in heaven” under the military command of the “King of kings and Lord of lords,” Jesus Christ.—Revelation 19:14, 16.
What about the claim that Armageddon will be a holocaust involving weapons of mass destruction or a collision with a celestial body? Would a loving God allow such a horrific end to humankind and their home, the earth? No. He expressly states that he did not create the earth “simply for nothing” but “formed it even to be inhabited.” (Isaiah 45:18; Psalm 96:10) At Armageddon, Jehovah will not ruin our globe in a cataclysmic conflagration. Rather, he will “bring to ruin those ruining the earth.”—Revelation 11:18.
MEGIDDO—A FITTING SYMBOL
Ancient Megiddo was strategically situated, overlooking the western section of the fertile Jezreel Valley, in northern Israel. It controlled the international trade and military routes that intersected there. Thus, Megiddo became a place of decisive battles. Professor Graham Davies writes in his book Cities of the Biblical World—Megiddo: “The city of Megiddo . . . was easily accessible to traders and migrants from all directions; but at the same time it could, if powerful enough, control access by means of these routes and so direct the course of both trade and war. It is not surprising therefore that it was . . . a prize often fought over and when secured strongly defended.”
The long history of Megiddo began in the second millennium B.C.E. when the Egyptian ruler Thutmose III defeated the Canaanite rulers there. It continued through the centuries to 1918 when British General Edmund Allenby inflicted a stinging defeat on the Turkish army. It was at Megiddo that God enabled Judge Barak to inflict a smashing blow upon Canaanite King Jabin. (Judges 4:12-24; 5:19, 20) In that vicinity Judge Gideon routed the Midianites. (Judges 7:1-22) It was there, too, that Kings Ahaziah and Josiah were killed.—2 Kings 9:27; 23:29, 30.
Associating Armageddon with that vicinity is thus appropriate, since it was the site of numerous decisive battles. It is a fitting symbol of God’s complete victory over all opposing forces.
Over the centuries, a pressing question that has generated endless speculation has been, When will Armageddon come? Examining the book of Revelation in the light of other parts of the Bible can help us determine the timing of this crucial battle. Revelation 16:15 links Armageddon with Jesus’ coming as a thief. That word picture is also used by Jesus in describing his coming to execute judgment on this system of things.—Matthew 24:43, 44; 1 Thessalonians 5:2.
As shown by the fulfillment of Bible prophecies, since 1914 we have been living in the last days of this system of things.* Marking the final part of the last days will be the period that Jesus called the “great tribulation.” The Bible does not say how long that period will be, but the calamities associated with it will be worse than anything the world has ever seen. That great tribulation will culminate at Armageddon.—Matthew 24:21, 29.
Since Armageddon is “the war of the great day of God the Almighty,” there is nothing that humans can do to postpone it. Jehovah has set an “appointed time” for that war to start. “It will not be late.”—Habakkuk 2:3.
A God of Righteousness Wages a Just War
Why, though, would God wage a global war? Armageddon is closely related to one of his cardinal qualities, justice. The Bible declares: “Jehovah is a lover of justice.” (Psalm 37:28) He has seen all the acts of injustice perpetrated during man’s history. This naturally provokes his righteous displeasure. Thus, he has appointed his Son to wage a just war in order to do away with this entire wicked system.
Only Jehovah is capable of waging a truly just and truly selective war during which righthearted individuals, wherever they may be on earth, will be preserved. (Matthew 24:40, 41; Revelation 7:9, 10, 13, 14) And only he has the right to impose his sovereignty over all the earth, for it is his creation.—Revelation 4:11.
What forces will Jehovah use against his enemies? We simply do not know. What we do know is that he has at his disposal the means to devastate the wicked nations completely. (Job 38:22, 23; Zephaniah 1:15-18) However, God’s earthly worshippers will not participate in the battle. The vision in Revelation chapter 19 indicates that only heavenly armies will share with Jesus Christ in the warfare. None of Jehovah’s Christian servants on earth will take part.—2 Chronicles 20:15, 17.
A God of Wisdom Gives Ample Warning
What about survivors? Indeed, no one needs to perish at Armageddon. The apostle Peter observed: “Jehovah . . . does not desire any to be destroyed but desires all to attain to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) And the apostle Paul stated that God’s “will is that all sorts of men should be saved and come to an accurate knowledge of truth.”—1 Timothy 2:4.
Worldwide, people are being given a warning and the opportunity to survive Armageddon
To that end, Jehovah has wisely made sure that the “good news of the kingdom” is proclaimed far and wide, in hundreds of languages. People everywhere are being given the opportunity for survival and salvation. (Matthew 24:14; Psalm 37:34; Philippians 2:12) Those who respond favorably to the good news can survive Armageddon and live forever in perfection on a paradise earth. (Ezekiel 18:23, 32; Zephaniah 2:3; Romans 10:13) Is this not what one would expect from a God who is love?—1 John 4:8.
Can a God of Love Fight?
Many wonder, however, why a God who is the very embodiment of love would inflict death and destruction on much of humankind. The situation might be compared to that of a pest-infested house. Would you not agree that a conscientious homeowner should safeguard the health and well-being of his family by exterminating the pests?
Similarly, it is because of Jehovah’s deep affection for humans that the battle of Armageddon has to be fought. God’s purpose is to make the earth a paradise and to elevate mankind to perfection and peace, with “no one making them tremble.” (Micah 4:3, 4; Revelation 21:4) What, then, is to be done with those who threaten the peace and security of their fellow humans? God must eliminate such “pests”—the incorrigibly wicked—for the sake of the righteous ones.—2 Thessalonians 1:8, 9; Revelation 21:8.
Much of the strife and bloodshed today is caused by imperfect human rulership and the selfish striving for nationalistic interests. (Ecclesiastes 8:9) Seeking to expand their influence, human governments totally disregard God’s established Kingdom. There is no indication that they will relinquish their sovereignty to God and Christ. (Psalm 2:1-9) Such governments must therefore be removed to pave the way for the righteous rule of Jehovah’s Kingdom under Christ. (Daniel 2:44) Armageddon must be fought in order to resolve once and for all the issue of who has the right to rule this planet and humankind.
Jehovah’s active intervention at Armageddon will be with mankind’s best interests at heart. In the face of worsening world conditions, only God’s perfect rulership will completely satisfy mankind’s needs. Only by means of his Kingdom will true peace and prosperity prevail. What would world conditions be like if God forever refrained from taking action? Would not hatred, violence, and wars continue to plague mankind as they have throughout the centuries of human rulership? The battle of Armageddon is actually one of the best things that could happen to us!—Luke 18:7, 8; 2 Peter 3:13.
The War to End All Wars
Armageddon will accomplish something that no other war has ever accomplished—the end of all wars. Who does not yearn for the day when warfare will be a thing of the past? However, the end of war has eluded all human efforts. Such repeated failure of human attempts to end war merely emphasizes the truth of Jeremiah’s words: “I well know, O Jehovah, that to earthling man his way does not belong. It does not belong to man who is walking even to direct his step.” (Jeremiah 10:23) Regarding what Jehovah will accomplish, the Bible promises: “He is making wars to cease to the extremity of the earth. The bow he breaks apart and does cut the spear in pieces; the wagons he burns in the fire.”—Psalm 46:8, 9.
As the nations use their deadly weapons on one another and threaten to destroy the environment, the Maker of the earth will take action—at the Biblical Armageddon! (Revelation 11:18) This war, therefore, will accomplish what God-fearing men throughout the ages could only hope for. It will vindicate the rightful rulership of earth’s Owner, Jehovah God, over all his creation.
Thus, Armageddon is not to be feared by people who love righteousness. Rather, it provides a basis for hope. The war of Armageddon will cleanse the earth of all corruption and wickedness and open the way for a righteous new system of things under the rule of God’s Messianic Kingdom. (Isaiah 11:4, 5) Instead of being a frightening cataclysmic end, Armageddon will signal a happy beginning for righteous individuals, who will live forever on a paradise earth.—Psalm 37:29.
ARMAGEDDON WILL SIGNAL A HAPPY BEGINNING
* See Knowledge That Leads to Everlasting Life, chapter 11, published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.