In Revelation 16:16, the battlefield designated where blasphemers, unclean spirits, and devils join forces for the final great battle of the ages between their evil hordes and Christ and his faithful angelic army is Armageddon, "the mound of Megiddo." The inspiration for such a choice of battlegrounds was quite likely an obvious one for John the Revelator, for it has been said that more blood has been shed around the hill of Megiddo than any other single spot on Earth. Located 10 miles southwest of Nazareth at the entrance to a pass across the Carmel mountain range, it stands on the main highway between Asia and Africa and in a key position between the Euphrates and the Nile rivers, thus providing a traditional meeting place of armies from the East and from the West. For thousands of years, the Valley of Mageddon, now known as the Jezreel Valley, had been the site where great battles had been waged and the fate of empires decided. Thothmes III, whose military strategies made Egypt a world empire, proclaimed the taking of Megiddo to be worth the conquering of a thousand cities. During World War I in 1918, the British general Allenby broke the power of the Turkish army at Megiddo.
Most scholars agree that the word "Armageddon" is a Greek corruption of the Hebrew Har-Megiddo, "the mound of Megiddo," but they debate exactly when the designation of Armageddon was first used. The city of Megiddo was abandoned sometime during the Persian period (539 b.c.e.–332 b.c.e.), and the small villages established to the south were known by other names. It could well have been that John the Revelator, writing in the Jewish apocalyptic tradition of a final conflict between the forces of light and darkness, was well aware of the bloody tradition of the hill of Megiddo and was inspired by the ruins of the city on its edge; but by the Middle Ages, theologians appeared to employ Armageddon as a spiritual concept without any conscious association with the Valley of Megiddo. Armageddon simply stood for the promised time when the returning Christ and his legions of angels would gather to defeat the assembled armies of darkness. During that same period, those church scholars who persisted in naming an actual geographical location for the final battle between good and evil theorized that it might occur at places in the Holy Land as widely separated as Mount Tabor, Mount Zion, Mount Carmel, or Mount Hermon.
In the fourteenth century, the Jewish geographer Estori Ha-Farchi suggested that the roadside village of Lejjun might be the location of the biblical Megiddo. Ha-Farchi pointed out that Lejjun was the Arabic form of Legio, the old Roman name for the place. In the early nineteenth century, American biblical scholar Edwin Robinson traveled to the area of Palestine that was held at that time by the Ottoman Empire and became convinced that Ha-Farchi was correct in his designation of the site as the biblical Megiddo. Later explorers and archaeologists determined that the ruins of the ancient city lay about a mile north of Lejjun at what had been renamed by the Ottoman government as the mound of Tell el-Mutasellim, "the hill of the governor."
Today, tourists visit Tel Megiddo in great numbers, attracted by the site's apocalyptic mystique and the old battleground's significance as the place where the fate of ancient empires was decided with the might of sword and spear. The Israel National Parks Authority works in close coordination with the Megiddo Expedition and the Ename Center for Public Archaeology of Belgium in offering visitors a dramatic perspective of the history of Armageddon.
Bloomfield, Arthur E. Before the Last Battle— Armageddon. Minneapolis: Dimension Books, Bethany Fellowship, 1971.
Goetz, William R. Apocalypse Next. Camp Hill, Penn.: Horizon Books, 1996.
Shaw, Eva. Eve of Destruction: Prophecies, Theories and Preparations for the End of the World. Chicago: Contemporary Books, 1995.
Silberman, Neil Asher, Israel Finkelstein, David Ussishkin, and Baruch Halpern. "Digging at Armageddon." Archaeology, November/December 1999, pp. 32–39.
Unterman, Alan. Dictionary of Jewish Lore and Legend. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1991.
The New Testament
In the Christian tradition, Armageddon (pronounced ahr-muh-GED-in) is the final batde that will take place between the forces of God and the forces of Satan. The battle, in which evil will finally be defeated, will be followed by the Day of Judgment. On that day, Christ will judge all souls and decide whether to send them to heaven or to hell. Armageddon is mentioned just once in the Bible, in the sixteenth chapter of the New Testament book of Revelation. It is believed to refer to the final battle between good and evil, as well as its location. Although Armageddon brings about the destruction of most of the world, its destruction allows for the renewing of the earth into a better creation.
Armageddon in Context
The term armageddon is taken from a Hebrew phrase meaning “hill of Megiddo,” Megiddo being an ancient town in present-day northern Israel. Megiddo stood at the crossroads of military and trade routes that connected Egypt, Israel, Phoenicia, Syria, and Mesopotamia. Numerous battles were fought at Megiddo because of its strategic location. The idea of Armageddon is important to Christians because it marks the final judgment of humanity, where believers are rewarded and nonbelievers are punished. It marks a validation of Christian beliefs, even though the idea of a “final battle” that destroys evil and makes way for a new and better life for the survivors is not unique to Christianity.
Key Themes and Symbols
Armageddon has come to symbolize an all-out war between good and evil. Over time, the word “armageddon” has been used to refer to any great or climactic batde, such as the First World War. Armageddon also represents the end of evil, since the forces of heaven will defeat the forces of hell.
Armageddon in Art, Literature, and Everyday Life
The subject of the end of the world has long been popular in literature, art, and films. One of the most famous artistic works on this subject is by Michelangelo. His fresco in the Sistine Chapel known as The Last Judgment (1535-1541) depicts the final moments of humanity, where saved souls ascend to heaven and those not saved remain behind. Armageddon is also the name of a 1998 Michael Bay film in which Earth, and all life on it, is threatened with destruction by an approaching asteroid. Armageddon is also the subject of the popular Left Behind series by Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye (published between 1995 and 2005).
Read, Write, Think, Discuss
The book Armageddon Summer by Jane Yolen and Bruce Coville (1999) tells the story of two teenagers who are part of a religious group that believes the world is about to end. In addition to focusing on belief and the possibility of the end of the world, the book deals with family, friendship, and the developing identities of its two main characters.
SEE ALSO Satan
Armageddon ★★½ 1998 (PG-13)
A Texas-sized asteroid is hurtling towards earth, NASA gets nervous, and it's up to oil driller Harry Stamper (Willis) and his misfit crew to turn astronaut, blast off into space, land on that rock, and blow the sucker to kingdom come. Ya get a little romance as hotshot A.J. Frost (Affleck) smooches with babe Grace (Tyler), who's Harry's nubile daughter. Lots of action (naturally), some humor, and some sappy, heart-tugging moments for perfect put-your-brain-on-hold entertainment. The second “space rock hits earth” movie, following the somber “Deep Impact.” 150m/C VHS, DVD, Blu-ray Disc . Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck, Billy Bob Thornton, Steve Buscemi, Liv Tyler, Will Patton, Peter Stormare, Keith David, Owen Wilson, William Fichtner, Jessica Steen, Grayson McCouch, Jason Isaacs, Michael Clarke Duncan, Erik Per Sullivan; D: Michael Bay; W: Jonathan Hensleigh, J.J. (Jeffrey) Abrams; C: John Schwartzman; M: Trevor Rabin. MTV Movie Awards '99: Song (“I Don't Want to Miss a Thing”), Action Seq.; Golden Raspberries '98: Worst Actor (Willis).
ARMAGEDDON , name of the site, in Christian eschatology, of the final battle between the forces of Good and Evil. The name Armageddon is not mentioned prior to the New Testament but is believed by some to be a corrupt spelling of *Megiddo, a city mentioned many times in Scripture. According to this explanation the first syllable ar would stand for ir ("city") or har ("mountain"). Indeed, the Valley of Megiddon (bikat megiddon) is referred to once in the Old Testament in the prophecies of Zechariah (12:11). Others suggest that Armageddon is a corruption of the Hebrew Har Mo'ed ("mount of assembly"; cf. Isa. 14:13) or of Har Migdo ("God's fruitful mountain") which is taken to refer to Mount Zion. This last suggestion is said by some to be supported by several passages in Revelations (9:13; 11:14; 14:14–20; 16:12–16), the imagery of which resembles that of Joel, who envisages the power of God proceeding from Mount Zion to battle against the forces of Evil (Joel 2:1–3; 3:16–17, 21). However, the author of Revelations was probably combining the strategic fame of Megiddo with the idea of an eschatological final conflict on the "mountains of Israel" (Ezek. 38:8, 21).
Ar·ma·ged·don / ˌärməˈgedn/ • n. (in the New Testament) the last battle between good and evil before the Day of Judgment. ∎ the place where the last battle between good and evil will be fought. ∎ a dramatic and catastrophic conflict, typically seen as likely to destroy the world or the human race: nuclear Armageddon.
The name is Greek, and comes from Hebrew har mĕgiddōn ‘hill of Megiddo’ (see Megiddo).