The above overview shows that the battle of Armageddon is much more than a military battle at a particular site in Palestine. The word “Armageddon” is unique to this scripture, and although its meaning is not perfectly clear, many scholars believe it is from the combination of the Hebrew words har (hill or mountain) and Megiddon (the city of Megiddo). The fact that Megiddo is located in the plain of Esdraelon rather than on a mountain implies the symbolic nature of the name, so the meaning should be found in Old Testament passages that deal with Megiddo and the mountains and battles associated with it. There are actually three mountains, Mt. Tabor, Mt. Moreh and Mt. Carmel, which surround Megiddo, each of which is associated with a battle and an important and miraculous victory for God’s people. A review of these battles reveals the true nature of the Battle of Armageddon.

At the time when Deborah, a prophetess, was the “judge” of Israel the Canaanites under Jabin “harshly oppressed the children of Israel,” enforcing their domination with nine hundred iron chariots (Judges 4:3). Deborah “called for Barak the son of Abinoam…and said to him, ‘Has not the Lord God of Israel commanded, ‘Go and deploy troops at Mount Tabor…I [God] will deploy Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his multitude at the river Kishon; and I will deliver him into your hand” (vs. 6.7). Barak was afraid and said he would not go up to fight unless Deborah went with him. She agreed, but informed him that a woman would get the glory for the victory!

“Then Deborah said to Barak, ‘Up! For this is the day in which the Lord has delivered Sisera into your hand. Has not the Lord gone out before you?’ So Barak went down from Mount Tabor with ten thousand men following him. And the Lord routed Sisera and all his chariots and all his army”(Judges 4:15). Sisera himself was killed, not in battle, but by a simple village woman named Jael who pierced his skull with a hammer and tent peg while he was sleeping. [1]

Deborah composed a song to commemorate the victory that shows the link to the battle of Armageddon: “The kings came and fought…in Taanach, by the waters of Megiddo…they fought from the heavens; the stars from their courses fought against Sisera” (Judges 5:19-22). In the final battle of Armageddon real armies will be gathered to carry out the death sentence which has been pronounced against God’s people, but “the stars from their courses” will fight. Angels, the “armies in heaven…on white horses” ( Revelation 19:14) will fight for God’s people and will utterly destroy those who are pursuing them. From this battle we learn that God’s people in the battle of Armageddon will be humble and apparently weak, but unexpectedly courageous (Deborah and Jael). However, the real victory will be a supernatural rescue from heaven (“the stars…fought”).

The second mountain of Megiddo, Mt. Moreh, is the site where Gideon fought against the hoards of Midian. The Midianites were “as numerous as locusts”[2] and they “would come up with their livestock and their tents…and they would enter the land to destroy it” (Judges 6:5). The “Angel of the Lord”[3] appeared to Gideon, commanding him “Go in this might of yours, and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites” (Jud. 6:14). However, the victory had nothing to do with “this might of yours” and everything to do with the mighty power of God!

Gideon was first commanded to get rid of the idols in his own family (Judges 6:25-32). The assignment to go and attack the Midianites was so for beyond his own capabilities that he wondered if he was really hearing the Lord correctly, and God patiently provided miraculous signs so that he could move forward with confidence and courage (vs. 36-40). Gideon sent messengers to gather an army; 32,000 men responded, “but the Lord said to Gideon, ‘The people who are with you are too many for Me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel claim glory for itself against Me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me” (Judges 7:2). God commanded him to send home those who were fearful, but the 10,000 who remained were still too many. God designed a strict selection process—only those who drank water “on the run” were accepted, and this resulted in an army of only 300 men! (Judges 7:1-7).

“The camp of the Midianites was…by the hill of Moreh in the valley…[Gideon] divided the three hundred into three companies, and he put a trumpet into every man’s hand, with empty pitchers, and torches inside the pitchers…Then the three companies blew the trumpets and broke the pitchers—they held the torches in their left hands and the trumpets in their right hands for blowing…When the three hundred blew the trumpets, the Lord set every man’s sword against his companion throughout the whole camp; and the army fled ” (Judges 7:16-22).

From this story we learn that God’s people in the battle of Armageddon are totally dependent on Him, and rid their lives of every idol that might block the flow of God’s power. They are diligent to be sure they are hearing the Lord correctly, but when sure of His will they are fearless and ready for action. They are filled with the Holy Spirit [the torches] but they are only able to shine by being broken, as predicted by Daniel, “When the power of the holy people has been completely shattered, all these things shall be finished” (Daniel 12:7).[4] With their trust and confidence fully severed from themselves and resting in the Lord, they blow the trumpet—they proclaim God's final message to the world. The beast and his Babylonian followers are enraged, but in the face of overwhelmingly hopeless odds, the Lord wins a great victory as His enemies are routed, turn on one another, and are destroyed.

The third and most prominent mountain of Meggido is Mt. Carmel. During the time of the prophet Elijah, King Ahab, spurred on by the wicked queen Jezebel, established the worship of Baal and Asherah in Israel and “Jezebel massacred the prophets of the Lord” (1 Kings 18:4). God commanded Elijah to announce a drought, and then to hide by the Brook Cherith where he was fed by the birds until the brook dried up. He was then supported by a heathen widow until God told Him it was time to go confront the idolaters who ruled His people.

Elijah told Ahab, “gather all Israel to me on Mount Carmel, the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah who eat at Jezebel’s table” (v. 19). The people were so confused that when Elijah called on them to decide who they would follow “the people answered him not a word” (v. 21). Elijah proposed a test: there would be two sacrifices, and the god who answered by bringing fire down from heaven would be God. The heathen priests confidently expected that they would be able to work their usual miracles, and called upon Baal in an all-day worship service, leaping and dancing and crying out, even injuring themselves, but the humiliating impotence of their “god” was exposed—“there was no voice; no one answered, no one paid attention” (vs. 26-29).

“Elijah said to all the people, ‘Come near to me’…And he repaired the altar of the Lord that was broken down” (v.30). So that everyone would know that there was no trickery, water was poured on the sacrificial animal until the water ran down over the wood, the altar, and filled up a trench around the altar. Then Elijah called upon the Lord, saying “Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that You are the Lord God, and that You have turned their hearts back to You again.’ Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood and the stones and the dust, and it licked up the water that was in the trench.” The people “fell on their faces; and they said, ‘The Lord, He is God! The Lord, He is God!” The false prophets were seized and executed; not one of them escaped (vs. 32-40). The wicked queen Jezebel went into a rage when she saw that her priests had been killed and threatened Elijah with death. He "fled to the mountains" but God met him there and gave him new courage. In the end the soldiers who had been supporting Jezebel and her family turned against them and destroyed them (2 Kings 9).

From this story we see that God’s "Elijah"people will seem to be standing alone, but even a multitude of false and hostile religious leaders standing against them will not dissuade them from challenging Babylon and appealing to the confused people to take their stand for the Lord. After winning the "great multitude" through the power of the Spirit they will be threatened with death and will have to flee to the mountains. But God will fight against their enemies (who will turn upon each other at the very end) and they will be delivered.

These three incidents depict the experience of God’s people through the whole time of trouble, culminating in the battle of Armageddon. The special messengers (Deborah, Gideon, and Elijah) correspond to the 144,000, who will call the people of God to come out of the slavery of idolatry and false worship. The story of Deborah shows that God’s people will realize their own weakness and helplessness (a woman was the hero!). Like Gideon’s army, they will be shattered so that their light can shine as they blow the trumpet. Like Elijah, they may have to hide in caves, and will be dependent on God for their very existence.[5] In each of the stories they are hopelessly outnumbered. But God will fight for them, and their enemies will be totally overthrown.

Continue to next section: 16:17-21 THE SEVENTH PLAGUE

[1] Judges 4:17-23.

[2] Judges 6:5, 8:10.

[3] The angel of the Lord (Judges 6:11,22) was actually the Lord Himself (vs. 14,23).

[5] This was also prophesied by Isaiah in the context of the second coming of Christ, “Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire?…He who walks righteously…He will dwell on high; his place of defense will be the fortress of rocks; bread will be given him, his water will be sure (Isaiah 33:14-16).