THE DAY OF THE LORD: Armageddon Part SevenJoel 3:9-17
A number of months ago an estimated 100 million Americans watched ABCs special, “The Day After.” The nation saw Lawrence, Kansas atomized before their eyes. Young and old were impacted by the television special, leaving many in a state of fear and uncertainty concerning their survival if a nuclear bomb were dropped.
Many peace movements hyped the television special, using it as a platform for their nuclear weapon freeze program or total disarmament. Supporters of these movements believe that a nuclear disaster would not only bring massive destruction, but annihilate life on this planet.
On the other hand, some political leaders are calling for a nuclear buildup in order to gain parity with the Soviet Union, hoping to assure world peace. They believe that strong superpowers will not engage each other for fear of nuclear annihilation.
Some evangelists are heralding that Armageddon is at hand. They preach that a nuclear holocaust will emerge in the Middle East precipitated by a clash of superpowers around the nation of Israel.
Will Armageddon be a nuclear holocaust resulting in the annihilation of life on this planet? Before answering this question, it must be determined how the term Armageddon is used in Scripture.
ANNOUNCEMENT OF ARMAGEDDON (vv. 9-10)
Although Joel does not use the term Armageddon, he is one of the first prophets to predict its coming. “Prepare war” (v. 9) is the proclamation that will be heralded throughout the world before Armageddon. The word “prepare” means to sanctify, most likely referring to the Middle East custom of nations making supplication to their gods by means of a blood sacrifice before engaging in a military campaign. Many heathen nations would supplicate their gods with animal sacrifices hoping to assure victory over their enemies. At the pleading of Israel, Samuel offered supplicating sacrifice at Mizpah before they battled with the Philistines (1 Sam. 7:8-10).
The picture is one of international peace, when suddenly a declaration of war quickly permeates the world. Such terms as “. . . wake up the mighty men, . . . men of war draw near; let them come up” (v. 9) are military terms summoning all nations to the place of battle. Even the “weak,” those who would never initiate war, are stirred to present themselves as strong warriors (v. 10).
The nations prepare for the conflict by beating their agricultural implements into weapons, “plowshares into swords” and “pruning hooks into spears” (v. 10). During the Kingdom Age the reverse is true (Isa. 2:4).
ASSEMBLY FOR ARMAGEDDON (vv. 11-12)
The nations are to assemble themselves (v. 11) in the Valley of Jehoshaphat (v. 12), located between Jerusalem on the east and the Mount of Olives, for the battle of Armageddon.
Although Joel mentions Jehoshaphat’s Valley as the place of Armageddon, three other locations are indicated too. The battle is described as taking place at Mount Megiddo, “And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon” (Rev. 16:16). The word Armageddon is a Greek transliteration of two Hebrew words, Har, meaning mountain, and Megiddo, which means to crush, kill, strike, massacre; thus, the “mountain of desolation.” Megiddo is a mound which has been built up from the rubble of twenty cities for 3,000 years, reaching some seventy feet high. It is located at the southwest end of the Carmel mountain range, bordering the Jezreel Valley, and stretches twenty-two miles long and sixteen miles wide. Megiddo is the crossroads of the Middle East going north and south. Two major trade routes meet at the mount: the Kings Highway and Via Maris (way of the sea). In 1799, Napoleon Bonaparte stood on Megiddo and called it a natural battlefield.
Natural battlefield indeed! Throughout the centuries Jews, Egyptians, Persians, Crusaders, Druses, Turks and many Arabs have all fought there. It is the place where Deborah and Barak defeated the Canaanites (Jud. 4-5); Gideon defeated the Midianites (Jud. 7); Ahaziah slew Jehu (2 Ki. 9:27); and Josiah was killed by Pharaoh-neco of Egypt (2 Ki. 23:29-30). And once again the nations of the world will gather at Megiddo for the battle of Armageddon. The third area in which the battle is spoken of as taking place is Edom (Isa. 34:6; 63:1-6), located southeast of Jerusalem. The fourth location mentioned is the whole country of Judah (Zech. 12:2-11; 14:2).
Although God says He will gather all nations to battle in Israel (Joel 3:2; Zech.14:2; Rev. 16:16), two other forces bring the nations as well. The nations come of their own will to overthrow the Antichrist (Dan. 11:40-44) who has set himself in Israel as a world ruler (Rev. 13:7,17), demanding all nations worship him as God (Rev. 13:8, 12, 15).
Amazingly, Satan also gathers the nations to Israel. Demonic spirits come from Satan, the Antichrist, and the false prophet, drawing the kings of the world to war through the working of miracles (Rev. 16:13-14). But why would Satan, who is in control of Israel via the Antichrist, wish to bring the nations to Israel for battle? Notice, Satan is really drawing them “. . . to the battle of that great day of God Almighty” (Rev. 16:14).
Satan brings them to Israel for a number of reasons. First, he has been cast out of Heaven, meaning his access to God has been cut off (Rev. 12:9; cp. Job 1:6-12). Second, he knows that time is running out for him, and he must act quickly to destroy the divine program of God (Rev. 12:12). Third, he wants to pour out his wrath upon Israel (Rev. 12:12) hoping that her destruction (Rev. 12:6, 13, 15, 17) will keep God’s program from coming to fruition. Fourth, he has gathered them to destroy Christ at His second advent (Ps. 2:24); for if he can overthrow Christ’s rule on earth, he can keep it for himself (Rev. 16:14).
AWESOMENESS OF ARMAGEDDON (vv. 13-15)
With a prophetic eye Joel sees into the future as multitude after multitude (v. 14) of soldiers stream into the Jezreel Valley surging forth toward their destruction. The word “multitude” comes from a root word in Hebrew (hama) which means to make a loud noise, or be turbulent. The multitude of troops produce a deafening sound as they progress into the valley of decision.
Scripture details the areas from which they come. First, the king of the south, most likely the leader of Egypt, comes into the land with a confederacy from North Africa (Dan. 11:40). Second, the king of the north, possibly a confederacy headed by the Soviet Union (Dan. 11:40), descends on Israel. Third, the kings of the east sweep across the dried up Euphrates River (Rev. 16:12; Dan. 11:44) with 200,000,000 men (Rev. 9:16) to join the other nations. Fourth, the armies of western Europe are already in the land of Israel helping the Antichrist defend his holdings.
War breaks out between the military factions. What many call the battle of Armageddon is not a single battle, but actually a war, for the word battle (Gr., polemos) means a war or campaign (Rev. 16:14). Although the war centers around Jerusalem (Zech. 14:2) its extent reaches out in a 200-mile radius of the city (Rev. 14:20).
Before presenting the second coming of Christ to judge the nations, Joel describes the actual judgment poured out upon them in the “valley of decision.” The name “valley of decision” (v. 14) is a descriptive phrase indeed. The Hebrew word for “decision” (charute) has a basic meaning of to decide, and sharpen or to cut. Thus, it is used metaphorically in reference to God’s decision to cut these huge armies into pieces as one would mow down grain with a sharp threshing sledge.
God is long-suffering with man, “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9). Yet, men despise the goodness, forbearance, and long-suffering of God, thus judgment must inevitably come (Rom. 2:2-6).
Joel pictures the nations being harvested for judgment. “Put in the sickle” (v. 13), he cries. In the fourteenth chapter of Revelation, John declares that the nations are ripe for judgment. He uses two different Greek words for ripe: one speaks of the grapes as overripe and starting to wither (Rev. 14:15), and the other refers to the grapes as full grown (Rev. 14:18), at their peak for harvesting. With the help of angels, Christ thrusts in the sharp sickle, cutting down the nations in judgment (Rev. 14:14-16, 19).
The winepress is full and the vats overflow (v. 13) with the harvest. The imagery portrays grapes being trampled underfoot until all the juice is squeezed out to make wine. But here blood, not grape juice, spurts forth from the winepress of God’s wrath (Rev. 14:14-20). In the day of God’s vengeance, the Lord’s garments will be stained with the blood of those He has slain (Isa. 63:1-3; Rev. 19:13).
The Lord will crush the nations of the world simply by the word of His mouth, leaving them to appear as if they had been put through a wine-press (Rev. 19:15). The carnage is so great that their blood will splash to the horses’ bridles (about five feet high) in a radius of 200 miles (Rev. 14:20).
When the Lord speaks in judgment, the soldiers’ flesh is consumed from their bodies while they are still standing (Zech. 14:12). The word “consume” literally means rot in Hebrew, and has the idea of wasting away as does the flesh of a leper. At Armageddon, the victim’s flesh will decay rapidly from his body and fall off the bones, leaving only a skeletal image of the person.
APPEARANCE OF THE ANOINTED (vv. 15-17)
Just prior to the judgment of the Lord, Joel once again mentions the wonders that will take place in Heaven: “The sun and the moon shall be darkened, and the stars shall withdraw their shining” (v. 15; cp. Mt. 24:29; Mk. 13:24-25; Rev. 6:12-13).
The appearance of Christ for the battle of Armageddon has three effects on men. First, they cannot see, because darkness enveloped them when the lights of the universe went out. Those who would not receive the light of God’s Word, which provides salvation in Jesus Christ, are left to grope in their darkness only to be destroyed “with the brightness of his coming” (2 Th. 2:8).
Second, the ear of man is affected when “The Lord also shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem” (v. 16) . While men stagger about in desperate search for light to relieve their blind condition, the voice of the Lord rolling through the heavens, as a lion makes his presence known before devouring its prey, will strike terror in them. Those who would not open their ears to the truth of 144,000 Jewish witnesses during the Tribulation (Rev. 7; Mt. 24:14) will be given strong delusion that they should hear and believe Satan’s lie (2 Th. 2:11). With the word of His mouth and the breath of His lips, Christ slays the nations gathered for battle (Isa. 11:4; Rev. 19:15).
Third, when Christ returns, His roar will shake “the heavens and the earth” (v. 16) in judgment. Men will feel as if the foundation and framework of creation are being destroyed. The convulsing of nature is a sign that God’s day of grace and compassion upon an ungodly world has come to an end, it is THE DAY OF THE LORD’S JUDGMENT.
The appearance of the Lord is awesome. Suddenly He appears in the clouds, and the brightness of His glory illumines the universe (Mt. 24:30). Christ is seated on a white stallion, and on His head are many crowns (diadems), a symbol that He is the conquering King of kings (Rev. 19:11-12,16). His eyes are a flame of fire, and His vesture has been dipped in blood (Rev. 19:12-13), a picture of His penetrating judgment upon the nations. With Him are the armies of righteousness; saints from throughout the ages and the angelic host of Heaven (Rev. 19:14).
How do the nations react at the Lord’s appearing? Do they bow in humble repentance at His presence? No! “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed [Christ]” in the hope of destroying Him (Ps. 2:2-3). But when they see Him, the tribes of the earth mourn at the awful fate which they know awaits them (Mt. 24:30).
But what of the righteous in Israel who survive the Tribulation? “The Lord will be the hope of his people, and the strength of the children of Israel” (v. 16), says Joel. God supernaturally protects a remnant of Jews from both the Antichrist and the judgment of Christ at His coming (Rev. 12:14, 17; Zech. 13:9).
When Christ destroys Israel’s enemies, her eyes are opened, and she will know that He has been their Messiah and protector all along (v. 17). By Christ’s dwelling in the midst of Jerusalem, Israel will feel secure knowing that His presence assures her safety from any foreign aggressors in the future (v. 17; 2:27).
Jerusalem has been “trodden down by the Gentiles” (Lk. 21:24) for centuries, but no more will strangers oppress her, for no unrighteous person will be allowed to defile Jerusalem with his presence during the Millennial Kingdom (Rev. 21:3, 27).
Now, back to the original question purposed in this article, Will the battle of Armageddon be a nuclear holocaust which will annihilate life on this planet? Although men will survive Armageddon, one cannot rule out nuclear warfare.
Nuclear weapons are being developed to such a degree that the possibility of their limited use to destroy a country, or an army is feasible. Remember, Armageddon is not a single battle, but a campaign of battles in which vast numbers of soldiers are destroyed before the Lord returns to earth.
World conditions give strong indication that God’s prophetic clock is nearing the midnight hour when Armageddon will take place. We who know the terror of the Lord must persuade those living in constant fear of a nuclear holocaust or Armageddon that their survival is assured by putting hope in Jesus Christ. There will be a day after! It will be a beautiful day after for all who put their faith in Jesus Christ! Have you?