Armageddon is misunderstood by many in the modern church.
The story of Armageddon is contained within the vial (a broad shallow cup) of the sixth angel being poured out upon the earth. The previous five vials of the wrath of God reveal how religion with all of its terrors actually compounds itself. It will by its continuous self-effort and self-aggrandizement move farther and farther away from “the fountain of the water of life” (Rev. 21:6). Then, John recorded, “And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared” (Rev. 16:12). Since Revelation, from Chapter 4 through 22, is written in vivid word pictures using symbolism, metaphors, and allegories, the drying up of the water is not a reference to the drying up of the physical river Euphrates.
John is using the great river Euphrates drying up as an allegory for the dehydration of the “rivers of living water” within man (John 7:38). The drying-up of “the fountain of the water of life” within an individual will always prepare “the way [for] the kings of the east.” Again, “And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared.”
Armageddon is the battle of the Lord God Almighty over the forces of evil.
Kings, in “the kings of the east” is defined as “through the notion of a foundation of power” from its root “a way of walking.” John is again using a metaphor. The symbolism of kings is used as an allegory for the sovereign power of something other than God contending for the control of man. The phrase “the kings of the east” implies that the foundation of their error lies in the deception that they can produce the morning, the new day. In fact, one of their cohorts even claimed to be “the son of the morning” (Is. 14:12).
Many in the modern Church attempt to identify these kings as physical political powers or nations of the East. John identified “the kings of the east” as the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet. John recorded, “And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared.” Then, he wrote “And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet.” These “kings of the east” speaking with demonic persuasion would miraculously be able to convince the practitioners of religion that they had found life, even the pathway to be as God. These “spirits of devils” would go forth to all who had been convinced that they were now in control of their domain (the kings of the earth) and even to the whole world “to gather them to the battle of the great day of God Almighty” (Rev. 16:12-14).
This great day of the Lord as predicted in Revelation was coming to its final moments. The generation that lived between the resurrection of Christ and the destruction of Jerusalem would experience the death of the old Jewish way of temple sacrifices. The same generation would also experience the birth of the new “I am the way, the truth, and the life” of the risen Christ, the kingdom of God. The dragon (the old serpent: the flesh), the beast (the powers that be: the religious system), and the false prophet (the proponent of religious thinking and deeds: the mark) will always do their work in the practitioners of religion. The sixth angel with the fulfilling of his vial of wrath would “gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon,” for “the battle of that great day of God Almighty.”
Armageddon symbolically represents the place where Christ is victorious over the forces of evil.
Armageddon (a compound word consisting of the Hebrew har, meaning hill or mountain and megiddo, the name of a place in Palestine, thus, the Mount of Megiddo) would symbolically represent the place where the risen Christ would defeat the forces of evil (the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet). The use of the term Armageddon would be readily recognized by the believers in the seven churches in Asia for they knew that this was the place where many of Israel’s most historic battles were fought and won. It was the site where the Canaanite armies were first defeated in the early years of Israel history. It was also the place where the prophets of Baal were discredited when God answered Elijah’s prayer and sent down fire to consume the sacrifice. Finally, it was where the wicked Queen Jezebel was hideously destroyed. Thus, even though the seven churches in Asia were being confronted by faulty religion from Judaism, from Rome, and from within their own ranks, they knew, by John’s allegorically using Armageddon, that they would be victorious through the risen Christ conquering all aspects of faulty religion.
Finally, the vial of the seventh angel, as it was being poured out, would give an overview of the victorious act of God against evil. God would prevail in fulfilling the promise given to Abraham that “in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” John recorded, “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” (Rev. 16:17). With air not meaning as most suppose it to mean, the atmosphere, but “to breathe unconsciously, that is, respire,” the vial of the seventh angel would primarily be centered on the basic essentials of man’s existence as a living creature. In addition, with done in “it is done” meaning “to cause to be,” the final conflict as previewed in Chapter 16 is how God will cause the spiritual descendant of Abraham to be as they were meant to be. God would be their caused to be.
Armageddon first occurred in the generation that witnessed the resurrection, the ascension, and the return of Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit.
This climatic moment of the risen Christ conquering the forces of evil would shake the spiritual world of man’s existence. John recorded, “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” (Rev. 16:18). There have been many physical earthquakes and there will be even more to come. However, the great earthquake, as it is used here, symbolically represents how great the essential element of man’s existence will be shaken to its core. John recorded that it would be an earthquake “such as was not since men were upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake, and so great.”
In this climatic generation between the resurrection of Christ and the death of Old Testament Judaism, there are two dynamic aspects of this single event occurring at the same time. Just as in the germination of a seed as it springs to new life, there is that which is dying and there is that which is living. With the resurrection of Jesus, his ascension into the heavenly realm, his return in the power of the Holy Spirit, and his messengers going into all the world, this generation would experience the newness of the life of Christ in the kingdom of God. Conversely, with the dire religious practices of the scribes and Pharisees, the horrendous infighting among the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and the gathering armies of Rome with its faulty religious practices, the dying of a once vibrant way of life was also reaching its climatic moment.
Mysterious to most, in the midst of the vials of the wrath of God being poured out upon the earth, John then recorded the words of the risen Christ: “Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame” (Rev. 16:15). Every apocalyptic event, every day of the Lord (Zec. 14:1-9), will have both wrath and restoration. The planting of the seed must occur before the bloom of the rose can be seen. The darkest hour of midnight must come before the drawing of a new day. Death is necessary before resurrection power can be experienced.
John had previously recorded,
And the seven angels came out of the temple, having the seven plagues, clothed in pure and white linen, and having their breasts girded with golden girdles. And one of the four beasts gave unto the seven angels seven golden vials full of the wrath of God, who liveth for ever and ever. And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God, and from his power; and no man was able to enter into the temple, till the seven plagues of the seven angels were fulfilled” (Rev. 15:6-8)
In keeping with the revelation of Jesus, “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit,” the seven plagues of the seven angels must be fulfilled before anyone can enter into the heavenly temple. The spiritual defeat of the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet with all of their religious ways must occur before Christ will come in power and great glory. The battle of Armageddon occurred first in that generation between the resurrection of Christ in the New Testament and the death of the Old Testament sacrificial offerings of Judaism. Since Christ has come in all of his power and great glory, you also can experience your Armageddon through the indwelling risen Christ. You can be a heavenly being even though you experience your life in a earthly existence.