I Worked on Armageddon
MY FAMILY SPENT A MONTH WORKING ON Armageddon. Yes, really. The project wasn’t an action movie or a doomsday device, but an archaeological excavation on a hill 60 meters high, created over millennia by 26 layers of destroyed and rebuilt towns.
Armageddon, a Greek version of the Hebrew for mount of Megiddo, located in north central Israel, is one of the most important historic sites in the Middle East. During four weeks we dug with an international group of volunteers directed by archaeologists. Each morning before dawn as we climbed the tel to prepare for our work, the lights of Nazareth twinkled at us from across the Plain of Megiddo. I pondered historic events that had occurred and a great event that has yet to happen.
Located on a strategic crossroad, Megiddo became the world’s earliest documented battleground in the 15th century B.C., when Pharaoh Thutmose III defeated an army of rebellious Canaanite vassals. The Bible records a number of battles around Megiddo. Joshua defeated the king of the city (Joshua 12:21). Deborah and Barak vanquished Canaanites. King Josiah was defeated and killed at the hands of Pharaoh Necho.
The list is long. Crusaders battled Muslims. Napoleon fought the Ottomans. In 1918 Turkish forces were routed by Allied troops under Edmund Allenby. The hill was disputed during the Israeli war of independence, as my daughter discovered when she unearthed mortar casings from 1948 among artifacts from the 700s B.C.!
More than 30 battles are documented to have taken place in the immediate vicinity of Megiddo.
Catchphrase for catastrophe
The past is not what first comes to mind, however, when we read Armageddon. The word has entered popular culture to indicate a world-ending catastrophe: meteor strike, nuclear holocaust, climate cataclysm, killer machines, even zombies.
But the word comes to us from the Bible, and it is used only once, in Revelation: “For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.
“‘Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame.’
“And they gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon” (16:14-16).
Hope is proffered in this passage, as well as warning. The Plain of Megiddo will be the gathering place for the world’s rebellious armies, which will attempt to stop the return of Christ. Once prepared, they will move on Jerusalem, where Jesus will descend on the Mount of Olives and the actual battle will occur in the Valley of Jehoshaphat just below (Joel 3:2, 14-15).
The rebels will be destroyed; opposition to God will cease; His Kingdom will be established. Those who will have watched and been careful of their spiritual state will be protected from the devastation, and they will enter the Kingdom.
It is fitting that the most contested place in world history will be the marshaling ground for an army, the destruction of which will finally allow the rule of Jesus Christ. Then “of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end” (Isaiah 9:7).