Whether or not there will be a confrontation between the forces of good and evil that should be called the Battle of Armageddon is debatable. Before we examine what the Bible says about this matter, let’s determine the meaning of the term battle.
Webster’s Dictionary states that the word battle “denotes a conflict between armed forces in a war and implies a large-scale prolonged contest over a particular area.” Webster’s also says that battle refers to “a fight, esp. a large-scale engagement.” Thus, a battle involves combat (i.e., armed fighting); it is more than just a meeting or confrontation between hostile factions. Therefore, when we use the term battle in this article, we are referring to actual combat. In contrast, when we use the term encounter in this article, we mean a meeting or confrontation between hostile factions that does not involve combat.
The word Armageddon is mentioned only once in the Bible and that is in Revelation 16:16. The verse says, “And they gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon.” The “they” in this verse refers back to the kings mentioned in verse 14 who were being gathered together “to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.”
[Note: When we quote Scripture in this article, we use the wording in the New King James Version of the Bible.]
A footnote in the NIV Bible with regard to Revelation 16:16 states that Armageddon “Probably stands for Har Mageddon, ‘the mountain of Megiddo.’” The footnote goes on to say, “Many see no specific geographical reference in the designation and take it to be a symbol of the final overthrow of evil by God.” However, since the wording in the verse itself indicates that Armageddon is an actual geographical location, we regard it as such.
There is no subsequent mention of a battle in the 16th chapter of Revelation, nor is there mention of a battle in the 17th or 18th chapter. Revelation 19:19-21a mentions an encounter, but the description in this passage of what occurs does not sufficiently support a conclusion that a battle takes place. The passage states,
And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse.
Note that everyone who is “gathered together to make war against Him (i.e., Christ) who sat on the horse and against His army,” with the exception of the beast (who is generally believed to be the antichrist) and the false prophet, is killed “with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse.” In other words, by supernatural means, Christ single-handedly destroys all of the opposing armies – there is no combat and, therefore, there is no actual battle.
If this encounter occurs on “that great day of God Almighty,” as suggested by Revelation 16:14, it would seem that God the Father would be a participant, but there is no indication in Revelation 19:19-21a that He will be directly involved. [Note that the Bible does not specifically refer to Christ as God Almighty. Isaiah 9:6 is the scripture passage that comes closest to doing so, it but refers to the coming Messiah (i.e., Christ) as “Mighty God,” which is a translation of a different Hebrew word than the one that is translated as “God Almighty.”]
However, the Revelation 19:19-21a passage does state that kings will be participants, which is consistent with Revelation 16:14. Furthermore, this encounter is the first one that occurs after the reference in Revelation 16:14 to a battle that is about to occur at Armageddon. Thus, if it is not necessary for God the Father to be involved in the battle at Armageddon, then this encounter could be regarded as the so-called Battle of Armageddon.
Revelation 20:7-10a pertains to the final encounter between the forces of good and evil that is prophesied in the Bible. This passage says,
Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, God and Magog, to gather them together to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea. They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them. And the devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are.
Similarly to the previous encounter, no actual combat ensues in this encounter, although Satan gathers his army with the intention of doing battle. In this encounter, God sends fire from heaven to destroy Satan’s entire army (with the apparent exception of Satan himself), so there is no battle – God just annihilates the forces of evil.
Also, this encounter will apparently not involve kings, so it does not meet the criterion from Revelation 16:14, which indicates that kings will be participants in the battle at Armageddon. In addition, if the “beloved city” that will be the center of this encounter is Jerusalem, as most biblical scholars believe, this encounter will occur in the area surrounding Jerusalem, which extends well beyond the geographical area where it is generally believed that the battle at Armageddon will occur. (However, if Armageddon isn’t a geographical reference, as a number of biblical scholars argue, the just-mentioned argument is not relevant.)
The primary reason for assuming that this final encounter between the forces of good and evil, rather than the next-to-last encounter described in Revelation 19:19-21a, is the battle at Armageddon is that God the Father will be directly involved in this final encounter, as suggested by Revelation 16:14, whereas He apparently will not be directly involved in the next-to-last encounter.
However, there is another possibility. A number of biblical scholars believe that the conflicts described in both Revelation 19:19-21a and Revelation 20:7-10a are subsequent accounts of what begins in chapter 16 and are, in fact, two aspects of the final “battle” between the forces of God and the forces of Satan. These scholars assert that the passage in chapter 19 pertains to a conflict on earth, whereas the passage in chapter 20 pertains to a conflict in the heavens (i.e., the spiritual realm), and that these two conflicts will occur in close proximity in terms of time.
We conclude that although there will be a final encounter between the forces of God and the forces of Satan, there will be no actual battle. No battle will be necessary for God to vanquish Satan and those who have chosen to follow him.