Whether or not there will be a future final battle between the forces of good and evil that can appropriately be called the Battle of Armageddon is debatable. Before we examine what the Bible and other sources say about this matter, we will determine the meaning of the term battle and the term Armageddon.
Webster’s Dictionary states that the term battle “denotes a conflict between armed forces in a war and implies a large-scale prolonged contest over a particular area.” Webster also says that a battle refers to “a fight, esp. a large-scale engagement.”
Thus, a battle involves combat (i.e., armed fighting) and, therefore, it is more than just a confrontation (i.e., a face-to-face meeting) between hostile factions. So, when we use the term battle, we are referring to actual combat. In contrast, when we use the term confrontation, we mean a meeting between hostile factions that does not involve actual combat.
As for the term Armageddon, it is mentioned only once in the Bible and that is in Revelation 16:16. This verse of scripture says, “And they gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon.” The word “them” regarding who will be gathered together evidently refers to the kings previously mentioned in verse 14 who, according to this verse, will be assembling together to engage in “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 that verse of scripture clearly states that Armageddon is a place, we do not think there is a compelling reason to regard it otherwise.
Subsequently in the 16th chapter of Revelation, there is no mention of a battle, nor is there mention of a battle in the 17th or 18th chapter. In the 19th chapter, verses 19-21a mention only what we regard as a confrontation, because the description in this scripture of what will occur does not seem to indicate that there will be an actual battle. This scripture 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 with the exception of the false prophet and the beast (who is generally believed to be the Antichrist), everyone who is “gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse [Jesus Christ] and against His army” will be killed “with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse.” In other words, by supernatural means, Jesus Christ alone will destroy the entire opposing army. There is no indication that there will be combat between the two armies and, therefore, there is no actual battle.
Regardless, people who believe that there will be a Battle of Armageddon think it will be the final battle between the forces of good and evil. However, the confrontation described in Revelation 19:19-21a will not even be the final confrontation between the forces of good and evil.
The final confrontation between the forces of good and evil is subsequently recorded in Revelation 20:7-10a, which says,
Now when the thousand years [millennial reign of Jesus Christ] 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, Gog 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.
As is true with the confrontation described previously in Revelation 19:19-21a, there will be no actual combat during this confrontation, although Satan will gather his army with the intention of doing battle. The outcome of this confrontation will be that God will send fire from heaven to destroy Satan’s entire army, with the apparent exception of Satan himself, so there will be no battle – God alone will annihilate the forces of evil.
Also, if as is generally believed, Jerusalem is the beloved city mentioned in Revelation 20:9, the final confrontation will occur in the area around Jerusalem, not at Armageddon, which is located a significant distance from Jerusalem.
However, there are apparently a number of Bible scholars who believe that the conflicts described in Revelation 19:19-21a and Revelation 20:7-10a are subsequent accounts of what begins in chapter 16 and that, therefore, these conflicts are two phases of the final conflict between the forces of God and the forces of Satan. Furthermore, at least some of these scholars assert that chapter 19 of Revelation pertains to a conflict on earth and that chapter 20 pertains to a conflict in the heavens (i.e., the spiritual realm).
Not only do we not regard either of the previously mentioned last two encounters as a conflict or a battle, but also we do not think the account in the 20th chapter of Revelation, or anywhere else in the Bible, provides a basis for believing that the last of these two encounters will be in heaven rather than on the earth.
We believe that, during the consummation of the End Times, there will be two confrontations between the forces of God and the forces of Satan, but we do not think the Bible supports the belief that either of these confrontations will result in a final battle between these two forces. No battle will be necessary for God alone to vanquish Satan and Satan’s followers. Also, there is no compelling reason to believe that either confrontation will take place at a location called Armageddon.