The words the Battle of Armageddon are almost a household phrase. Like the number of the Beast and 666, it is a phrase which is familiar to many people who have almost no knowledge of anything else recorded in Scripture.1 The reason these phrases are so widely known is because of the seemingly sensational aspects of what Scripture records concerning the Tribulation, and especially its conclusion, when the kings of the earth are gathered to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon (Rev. Rev. 16:16+). The events are of such magnitude that they are difficult to conceive of, even in our day of powerful weaponry and great potential for devastation. They would seem to record the end of history as we know it. Along with a widespread familiarity with the phrase the Battle of Armageddon are some common misconceptions concerning what the phrase entails. The two most notable misconceptions are: (1) the phrase describes a battle; (2) the battle is fought exclusively at Armageddon. The student of Scripture will find that neither of these common beliefs are accurate: rather than being a single battle at a single location, a more lengthy military engagement is involved spanning a region nearly 200 miles long. So where did the idea of a battle come from? It originates from an unfortunate translation of a passage in the book of 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 [emphasis added] (Rev. Rev. 16:14+, NKJV cf. KJV). The term for battle in this verse is πόλεμον [polemon] , which more correctly denotes an extended engagement rather than a single battle.2 This is reflected in the more accurate rendering found in the NASB: For they are spirits of demons performing signs, which go out to the kings of the whole world to gather them together for the war of the great day of God, the Almighty [emphasis added] (Rev. Rev. 16:14+, NASB95). The battle of Armageddon is in fact a more lengthy war. In order to emphasize its broader scope, a number of commentators have taken to referring to it by the phrase we have used, the military campaign of Armageddon. Even in this phrase there is some imprecision because significant battles which comprise the campaign take place elsewhere then the site associated with Armageddon:
While the term Battle of Armageddon has been commonly used, it is really a misnomer, for more than one battle will be taking place. For this reason, many prophetic teachers have stopped employing that term and are using the term Campaign of Armageddon . . . But this too, is a misnomer because there will be no fighting in Armageddon itself; all of the fighting will take place elsewhere. . . . It should be noted that the passage says nothing of a battle in this valley, for no fighting will take place here. The valley of Jezreel, guarded by the Mountain of Megiddo, will merely serve as the gathering ground for the armies of the Antichrist.3
1 At the time of writing, a search on the phrase battle of Armageddon on the website www.google.com yielded about 21.300 hits on web pages across the internet.
2 The difference between polemos and machē is the same as that between the English words war and battle.Richard Chenevix Trench, Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 1861), 337.
3 Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of Messiah, rev ed. (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 2003), 317-318.