SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTISTS have spent a great deal of time studying, discussing, and puzzling over the question of Armageddon. The more adventurous continue to probe the subject even though it be with the greatest respect, caution, and reservation. In harmony with this posture, we humbly offer the following exposition.
The center of focus is of necessity the one and only text that mentions the word Armageddon, which is found in Revelation 16: 16. In the K.J.V. it reads as follows: "And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon."
A more direct translation of the original Greek of this text is rendered in the American Standard Version: "And they gathered them together into the place which is called in Hebrew Har-Magedon."
Not only is this latter translation more correct but also it retains the indicated grammatical relationship with the context in verse 14. (Verse 15 is parenthetical.) Verses 14 and 16 show that the spirits of demons gather the kings of the whole earth to the battle.
Literal or Metaphorical?
Our immediate attention, in this investigation, is drawn to the word Armageddon, or, more correctly, Har-Magedon. And the first question that we naturally ask is, Is Har-Magedon a literal geographic entity? Or is it metaphorical? It would seem that if it is not a geographic location in a literal sense, then it must be symbolic. It must be evident that if the Lord had desired to point to a geographic location He would have named it in terms that would be literally understood. Certainly there would have been no problem in doing so. Therefore We conclude that inasmuch as Inspiration did not choose to use a literal designation, the metaphorical name must be considered to be symbolic of a situation that it describes. What, then, is to be the application of the metaphorical name Har-Magedon?
The text itself (Rev. 16:16) tells us plainly that this name is taken from the Hebrew. The word given in the Greek is a transliteration. So we conclude that the meaning of this word must be derived from the Hebrew, not from the Greek.
The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Dictionary (volume 8 of the SDA Bible Commentary series) presents the Hebrew significance of this name on page 71.
Armageddon (arma-ged-un). [Cr. Harmagedon, variant Harmageddon, a composite transliteration from the Hebrew. Opinions differ as to what Hebrew words the Greek transliteration represents. The first component, Har-, means "mountain." The second component, -magedon, may be , from the Heb. Megiddo or Megiddon (1 Ki 9:15; 2 Chr. 35:22; Zec. 12:11). . . ."
After this portion of the quotation, there is presented another possible, although more remote, suggested application. But on the very face of it the one that is cited above presents a more direct linguistic derivation for the word Har-Magedon.
If we accept this direct composition of the word Har-Magedon we have a symbolic name that relates a mountain with Megiddo.
Thayer Was Puzzled
Thayer (in A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, Translated, Revised, and Enlarged by Joseph Henry Thayer, D.D., Corrected Edition, American Book Company, New York-Cincinnati- Chicago, Copyright, 1898, by Harper & Brothers) followed the same line of linguistic analysis of the symbolic name Har-Magedon as that which is cited from the SDA Bible Dictionary, above, but he seemed to think he had arrived at a dead-end conclusion. Let's follow his reasoning to see whether his conclusion was as pointless as he thought it to be. We quote Thayer from the above cited lexicon, pages 73, 74:
Har-Magedon or Armageddon, indecl. Prop, name of an imaginary place: Rev. 16. Megiddo was a city of the Manassites, situated in the great plain of the tribe of Issachar, and famous for a double slaughter, first of the Canaanites (Judg. v. 19), and again of the Israelites (2 K. xxiii. 29 sq.; 2 Chr. xxxv. 22, cf. Zech. xii. 11); so that in the Apocalypse it would signify the place where the kings opposing Christ were to be destroyed with a slaughter like that which the Canaanites or the Israelites had experienced of old. But. . . it is not easy to perceive what can be the meaning of the mountain of Megiddo, which could be none other than Carmel. (Italics are those of Thayer.)
We would agree with Thayer in saying that the mountain "could be none other than Carmel." Now, the question re mains: Would Mount Carmel have a significant symbolical or metaphorical value in view of the scene prophetically presented in Revelation 16:14-16? We think that Thayer would have seen a powerful symbolism in Mount Carmel if he had understood the final scenes as Seventh-day Adventists do.
It was on Mount Carmel that Cod vindicated His holy name and His faithful people (He had seven thousand who had not bowed the knee to Baal) at a time of almost universal apostasy. It was on Mount Carmel that the Lord signally showed which was the true religion. It was on Mount Carmel that the fire came down from the sky in recognition of the true followers of God. And it was on Mount Carmel that the leaders of the false worship were destroyed.
Could there be a more fitting representation of the time when the whole world in its final apostasy will be arrayed against God's faithful commandment-keeping people? Could there be a more forceful representation of the mighty deliverance that will come to the remnant? Could there be a more striking symbolism to picture the vindication of God's name, His holy law, His sacred Sabbath, and His loyal people? Could there be a more consummate view of the fate of the unrepentant apostate leaders?
"Into the Place"
Now we are prepared to look at the entire text that contains the word Har-Magedon. "And they gathered them together into the place which is called in Hebrew Har-Magedon" (Rev. 16:16, A.S.V.).
Let's look at the words "into the place." In the Greek these words are "eis ton topon." The word topon (which is the accusative case of topos) is generally translated "place." But this does not necessarily follow in each case. The word topos can also be used to convey the idea of "position," or "situation." An illustration of this use of the Greek word topos is found in 1 Corinthians 14:16. Following are three translations of this verse, with the word italicized that is translated from the word topos:
Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen (1 Cor. 14:16, K.J.V.).
Else if thou bless with the spirit, how shall he that filleth the place of the unlearned say Amen (1 Cor. 14:16, A.S.V.). Otherwise, if you bless with the spirit, how can any one in the position of an outsider say the "Amen" (1 Cor. 14:16, R.S.V.).
Regardless of the translation we might choose, it is clear that the Greek word topos in this particular text refers to the position occupied, or the situation under consideration.
Now, the Greek word ies (in the phrase "eis ton topon"— "into the place, or situation") is variously rendered "into," "to," "toward," etc.
Putting the Verse Together
If we put the verse together employing the information that we have gathered, we could very properly translate it as follows: And they gathered them together into (or toward) the situation which is called in Hebrew the Mountain of Megiddo.
Then if we substitute for "the Mountain of Megiddo" the name we have found logically applies (Mount Carmel), we would do no violence to the text by paraphrasing it in the following manner:
And they gathered them together into the situation that is called in the Hebrew (symbolically) Mount Carmel.
Could it be that Thayer in his linguistic analysis struck gold when he located Har-Magedon as being symbolically Mount Carmel even though he did not recognize the importance of what he found? Has it remained for Seventh-day Adventists with their knowledge of last-day events to recognize the value of Thayer's discovery? This translation be comes even more significant as we recognize in the three angels' messages of Revelation 14:6-12 the Elijah message that is to prepare a people for Christ's second advent.