- There is much confusion – in and out of the Church – concerning the two major end-times clashes, which are called the Battle of Gog/Magog and the Battle of Armageddon respectively. These two are often confused or conflated, but they are very different events. Let us therefore begin by looking at the information on Armageddon. In Rev. 16:16 we read:
“And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.”The context of the mention of Armageddon in Rev. 16:16 is a time when the seven angels pour out their respective vials. One of these, the sixth vial (Rev. 16:12) causes the Euphrates to dry up and thereby allow the passage of leaders from the east. Then nations are gathered together in a place called Armageddon. After that, there is a voice from heaven saying, “It is done” (Rev. 16:17).
The two major questions about Armageddon are, first, the location of the battle, and secondly, the time period when it occurs.
Concerning the question of location, we are told in the LDS Bible Dictionary, that Armageddon is: “A Greek translation from the Hebrew Har Megiddon, or Mountain of Megiddo.” However, this is not at all the case, and is, in fact, misleading.
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There is indeed a place called Megiddo, which is in the northern part of Israel. But it is not a mountain, nor is it even near a mountain. Nevertheless, there are those who cling to this site as the venue for some future battle, and who also adduce (as does the LDS Bible Dictionary entry) the only other place in the Bible where the term appears, and that is in Zech. 12:11.
“On that day the lamentation will increase in Jerusalem, like the lamentation of Hadad-rimmon, (or the lamentation) in the Valley of Megiddon.”Notice that this verse does not say that there will be lamentation in Megiddon (a variant form of Megiddo), but rather that there will be lamentation in Jerusalem like the lamentation that was in the Valley of Megiddo; and this is a reference to the mourning over Josiah, the son of Amon who was slain by Pharaoh in the Valley of Megiddo (II Chron. 35:25). Therefore, this verse in Zechariah says absolutely nothing about any future event at Megiddo. So that is not where we should be looking.
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The place where we should be looking is in Jerusalem. This is where we are told that there will be a great conflict (Luke 21:20; Zech. 12:2). Furthermore, since there is no har megiddo anywhere in Israel, we must look for something in Jerusalem which could have been transformed into that term as it passed through the hands of Greek translators. Fortunately, that quest is not at all difficult. As other Bible scholars have pointed out, the letter “g” in Greek is used to translate the Hebrew letter “ayin” (ע). The best known example of that would be in the name of the coastal city of Gaza, which in Hebrew begins not with a “g” but with an “ayin”. So if we replace the “g” in Megiddon with an ‘ayin, and drop the Greek ending -on, we have something that obviously derives from the triliteral root mᶜd. And there is indeed a Har Moᶜed, which is often translated as “the Mount of the Assembly.” This was originally a reference to the assembly at Mount Sinai, but was then transferred to Mount Zion in Jerusalem. This therefore provides a solution which makes sense both geographically and linguistically.
In terms of the time period of this conflict, we may note that in the D&C we find material that lines up with the reference in Revelation very nicely, and that is in section 88. One of the points of reference which shows us that we are dealing with the same battle as the Armageddon mentioned in Rev. 16:16 is that in D&C 88:105 the sixth angel is sounding his trump. Then, in the next verse, the seventh angel sounds his trump, and a voice declares, “It is finished” (which is just another way of saying “It is done” as occurs in Rev. 16:17). Then all the angels sound their trumps again, and in verse 111 we are told that Satan is then bound for a thousand years, which would seem to be an indisputable reference to the Millennium. Therefore, the time period of this battle is just before the time when Satan is bound. It is therefore the last great battle between good and evil before the Millennium.
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On the other hand, the Battle of Gog/Magog is not the last battle before the Millenium. It is true that there is confusion on this subject, because Gog/Magog is also mentioned in Rev. 20:8, but there it is used to refer to a battle that will take place after Satan has gone through his thousand years of being bound and is again freed for a while. It is therefore post-millennial, and is a very different battle from what is described in Ezek. 38 and 39. But we can explain the confusing use of Gog/Magog in this instance fairly easily by realizing that by the time the book of Revelation was written, the term Gog/Magog had become a somewhat generic term for an apocalyptic holocaust, and John had apparently had a vision of that battle which would occur after the Millennium, and found he could best express the horrors of that conflict by using a term with which his audience would already be familiar, and which would immediately convey to them the dreadful nature of that conflagration.
However, the first use of the term was by Ezekiel (chapters 38 and 39) and he describes circumstances which we already see becoming reality in our own time. He sees a time when a great power in the north (which many scholars believe to be Russia) allies itself with Persia (modern-day Iran), Cush (which may refer to the area of Babylonia as it was under the Kassites, or it may refer to Ethiopia, of even to southern Egypt and northern Sudan, but Babylonia may be more likely in this case, because that would point to modern-day Iraq as an ally of these powers), and Libya (which has had a somewhat troubling recent history). Moreover, the destruction is not aimed only at Jerusalem, but at all of Israel (see. Ezek. 38:16-18) and other countries as well. Nevertheless, Jerusalem seems to be seriously affected. Indeed, there are other places in the Old Testament where we can find what appear to be references to this same conflict. I suspect, for example, that this is the battle which kills off many of the men, as mentioned in Isaiah 3:25, and it seems virtually certain that Isaiah 13 through 19 also refer to this same process. And according to Isaiah (chapter 4) one of the results of this process is to convert Jerusalem into a city of true saints (Isa. 4:3, and cf. chapter 9 of Ezekiel).
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If, as Isaiah says, there are only saints left in Jerusalem after this war, then he is showing us how Jerusalem is transformed into a center of the Church in the eastern hemisphere, as Latter-day Saints have been told to expect. And this also fulfills the statement that Ezekiel makes concerning the restoration of true religion among all Israelites:
“So the house of Israel shall know that I am the Lord their God from that day forward.” (Ezek. 39:22)It may therefore be, that three different, but major, battles are described in the scriptures: 1) a battle to establish the name and true faith of Yahweh among all Israel (i.e. Gog/Magog as described by Ezekiel and Isaiah), 2) the battle of Armageddon, which will be just before the Millennium, at a time when even Old Jerusalem is full of true saints, and which will therefore be a battle, not specifically against Jews (unlike the anti-Semitism which is part of the motivation during the Gog/Magog conflict), but rather between the forces of Yahweh and those of the Adversary, and 3) the final battle which occurs when Satan is loosed after the Millennium.