Vol. 3, No. 4
Armageddon is mentioned only once in the Bible, in connection with the sixth bowl of wrath in Revelation 16:16. "And they [the three unclean spirits of demons that came out of the mouths of the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet at the sixth bowl of wrath, 16:12-14] gathered them [the kings of the whole earth, 14] together into the place which is called in Hebrew Har-Magedon [or mountain of Megiddo, or mound of Megiddo, a fortress-city in the Plain of Megiddo/Jezreel/Esdraelon during the times of Kings Omri, Ahab, and others]." This quotation is from the American Standard Version.
Being in the center of the "Fertile Crescent" and being one of the few places level enough to use chariots in fighting, the Plain of Esdraelon or Megiddo was a major battlefield of the ancient world. Armies from Egypt or Ethiopia would meet armies from Syria or Assyria or Babylonia in the Plain of Megiddo. The Plain of Megiddo was the place where Deborah and Barak defeated Sisera and Jabin; where Gideon and his 300 defeated the Midianites; where Saul and Jonathan lost their lives in battle against the Philistines; where Sennacherib's 185,000 were slain; and where King Josiah was killed in battle against Pharaoh-necoh. So, it is easy to see how Megiddo became known as the battleground of the middle eastern world, and how it, therefore, would be an appropriate term to use in describing a spiritual battle between the forces of good and evil.
Frank Pack in his commentary on Revelation says that "this is a symbolic battle having to do with any kind of temporal warfare. It represents the struggle between all the hosts of wickedness and the Son of God. The context in which this passage occurs would indicate that this is the final and decisive battle between God and his Messiah and Satan and his agents. Whatever may have been the struggles that through the ages have taken place, this is a kind of climaxing struggle." Hendriksen also holds this view, with which Aebi agrees.
Many premillennialists see Armageddon as a battle between two groups of modern-day nations whom they try to identify. They have said that it is the Russians and Moslems against Anglo-Saxons; or Russia and Italy and Japan against the US, Britain, and France; or the Axis against the Allies; or some other real or supposed conflict. Whatever nations seem strong at the time of writing are the nations supposed by them to be involved in Armageddon.
Some premillennialists think Armageddon is the last great battle that occurs during the "rapture" [an imaginary occurrence not in Scripture] which they suppose will occur just before Christ establishes his millennial kingdom on earth. They say evil nations will be led by Antichrist against Jerusalem, but Christ and his saints will intervene and save the Jews in a battle near the Mound of Megiddo in Palestine. R.H. Boll thought this.
Those who follow the continuous historical interpretation of Revelation say that Armageddon is the battle in which the Lord's saints will completely defeat the Roman Catholic Church. They see this battle as yet in the future, as do all but the preterist interpreters.
Those who call themselves "preterists" say that Armageddon is some battle in the past. Max King thinks it is the battle of Romans against Jews in A.D. 70 that resulted in Christianity defeating Judaism. J.W. Roberts thinks it was the battle between paganism and Christianity which ended when Constantine made "Christianity" (actually Roman Catholicism) the state religion of the Roman Empire. Jim McGuiggan thinks it is the fall of Rome in 476 A.D.
It fits the theme of Revelation best to view it as symbolic of the final defeat of Satan's forces by the King of Kings and his church.