Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.
Revelation 16:16 (NIV)
I had a chance to visit Megiddo and look out over the Valley of Armageddon while in Israel several years back. My trip to Israel impressed on me a number of things. I had always known that Jerusalem and the surrounding area is the biggest political “hotspot” on Earth, but while visiting I experienced it for myself on a number of occasions at different sites. Having experienced the conflict and having felt the underlying hatred I looked out over the Valley of Armageddon and pondered John’s vision with a new perspective.
We often speak of Armageddon as if it’s a place of fantasy fiction like Middle Earth or Narnia. Armageddon is the place of comic book battles and apocalyptic Hollywood movies. Perhaps that’s what prophetic writing feels like to a lot of us. But, Armageddon is a real place. According to John’s vision there will be “kings from the East” who march in for a great battle.
As I looked out over the valley and tried to envision what John saw. I tried to picture what it would look like. The writer in me wondered about how the story would unfold. Perhaps a better writer could weave a thriller of a story around it, but I couldn’t see through the fog of the prophecy. That’s the way it is with prophetic writing. It points forward and gives snapshots of a future spot on the timeline that don’t quite make sense in the context of the spot on timeline I find myself.
Nevertheless, I look back now with hindsight and read the prophetic visions of Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53. Before Jesus’ crucifixion, they probably made as much sense to the faithful as Revelation 16 does to us today. Now we can see clearly what David and Isaiah envisioned, and I marvel at the fact that they were penned hundreds of years before the events they foretold. And so, I stood and looked out over the Valley of Armageddon. Though I can’t see clearly how and when it will unfold, I do believe that a great battle will happen there in the end as surely as David saw the soldiers gambling for Jesus’ clothes.
Some, I’m sure, think me foolish to “believe such nonsense.” But, I do believe things which we do not see. My journey through God’s Message and capturing a glimpse of the larger story has led me to do so, even as it has led me to dismiss some of what the institutional, organized church has twisted it into. Does this make any difference in my day today? I think it at once makes little difference and all the difference. It does not change my task list nor the events of my day, but it changes my perspective on how this day and every day of my life fits into a larger, unfolding story.