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In 1996, as Meredith Kline was entering his final years teaching at Westminster Theological Seminary in California, he revisited the interpretation of Revelation 16:16 in a Journal of the Evangelical Theology Society article, “Har Magedon: The End of the Millennium.”[1] In the article, Kline sought to promote and enhance C. C. Torrey’s explanation of the Hebrew terms in Revelation 16:16 transliterated into Greek as har magedōn.[2] Kline was persuaded that Torrey had been correct in tracing har magedōn in Revelation 16:16 to har môʿēd, “Mount of Assembly,” in Isaiah. 14:13. For Kline, the ramifications of Torrey’s insight significantly impacted the proper interpretation of Har Magedon in the Revelation text. One such ramification is that the place location of Har Magedon is Mount Zion, not the plain of Megiddo. Another is that the battle of Har Magedon is the Gog-Magog crisis prophesied in Ezekiel 38 and 39.

Kline argued that Torrey’s findings, and further exegetical proof from Scripture in support of such an interpretation, added “a final, decisive point” to the amillennial argument. Revelation 20:7–10 (the conflict marking the end of millennium) is to be identified with the climactic battle of the great day of the Lord to which the Apocalypse returns, as in Revelation 16:12–16 and its account of Har Magedon.[3]

Har Magedon, the Mount of Assembly

According to Kline, the difficulty that translators face is that the phrase har magedōn is comprised of one Hebrew word whose meaning is not disputed (har, mountain) and another Hebrew word whose meaning is disputed, magedōn. Concerning the disputed magedōn, “the most common view, following the variant reading mageddōn in Rev. 16:16, identifies it as Megiddo, site of notable battles in Israel’s history (Judg. 5:2; 2 Chr. 35:22–25) and thus an apt designation for the place where ‘the battle of the great day’ occurs.”[4]

The problem, as Torrey pointed out, is that there is no mountain in Megiddo. Further, Jerusalem and its surrounding vicinity are where biblical prophecies (Zech. 12 and 14; Isa. 29:1–7; Joel 3; Rev. 14:14–20; Rev. 20:7–10) situate the eschatological crisis in which the nations gather against God and his people.[5]

In support of Torrey’s suggestion of deriving har magedōn in Revelation 16:16 from har môʿēd in Isaiah 14:13, Kline noted that each of these expressions in its sole biblical appearance is paired with Hades as its exact opposite. In the context of Isaiah 14:13, the contrast is drawn between the heights to which the king of Babylon aspires and the depths to which he falls. He will not ascend to the Mount of Assembly (har môʿēd) above the stars but will be brought down to “the depths of the Pit” (Isa. 14:15). Likewise, in Revelation 16:16, har magedōn is contrasted with Abaddōn, the Hebrew name of the angel of the Abyss from Revelation 9:11, and a synonym in its Old Testament appearances for Sheol. Kline summarized, “The Abaddon of Rev. 9:11 is then the equivalent of the Sheol and Pit of Isa. 14:15. And the har (mountain) element in har magedōn (Rev. 16:16) of course contrasts with the Pit of Abaddon, as does the har in har môʿēd (Isa. 14:13).”[6]

Kline anticipated that the objection with pairing har magedōn in Revelation 16:16 with Abaddōn in Revelation 9:11 is that these terms do not appear in the same immediate context. He answered that one textual clue that they should be paired is that these two terms are identified as Hebraisti (“in Hebrew”).

Hebraisti

The six Hebraisti that appear in the New Testament (four in John’s Gospel and two in the book of Revelation) are regularly accompanied by an explanation of some sort. In Revelation 9:11, the Hebraisti is accompanied by an explanation and translation, “They had a king over them, the angel of the Abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and who has in Greek the name Apollyon (Destroyer).” Further, the “in Hebrew” word in question is regularly the name of a place (John 5:2, Bethesda; John 19:13, Gabbatha; John 19:17, Golgotha).

Kline argued that this pattern strongly suggests that an accompanying explanation will be found in Revelation 16:16 for har magedōn, the place name there with the Hebraisti label. When it is recognized that har magedōn in Revelation 16:16 is based upon har môʿēd, such an explanation can be shown in the text. The main verb in Revelation 16:16 interpretatively echoes the noun—he gathered them to the Mount of Gathering. That is, the verb synagō, “gathered,” both translates magedōn and establishes its derivation from môʿēd, “gathering.”

Har Magedon, Mount Zaphon/Zion

In Isaiah 14:13, Zaphon, the celestial realm of deity to which the King of Babylon aspires stands in opposition to the Mount of Assembly. The association of the heaven-defying king with Zaphon anticipates the antichrist associations of Har Magedon in Revelation 16:16.

This phrase also occurs in Psalm 48:3. Kline believed that the opening verses of Psalm 48 link the city (Jerusalem) and mountain (Zion) of God in such a way so as to declare Zion/Jerusalem to be the heights of Zaphon. In Zaphon, the place of his royal presence, God secures the peace of the realm as he defeats the rebellious kings who gather against him. Thus, the key elements of Revelation 16:16 are also found in Psalm 48.[7]

Before explaining the appearance of Zaphon in Ezekiel 38 and 39, Kline provided commentary on what he believed was the first battle on Har Magedon. In Eden “the battle of Har Magedon was joined as Satan challenged the God of the mountain and overcame the first man, the appointed guardian-priest of the garden-sanctuary.”[8] In redemptive history, Zion serves as the setting at the start of the new covenant age for the decisive victory of Jesus, the second Adam, over the evil one. Satan will gather his Antichrist Beast and allied kings in a final attempt to usurp Har Magedon, “but the Lamb, the Lord of the mountain, and his assembled armies will triumph in this final battle of Har Magedon, the battle of the great day of God Almighty (Rev. 16:14–16; 19:11–21; 20:7–10).”[9]

Har Magedon and Magog

Kline then shifted to the third Old Testament passage containing the phrase Zaphon, the prophecy of Gog-Magog from Ezekiel 38 and 39. He maintained that this portion of Ezekiel’s prophecy was the common source behind Revelation 16:14–16 and 20:7–10. In addition to the explicit mention of Gog and Magog in Revelation 20, there is the shared theme in these texts of the universal gathering of the world forces to destroy the people of God and the world force’s overthrow by the descent of fiery judgment from heaven. Kline added, “Accordingly it is generally acknowledged that Ezekiel’s prophecy and the vision of the loosing of Satan after the thousand years in Rev. 20 describe the same eschatological event.”[10]

Common, also, to both the Ezekiel and Revelation texts is the antichrist element. In Ezekiel, Gog is a pretender to the throne of heaven. He challenges Yahweh’s sovereignty on Zion, but his armies on the mountain of Israel are overthrown, and he is plunged into a netherworld grave. But Gog is not just an Old Testament anticipation but the Antichrist of the final crisis. Revelation 20:7–10 presents the Gog-Magog assault on Zion as marking the end of the millennium. This conforms to Ezekiel 38–39 and the eschatological finality of the Gog crisis.

This antichrist challenge of Gog is according to God’s purpose and sovereign orchestration. Gog, advancing against the mountains of Israel (Ezek. 39:2, 17), is lured by the Lord to this final confrontation. The central point of the attack is Mount Zion, even though Zion is not mentioned by name. Implicit in God’s speaking of the mountains of Israel as “my mountains” (Ezek. 38:21) and the land of Israel as “my land” (Ezek. 38:16) is also the royal mountain-city where he dwells and rules. As is the case in Revelation 16, the destination and intended target for God and his hosts is where the Lord is enthroned. In the Revelation 20 accounting of Ezekiel’s prophecy, Gog’s armies are said to compass “the beloved city” (Rev. 20:9), which is Jerusalem/Zion.

Millennial Applications

Kline closed the article with a discussion of the implications of Revelation 16:16 rightly interpreted (Har Magedon is the Mount of Assembly where the final battle rages) for the millennial positions of premillennialism, postmillennialism, preterism, and amillennialism.

Premillennialism understands Revelation 19:11–20:10 chronologically. The thousand years of Revelation 20:1–6, that close with the Gog-Magog episode of Revelation 20:7–10, follow chronologically the Revelation 19:11–21 judgment of the Antichrist Beast. Criticism of this view, however, is valid, for various points of correspondence exist between the Revelation 20:7–10 crisis and other parallel passages. The battle of Revelation 20:8 is certainly the battle of Har Magedon described in Revelation 16:14–16, the war of “the great day of God, the Almighty.” In each case, it is the battle to which Satan, the dragon, gathers the nations. This gathering “against the Lamb and the city beloved of the Lord is also referred to as Satan’s deception of the whole world through the signs wrought by his agents, the beast from the sea and, particularly, the false prophet.”[11]

“Indeed,” said Kline, “this theme of deception-gathering appears in a series of five passages in the Apocalypse, concentrically arranged according to the subject(s) of the action, with Rev. 16:13–16 the centerpiece and Rev. 20:7–9 the concluding member.”[12] The five passages are: Revelation 12:9 (Satan, the ultimate deceiver); Revelation 13:14 (False Prophet, acting in association with the dragon-like beast); Revelation 16:13–16 (Satan, False Prophet, and dragon appear together as the source of demonic signs that go to kings of the earth); Revelation 19:17–20 (Kings of the earth gathered to deceive against the messianic horseman and his armies); and Revelation 20:7–10 (Satan, his two agents, and the deception-gathering).[13]

The relationship of Ezekiel 38 and 39 to Revelation 20:7–10 and Revelation 16:14–16 also points out the mistakenness of the premillennial position. Ezekiel 38–39 is the common source behind both Revelation 20:7–10 and Revelation 16:14–16 and other Apocalyptic prophecies of the final conflict. Among the similarities between Ezekiel 38–39 and Revelation 20:7–10 that support this conclusion are: 1) the marshaling of hordes from the four corners of the earth (Ezek. 38:2–7, 15; 39:4; Rev. 20:8); 2) the march of the gathered armies to encompass the saints in the city of God, the center of the world (Ezek. 38:7–9, 12, 16; Rev. 20:9); 3) God’s sovereign orchestration of the event (Ezek. 38:4, 16; 39:2, 19; Rev. 20:3, 7); 4) the timing of the event after a prolonged period in which God’s people are kept secure from universal assault (Ezek. 38:8, 11; Rev. 20:3); 5) the eschatological finality of the crisis (Ezek. 38:22, 26, 29; Rev. 20:10 and following); and 6) the fiery destruction of the evil forces (Ezek. 38:22; 39:6; Rev. 20:9–10).[14] Among the similarities between Ezekiel 38–39 and Revelation 16:14–16 and other prophecies of the final conflict in Revelation are: 1) the universal gathering of the enemy armies (Ezek. 39:18–20; Rev. 16:14–16); and 2) the historical setting of that event at the end of the world (Rev. 16:16–17) following an era in which it is given to the church to fulfill its gospel mission (Rev. 11:3–7).

This evidence and more led Kline to conclude that premillennialism had neither rightly interpreted Revelation 20:7–10 nor Har Magedon in Revelation 16. He wrote,

Revelation 20:7–10 is not, as premillennialists would have it, an isolated, novel episode, not mentioned elsewhere in the book of Revelation. Rather, it belongs to a series of passages, including Rev. 19:11–21, which premillennialists rightly regard as referring to the antichrist-Har Magedon crisis and the parousia of Christ. It therefore follows that the thousand years that precede the Gog-Magog crisis of Rev. 20:7–10 precede the Har Magedon-parousia event related in the other passage. Har Magedon is not a prelude to the millennium, but a postlude. Har Magedon marks the end of the millennium. And that conclusion spells the end of premillennialism.[15]

That conclusion, that Har Magedon is the end of the millennium, also contradicts the preterist approach to Revelation. Except for Revelation 20:7–10, preterists believe the prophecies of the final conflict refer to past events, like the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70 or the collapse of the Roman empire.

According to Kline, this approach with its reduced emphasis on the final global crisis is understandably popular with postmillennialists “whose distinguishing notion is that that present age, the millennium, is—at least in its latter phase—a time not only of surpassing evangelistic success for the church but one of outward prosperity and peace.”[16] Postmillennialism of the theonomic reconstructionist variety anticipates that the success of the church’s mission will involve its worldwide practical dominance and elimination of public practice of non-Christian religions.

For such eschatological expectations, prophecies of a global surge of anti-Christian forces as the immediate precursor to the parousia are problematic. The whole series of Har Magedon-Gog passages and the progressively elaborated theme of worldwide suppression of the gospel witness in which the millennium issues refute postmillennial expectations. “Actually, Rev. 20:7–10 by itself refutes the postmillennial projections, for it is evident there that the nations of the world have not become officially ‘Christianized’ institutions during the millennium.”[17]

Kline judged that the standard amillennial interpretation of Revelation 20:7–10 was correct. The Gog-Magog episode there is not an isolated episode but is a recapitulation of the Har Magedon crisis that appears in Revelation 16:14–16. In fact, “the very term har magedōn itself identifies the Rev. 16:14–16 event as the Gog-Magog event of 20:7–10.”[18]

In concluding the article, Kline summarized what he believed were the major differences between the premillennial, postmillennial and amillennial views. Premillennialism and postmillennialism posit a transitional realization of the Old Testament prophecies of the kingdom as an external imperial power that occurs during the millennium and thus before the consummation. Consequently, premillennialism and postmillennialism are both pre-consummation views, the distinction being that premillennialists relate the millennium to the parousia as post-parousia and postmillennialists relate the millennium to the parousia as pre-parousia.

For Kline, the amillennial position alone represents the biblical position. There is no transitional stage in which the kingdom of glory appears between the first and second advents of Christ. It comes only as a post-consummation reality, and as such it abides uninterrupted, unchallenged for ever and ever.

Endnotes

[1] Meredith G. Kline, “Har Magedon: The End of the Millennium,” Journal of the Evangelical Theology Society 39 (1996): 207–222. Citations will be from the article as found in the Essential Writings of Meredith G. Kline (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2017), 259–278.

[2] C. C. Torrey, “Armageddon,” Harvard Theological Review 31 (1938): 237–248.

[3] Kline, “Har Magedon,” 257. In the accompanying footnote, Kline wrote, “See also Rev. 6:12–17; 11:7–13, 18; 14:17–20; 17:11–14. Cf. Meredith G. Kline, “A Study in the Structure of the Revelation of John” (unpublished). A full exposition of the recapitulatory structure of Revelation is found in G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, NIGTC (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999) (259n2).

[4] Kline, “Har Magedon,” 259–260.

[5] Gregory Beale writes in support of Torrey, “That ‘Armageddon’ is not literal is evident from the observation that OT prophecies of the final battle of history place it, without exception, in the immediate vicinity of the city of Jerusalem and Mount Zion or its surrounding mountains … But the plain of Megiddo is about a two days’ walk north of Jerusalem.” But Beale also recognizes that scholars following Torrey’s lead often do not provide much support in the surrounding context of Isa. 14:13 for Torrey’s proposal. Beale then adds, “An exception to the objection that the har môʿēd proposal is not supported by the surrounding context is to be found in M. G. Kline, ‘Har Magedon: The End of the Millennium,’ who demonstrates organic parallels with the immediate and broad contexts. Presupposing the correctness of deriving ‘Armageddon’ ultimately from har môʿēd, Kline’s contextual analysis of Revelation is quite plausible.” See, G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation, NIGTC (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1999), 838, 840n112.

[6] Kline, “Har Magedon,” 260.

[7] Kline also maintained that Heb. 12:18–29 echoed Ps. 48.  He wrote, “Echoing Ps. 48, Heb. 12:18–29 displays these facets of Har Magedon, Mount of Gathering, and identifies it as Zion, heavenly Jerusalem, city of the living God, the Great King” (266).

[8] Kline, “Har Magedon,” 266.

[9] Kline, “Har Magedon,” 267.

[10] Kline, “Har Magedon,” 267.

[11] Kline, “Har Magedon,” 273.

[12] Kline, “Har Magedon,” 273.

[13] At the start of the paragraph Kline references the concluding member as Rev. 20:7–9, but at the end of the paragraph he stated, “This identification of Satan with his two agents in the disastrous enterprise is also brought out in the fifth member of the chiasm (Rev. 20:10).” Kline, “Har Magedon,” 273–274.

[14] Kline, “Har Magedon,” 274.

[15] Kline, “Har Magedon,” 275–276.

[16] Kline, “Har Magedon,” 276.

[17] Kline, “Har Magedon,” 276–277. Kline observed in the footnote accompanying this sentence that the problem of nations not becoming Christianized “drives some to the so-called consistent preterist position which extends the preterist hermeneutics to Rev. 20:7ff. and so regards as past history what all others recognize as events that will usher in the world to come” (277n47).

[18] Kline, “Har Magedon,” 275.

Danny E. Olinger is a minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and serves as the General Secretary of Christian Education of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Ordained Servant Online, January 2022.

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Ordained Servant: January 2022

Ordained Servant at 30

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