“[T]here is good and there is evil, and evil must be punished. Even in the face of Armageddon I shall not compromise in this.” —“Rorschach,” in Alan Moore’s “Watchmen”
In A Nutshell
We commonly use the terms “Armageddon” and “Apocalypse” to refer to the end of the world as we know it. More specifically, though, Armageddon is a place where the final battle for mankind will be fought, while the apocalypse is the reading of the events that lead to the end of the world. There is also both a religious apocalypse that we will be able to do nothing about, and the secular apocalypse that we might still have some control over.
The Whole Bushel
Armageddon and the Apocalypse are often used interchangeably to refer to the end of the world, usually in a Biblical sense. They’re actually very, very different things, however. “Armageddon” refers to a place, while the Apocalypse is the reading of a series of events.
There is only one mention of Armageddon in the Bible, in Revelation 16:16. The verse is: “And He gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue ‘Armageddon.’ ”
The word Armageddon comes from the Hebrew words har (meaning “mountain”), and Megiddo (also Megiddon), which was the name of a city. The city belonged to the Canaanites until it was captured by Joshua, and then was turned over to the Manassites. Today, the once-great fortified city is little more than ruins, located about 95 kilometers (60 mi) outside of Jerusalem.
The city has a very long and bloody history, both Biblical and secular. After Joshua’s conquest, the Canaanites were slaughtered again there by the order of Deborah, and it’s the suspected location of an epic battle in Judges 7 between the Midianites and Gideon. King Solomon used the city to house the horses for his chariots, and it was also the site of a more modern 1918 battle between the British and the Turks that gave rise to modern Israel.
And it’s said to be the battle at Armageddon where Christ and his saints will take on the Antichrist and an army of 200 million men. It’s at that point a period of 1,000 years of peace will begin.
Apokalypsis is a Greek word that means “something uncovered.” “Apocalypse” actually refers to the uncovering of a vision for the future, such as in the Book of Revelation and the Revelation of John. Most beliefs about the apocalypse are pieced together from different texts throughout the Bible, meaning that the apocalypse is actually presenting guidelines for interpreting a series of events in the world around us. In religious terms, that includes events like the Rapture, the great Tribulation, and, finally, the battle of Armageddon.
It’s all part of the apocalypse, the divine plan for establishing a reign of peace on earth, after defeating the evil that has taken root in the world.
There’s also a difference between the ideas of a religious apocalypse and a secular one. The religious apocalypse isn’t necessarily the events themselves, but a way of interpreting them. The general belief is that we’re not going to be able to change what’s going on around us, after all; there’s nothing we’re going to be able to do once the trumpets start sounding but ride it out and have faith. And that’s what the apocalypse is meant to be—a reason to hope through the trials, the war, the blood. It’s a light at the end of the tunnel for believers, so to speak.
The secular apocalypse is a very, very different thing, but it’s also meant to be a blueprint and way of examining the world around us. The difference is that we can theoretically do something about the secular apocalypse: We can pay attention to global warming, to the effects of pollution and overpopulation, to wars and conflict and crisis. While the religious apocalypse is meant to give hope, the secular one is meant to make mankind aware of what we’re doing to the world around us, and to stop before it’s too late.
Note: There are many different interpretations of the Biblical apocalypse; we only aim to contrast some of the more popular interpretations in this article.