If I wanted to teach you the Hebrew word for God, I wouldn’t spell it as, “אֱלֹהִים”—rather, I would spell it as, “Elohim.” This is how transliteration works: I take the closest English letters I can find to help you pronounce the Hebrew word, recognizing that Hebrew letters are likely foreign to you.
John uses this same tactic in Revelation 16:16 when he tells his greek readers that the final showdown between God’s army and Satan’s army will happen “at the place that in Hebrew is called Ἁρμαγεδών”—which is what we typically call, “Armageddon” in English. But “Armageddon” actually isn’t the right pronunciation of John’s transliterated Greek word. See that little apostrophe looking thing at the beginning? That’s what is known as a hard breathing mark, which means John expected his readers to pronounce his word with a hard breath at the beginning—that is, “hhhhhh-armageddon.” (There’s no H in the Greek alphabet, so John is doing his best here to help the Greeks pronounce his Hebrew word correctly.)
That being said, the correct pronunciation is, “Har Magedon.” Now in Hebrew, “Har” means mountain, so John’s readers would be left thinking of “Mount Magedon.” But the problem is that there is no “Mount Magedon” in the Scriptures. So then what is John talking about? Well, we need to do some more transliterating to find out.
Since Hebrew has no vowels, “Har Magedon” would be spelled, “H-R-M-G-D.” We already suspect “H-R” stands for mount, but what about “M-G-D?” Well, as it ends up, M-G-D doesn’t really line up with anything that makes sense in Hebrew. However, if we substitute the “G” for the Hebrew character “ayin” (‘) which also makes a G sound, our Hebrew word would now be pronounced, “Har Mo’ed.” And believe it or not, that mountain actually does exist in the Bible. It’s found in Isaiah 14:13 and in English we call it, “the Mount of Assembly.”
This is the special mountain that God reigned from and met with his heavenly assembly—a mountain also referred to as “Mount Zion” or “Jerusalem.” But John doesn’t want us to think blankly of Jerusalem, but specifically of the time it was called Har Mo’ed in the Scriptures. Why? Because Har Mo’ed is the story of why Satan was kicked out of Heaven. Isaiah 14 informs us that Satan tried to usurp God from his mountain in order to gain control over the heavenly assembly. John wants us to remember that story, because at the end of Revelation, he’s picturing Satan as trying to do it all over again.
John’s not crafting Revelation entirely out of pure vision and mystery. He’s steeped in the Scriptures and using Bible references and stories through the direction of the Spirit to show us where things are headed. He wants us to know that Satan still wants God’s throne and control of the assembly and that he’s just arrogant and stupid enough to have the audacity to try to take it again. It’s his ultimate endgame. And so in Revelation, Satan eventually is seen standing at the bottom of that ancient mountain with his new army of demons and fallen humans, ready to ascend to the top in attempts to take control.
But there at the top of Mount Zion; of Har Mo’ed; of the Mount of Assembly; stands a ghost. A man he could have sworn he once killed is up there still alive and ready to pronounce judgements. On one hand he looks like a corpse, bloodied with the stripes of the cross—but on the other hand he looks resurrected—perfect, immortal, incorruptible, and unable to be killed. And he stands there with the angels who once warred against Satan long ago, and all the Christians that Satan had martyred throughout the centuries (Rev 14:1).
Satan goes to war with God having already lost, but unwilling to believe it. For in the end, Revelation wants us to know that martyrdom wins. The slain lamb wins. Resurrection wins. The new Eden wins. Heaven wins. The new heavenly assembly of Christians and angels wins. And Satan and everything else tied to him, loses. John reminds us to stay faithful, for persecution is not the end for us—nor is it weakness. To be persecuted is to live like Jesus and to join His ranks.
*With end times conspiracy theories floating about these days, I‘m offering some thoughts on popular misconceptions from the book of Revelation. Today’s post comes from Michael Heiser’s research in “The Unseen Realm,” pages 368-376. See also chapter 6 of “God, Heaven and Har Magedon” by Meredith G. Kline.