What Is The War Of Gog-Magog?
Ezekiel 38:1-3a, “And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Son of man, set thy face against Gog, the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him, And say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against thee, O Gog …”
When it comes to the war described by the Prophet Ezekiel in the 38th and 39th chapters of his book — often referred to as the War of Gog-Magog — there often seems to be a circle of Bible prophecy teachers that keep repeating the same general theories over and over in an effort to impose a specific preconceived idea or timeline into the battle. Instead of allowing the full counsel of Scripture to provide the timing of this war for us, Gog-Magog is characterized as a war that will happen either just before or immediately after the start of “Daniel’s 70th week”. All too often, students of Biblical eschatology who study the positions of a particular author or teacher may then refer to a couple of others who say essentially the same thing for “inquisitive” reinforcement. These students are subsequently conditioned to conclude that these authors and teachers must be correct because they have “all” come at the same conclusion from the text, one that is further strengthened in the student’s mind when the very same teachers also echo similar rebuttals outlining why any opposing position cannot be correct. But as the Bereans in the Book of Acts were called noble because they searched the Scriptures daily to see if what they were being taught was so, we too also need to mimic the Berean example.
Instead of repeating the common misconception outlined above, authors and teachers such as Joel Richardson (read his position here) and Dave Hunt & T. A. McMahon from The Berean Call radio ministry (listen to a segment from their radio program discussing Ezekiel 38 and 39 here) have presented serious, if not devastating, challenges to the more “mainstream” position of Evangelical Christians by offering compelling reasons why Ezekiel’s Gog-Magog war does not describe a “pre-Armageddon” battle. Upon a much closer and careful examination of Ezekiel’s text, it becomes increasingly clear that we can ascertain — simply by comparing Scripture with Scripture — why Gog-Magog is a battle that will, without a doubt, culminate in the war of all wars itself: Armageddon.
What Is Gog, And Who Is Gog?
To understand why, however, we first need to determine what Gog is, and who Gog is, from a Biblical perspective. Ezekiel refers to Gog as “the chief prince” of Meshech and Tubal three times (38:2, 38:3 and 39:1). The Hebrew word for chief is rosh, which also means the head (like the Jewish New Year “Rosh Hashanah“, which means “Head of the Year”), and the word for prince is nasiy which also means captain or leader. According to the text, Gog is a very important leading figure of some sort whom the Lord tells Ezekiel to prophecy against.
Another extremely significant clue regarding the identity of Gog is given for us again a few verses later. In Ezekiel 38:17, God identifies Gog as the one whom the prophets foretold that the Lord would bring up against Israel in the last days to reveal Himself to the nations and to make His holy name known in the midst of His people (cf 39:7). To drive home this point, here are a number of different translations of Ezekiel 38:17:
KJV: “Thus saith the Lord GOD; [Art] thou he of whom I have spoken in old time by my servants the prophets of Israel, which prophesied in those days [many] years that I would bring thee against them?”
NLT: “This is what the Sovereign LORD says: You are the one I was talking about long ago, when I announced through Israel’s prophets that in future days I would bring you against my people.”
DBY: “Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Art thou not he of whom I have spoken in old time through my servants the prophets of Israel, who prophesied in those days, for [many] years, that I would bring thee against them?”
LXX: “Thus saith the Lord God, to Gog; Thou art he concerning whom I spoke in former times, by the hand of my servants the prophets of Israel, in those days and years, that I would bring thee up against them.”
The Message: “A Message of God, the Master: Years ago when I spoke through my servants, the prophets of Israel, wasn’t it you I was talking about? Year after year they prophesied that I would bring you against them. And when the day comes, Gog, you will attack that land of Israel.”
CEV: “The LORD said to Gog: Long ago, I had my prophets warn the people of Israel that someday I would send an enemy to attack them. You, Gog, are that enemy, and that day is coming.”
NCV: “‘This is what the Lord God says: You are the one about whom I spoke in past days. I spoke through my servants, the prophets of Israel, who prophesied for many years that I would bring you against them.”
TNIV: “‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: You are the one I spoke of in former days by my servants the prophets of Israel. At that time they prophesied for years that I would bring you against them.”
We’ve already identified what Gog is, which is a very important leader. To determine who Gog is, what must not be lost here is the fact that all other prophets only spoke of one figure similarly elsewhere that would come up against Israel in the last days, and that figure is the one whom we would now identify as Antichrist. If the Lord refers to Gog as the one whom the prophets spoke of previously that would come up against Israel in the last days, which He does, then there is therefore only one possible conclusion that can be drawn: Gog is somehow referring directly to Antichrist.
Similarities Between The Battle of Gog-Magog and Armageddon
If Gog is in fact Antichrist, then we should be able to correlate events surrounding the battle of Gog-Magog with events surrounding the battle of Armageddon. Naturally, however, when two or more witnesses describe the same event, they will sometimes express certain aspects of the event differently, or emphasize and delineate specific details over others. And the same is true with Biblical prophets. When the sum of all details are considered, however, there are too many astounding similarities between the battle of Gog-Magog and the battle of Armageddon to ignore, and any “differences” that some try to point out between Gog-Magog and Armageddon are easily resolved once the whole of Scripture is compared hermeneutically using not just the book of Revelation, but Isaiah, Daniel, Joel and Zechariah as well. In a nutshell:
- Both Gog and Antichrist come at a time of peace and security (Dan 11:24, Eze 38:12-13)
- Both Gog and Antichrist come from the North (Dan 11:40-42, Joel 2:19-20; Ezel 38:14-16; Eze 39:1-3)
- Both Gog and Antichrist have the same coalition of nations (Dan 11:43, Zech 14:14, Joel 3:11-12; Eze 38:5-6 – and many people [nations] with thee)
- Both Gog and Antichrist take spoil, loot and plunder (Isa 10:5-7, Dan 11:24; Ezekiel 38:10-13)
- Both Gog and Antichrist are destroyed at the end of the battle (Eze 39:11; Dan 7:11)
- In both the Gog-Magog and Armageddon battles, the armies are confused and attack each other (Eze 38:21-22; Zech 14:12-13)
- Both Gog-Magog and Armageddon end with a great earthquake (Eze 38:19-20; Rev 16:18-20)
- Both Gog-Magog and Armageddon experience great hailstones (Rev 16:16-21, Eze 38:22)
- Both Gog-Magog and Armageddon are followed by “The Feast Of God” (Eze 39:17-20; Rev 19:17)
- After both battles weapons of war are destroyed (Eze 39:9; Isa 2:4)
- After both battles God’s name will no longer be profaned, because … (Eze 39:22, Eze 39:7-8, Zech 12:9-10, Eze 38:23)
- After both battles Christ is physically present in Israel, and (Eze 39:7, Zech 12:9-10)
- After both battles God pours out His Spirit upon Israel, and (Eze 39:29; Zech 12:10)
- After both battles God declares “It is done” (Eze 39:8; Rev 16:17)
Notice the three last points emphasized above. Ezekiel 39:7 and 39:22 both say that God’s name will be known in the midst of Israel and that Israel will know their God from that day forward. The only way that Israel can know God is if they know their true Messiah. Galatians 5:4 makes it clear that those who simply try to be justified by the Law are estranged/separated from Christ (and therefore God), so if Israel is to truly know the Lord their God “from that day forward” they must recognize Jesus (Yeshua) as their Messiah (Ha-Mashiach). Contextually, Ezekiel 39:29 tells us that the Lord pours out His spirit upon the house of Israel and Zechariah 12:10 gives us the timing regarding when this will happen: After the Second Coming of Christ. Ezekiel 39:7 reinforces Zechariah’s timing by showing us that Christ is now physically present in Israel:
Ezekiel 39:29, “Neither will I hide my face any more from them: for I have poured out my spirit upon the house of Israel, saith the Lord GOD.”
Zechariah 12:10, “And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for [his] only [son], and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for [his] firstborn.”
Ezekiel 39:7, “So will I make my holy name known in the midst of my people Israel; and I will not [let them] pollute my holy name any more: and the heathen shall know that I [am] the LORD, the Holy One in Israel.”
If that weren’t enough, God Himself declares in Ezekiel 39:8, “Behold, it is come, and it is done … this [is] the day whereof I have spoken.” He has revealed Himself to Israel and to the nations. How can God say “It is done” when, according to the pop-eschatology position of many prophecy teachers today, it is not done until about seven years later at Armageddon? Moreover, if God had declared that He spoke of any “pre-Armageddon” battle before, where is it mentioned in Scripture? The only day in the eschaton that the Lord and the prophets spoke of previously is the Day of the Lord — Armageddon. The view that many of today’s teachers support, however, suggests that all of the Magog nations that Christ destroys — nations that the text tells us in no uncertain terms will know from that point forward that the God of Israel is God (Ezekiel 38:16, 23; 39:7, 21, 23) — suddenly and conveniently all develop a case of collective amnesia to yet again form another coalition in order to yet again gather against Jerusalem, only to be destroyed yet again by Christ a few short years later. Such a position is a highly tenuous, to say the least.
Of course, there’s even more that could be said, but for the sake of brevity I’ll refer to Dake’s Annotated Reference Bible, which is also a good reference for this particular topic as well. Although I do not agree with everything provided in many reference Bibles (nor should we), I will acknowledge that Dake’s Annotated Reference Bible does provide a well-researched analysis comparing the battle of Gog-Magog and the battle of Armageddon by listing the following fourteen proofs why Armageddon is referred to in Ezekiel 38 and 39:
- Not one statement in these two chapters (Ez: 38-39) mention a war in Israel before Armageddon [or after].
- The battle of Armageddon is the only war predicted by the prophets that could possibly be referred to in these chapters (Ezek. 38:17). Armageddon is mentioned many times by Isaiah, Jeremiah, Micah, and other prophets before the days of Ezekiel (Isa. 1:25-31; 3:25-26; 13:1-16; 24:21; 63:1-6; Jer. 25:30-33; 30:11,20-24; Joel 2-3; Oba. 1:15-21; Mic. 1:3-4; 2:12-13; 5:5-15; etc.).
- The destruction of Gog and his armies (Ezek. 38:18-23; 39:1-6,17-20) compares with similar statements about Armageddon in Joel 3; Zech. 14; Rev. 19:11-21.
- Gog will not fall upon the open field until Armageddon (Ezek. 39:3-5; Rev. 19:11-21).
- The great supper for the fowls and beasts will only be at Armageddon (Ezek. 39:4,17-20 with Mt. 24:27-28; Rev. 19:17-21).
- The presence of God (as pictured in Ezek. 38:18-21; 39:1-6,17-24) will not be until Armageddon (Isa. 63:1-6; Zech. 14:1-5; Rev. 19:11-21).
- The supernatural destruction of Gog and his armies (as described in Ezek. 38:21-23) will not be until Armageddon (Isa. 63:1-6; Joel 2-3; Zech. 14; Rev. 19:11-21).
- God will not magnify and sanctify Himself and set His glory among the heathen (as stated in Ezek. 38:23; 39:21-24) until He comes at the second coming of Christ — at Armageddon (Zech. 14:1-21; Mt. 24:29-31; Rev. 19:11-21).
- Gog will not bring the many armies of the nations into Israel to be destroyed until the time of the second coming of Christ, at Armageddon, as referred to in Ezek. 38:18-23; 39:1-7 and proved in Zech. 14:1-5; Rev. 16:13-16; 19:11-21.
- The great earthquake of Ezek. 38:20 will not take place until the seventh vial and the second coming (Zech. 14:1-5; Rev. 16:17-21; 19:11-21).
- God’s presence will not destroy Gog and his army until the second coming, at Armageddon (Ezek. 38:20; 39:2-7 with Zech. 14:1-5; Rev. 19:11-21).
- Gog and his army cannot be destroyed in a war in Israel before the second coming, at Armageddon, to fulfill Ezek. 38:18-23; 39:1-7,17-20, and then be destroyed again at Armageddon to fulfill Isa. 63; Joel 2-3; Zech. 14. We must therefore recognize all these passages as referring to the same destruction — at Armageddon (Rev. 19:11-21).
- The burial of Gog and all his armies destroyed in the fulfillment of Ezek. 38-39 will be at the second coming of Christ (Ezek. 39:11-16 with Dan. 7:11; 2Th. 2:8-12; Rev. 19:11-21).
- It is at the second coming of Christ that God’s glory will be set among the heathen and Israel will be completely gathered and blessed (Ezek. 39:21-29; Zech. 14; Mt. 24:29-31; Rom. 11:24-29; Rev. 19:11-21).
The Identity of Gog – An Alternative Explanation
Ezekiel 39:4, 11, “You shall fall upon the mountains of Israel, you and all your troops and the peoples who [are] with you; I will give you to birds of prey of every sort and [to] the beasts of the field to be devoured… I will give Gog a burial place there in Israel, the valley of those who pass by east of the sea; and it will obstruct travelers, because there they will bury Gog and all his multitude…”
If all of that wasn’t enough to chew on, here is one more item worthy of further consideration. Although Gog sounds like a person and is spoken of in personified terms as being given over to ravenous birds and animals (Ezekial 39:4) who will be buried in Israel (39:11), let us not ignore the possibility that Ezekiel may not be describing a man, but rather the leading spiritual entity behind the Antichrist or the political-religious system that exercises authority over this region, similar to how Daniel describes the spiritual forces exercising authority over Iran and Greece as “the prince of Persia (Iran)” and “the prince of Javan (Grecia)” in Daniel 10:20. Ezekiel calls Gog “the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal” in 38:2, 38:3 and 39:1, which is the region north of Israel in modern day Turkey. Incidentally, in Revelation 2:13 Jesus says that the region of modern day Turkey (which is where Gog is “the chief prince” of) is “where Satan’s throne is” and “where Satan dwells.” It is therefore conceivable that Gog could simply be referring to Satan himself, which would explain why we suddenly read of another Gog-Magog battle immediately after Satan is released following his 1,000 years of captivity in Revelation 20:7-8.
There is obviously much more going on behind the curtain of this physical world than meets the eye. Since the casting down of Satan is also described in physical terms by the prophet Isaiah whereby Satan is “brought down to the grave, to the depths of the pit” (Isaiah 14:15) even though Satan is non-corporeal, as is his being bound by “chains” and being thrown down into the abyss (Revelation 20:1-3), the “chief prince” being given over to the animals and buried in the land of Israel at the first battle of Gog-Magog could simply be referring to the physical destruction of the armies of the surrounding Islamic nations (cf. 38:5-6) that he brings against Israel through deceptive means. Knowing that Satan is also referred to elsewhere as the “prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2), the “prince of this world” (John 12:31) and the “prince of demons” (Matthew 12:24) who “deceives the whole world” (Revelation 12:9), to be called the “chief prince” who leads nations to wage war against Israel is entirely consistent with the titles and tasks of the adversary described elsewhere throughout the Biblical texts.
Furthermore, although we have generally understood Antichrist in terms of a man, we should not dismiss nor discount the possibility that Antichrist may not be a man per se at all, but rather the Islamic “system” itself that we see manifest today. Just as the Church (Ekklesia) is the Body of Christ, Satan’s counterfeit of the Church — the Ummah of Islam — would be the “Body of Antichrist” that is given its power and authority by Satan himself (cf Revelation 13:2-4). Although Antichrist could be a literal man who will soon be revealed, the “embodiment” of the religious-political-militant system of Islam (the multitude of a man, Mohammed) that is given its power by “the chief prince” or spiritual force who exercises authority over Meshech and Tubal may be what is truly in view here, even though it is often referred to anthropomorphically as a “man” in Scripture much like the Church (the multitude of the Lamb, Messiah) is referred to as “one new man” in Ephesians 2:15. Either way, Gog is Antichrist.
In Conclusion – One Battle, Different Perspectives
Without any doubt in my mind, the battle of Gog-Magog and the battle of Armageddon are essentially separate descriptions of the same event. More specifically, the Gog-Magog description as outlined by the prophet Ezekiel provides is a broader overview of a conflict that simply leads up to and ends at Armageddon, not simply “Armageddon” itself per se when the armies of the surrounding Islamic nations gather themselves in the “valley of decision” in a final effort to destroy Israel once and for all. It is a broader view of a conflict that comes to a definitive conclusion at Armageddon when Christ Himself destroys the surrounding armies directly, enemies who will have already been fighting against Israel and waging wars for quite some time — months, perhaps a few short years. Ezekiel 38-39 describes this extended campaign, providing us with a broader wide-angle view of a conflict that could last for a good portion of Antichrist’s persecution of Israel and her children, and coming to a climactic end with the Seventh Trumpet and the return of Yeshua Ha-Mashiach, Jesus Christ, in power and great glory, whose presence will be made known all throughout Israel. And the earth.
Revelation 6:15-17, “And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?”
Originally Posted 3/16/2011, Revised 6/1/2013