Ezekiel was a priest and a prophet who lived during one of the darkest times in Israel’s history - the seventy-year captivity in Babylon. While God’s people generally seemed overwhelmed and downcast because of their circumstances, Ezekiel rose above his surroundings and remained resolute in his faith in his God. Could this be a challenge and an encouragement to us today? His messages to the nation were that, although they now appeared like dry bones in the sun, yet God would re-establish them and breathe life into the nation in a coming day - present judgement will be followed by future glory.
In light of the above circumstances, we are introduced to one of the most amazing prophecies of scripture in chapters 38 and 39. A swift-moving, massive army of many nations, descending mainly from the north in relation to Jerusalem, will attack Israel in a time of peace. This would seem to be one of the greatest one-sided conflicts ever experienced in Earth’s history, and something on a scale never witnessed before. Israel appears to be finished, but God will intervene and the invading army will be almost annihilated!
When we consider the accuracy and precision of Bible prophecies that have already been fulfilled, it gives us renewed confidence in the inspiration of scripture; it also gives us guidance for our present situation and continuing hope for the future. However, we do need to be careful regarding the specifics of events yet future that can be interpreted in different ways.
The names and locations concerning this massive army descending on Israel from the north are mostly names not familiar to us today. Some Old Testament and New Testament location names have remained unchanged throughout time, e.g., Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Egypt, Damascus, Rome. Yet many of the names given in these chapters are ancient names of areas and peoples that existed when the prophecy was given - names known to Ezekiel but not to us, names that no longer exist, e.g., Gomer, Rus, Magog, Meshesh, Togarmah, Tubal. Names of countries and regions have even changed in recent years, e.g., Eire to Ireland, Persia to Iran, Siam to Thailand. Therefore, in our study we need to look carefully and try to locate where these areas may be today.
Jerusalem has always had a special place in God’s purposes regarding mankind. It has been at the centre of God’s dealings with man in the past and will be in the future. It was at Jerusalem that the first temple (and subsequent temples) would be built, 1 Kgs. 6; at Calvary, just outside the city, salvation was procured, Luke 23; and it was from the city that the spread of the gospel originated, Acts 1. 8. This future attack of Gog and Magog from the north, and followed a few years later by the battle of Armageddon from multiple directions, are all in relation to the city. Finally, in the millennial reign of Christ, the throne will be established at Jerusalem. Thus, the city is central regarding divine purposes!
Jerusalem can also be regarded as central in its geographical position. The Earth’s thin crustal surface is broken into many unequal plates with continents and oceans on top of them. Sub-crustal convection currents (vast energies of heat and pressure) move those crustal plates in relation to each other, so all of Earth’s land masses are constantly changing position in relation to each other, albeit at normally just a few centimetres per year. Using computer models, all the Earth’s continents can be moved back together into one complete landmass - the result puts Jerusalem entirely at the central point!
We read of many names in chapter 38 verses 1 to 6 regarding this vast invading force. The name Gog appears to be different from the rest and is the title of a person, whilst all the other names mentioned are areas or locations or peoples. In the context of Ezekiel chapter 38, the word Gog seems to refer to an individual, vv. 3, 9, whilst verse 7 refers to a commander of a vast moving army. So, Gog has a title, similar to Pharaoh, Caesar, or President. Gog is the prince of Rosh or Rus, possibly Russia!
Those mentioned in verses 1 to 6 are ancient names given to areas or regions and peoples that once existed, some of which we can identify, such as Libya, Ethiopia, and Persia (Iran), but many of which we cannot be absolutely sure. It is normally accepted that Tubal, Gomer, Togarmah and Meshech were ancient regions situated in modern-day Turkey, while Magog is an ancient name associated with south Russia, and perhaps including Kazakhstan. Ros or Rus is an ancient name for present-day west Russia. It should be stressed that we cannot be dogmatic regarding these suggested locations. We simply seek to try and locate where we think they are!
What a remarkable thing that Ezekiel prophesies of a vast invasion involving Russia, fourteen centuries before Russia as a country was founded. Similarly, Isaiah speaks of ‘the circle of the earth’, Isa. 40. 22, 1, 500 years before men stopped believing that the Earth was square and that if you travelled far enough you would ultimately fall off the edge!
The answer to this question is much more straightforward. This mighty army - the greatest ever seen in Earth’s history up until that time -will invade the land of Israel from the north (mainly). Chapter 38 verse 8 clearly states that the invasion will come ‘against the mountains of Israel’.
Nothing remotely like what Ezekiel has prophesied has yet taken place in Israel’s history, so this is still future - this prophecy has yet to be fulfilled! Three factors will help us try to ascertain when this invasion occurs, all recorded in chapter 38.
First, Ezekiel records that the invasion occurs in ‘the latter years’, v. 8, and in ‘the latter days’, v. 16. These terms refer to the end times, i.e., Israel’s final times of distress and to the end period of Gentile supremacy!
Second, verse 8 tells us that before this invasion occurs, then God’s earthly people must have come into the land and been gathered out from many areas - this has been happening subsequent to the establishment of the modern state of Israel in 1948.
Third, the nation must be at rest when this attack occurs. Notice verse 8, ‘dwell safely’, and verse 11, ‘unwalled villages’, ‘at rest’, and verse 14, ‘dwelleth safely’. There are only two time periods in the Bible when Israel is at rest - at the beginning of the tribulation period, after the rapture of the church, and in the 1, 000-year reign, the millennium. Isaiah chapter 2 verse 4, referring to the 1, 000-year reign, states that ‘neither shall they learn war any more’. Therefore, the only time period that fits the invasion of Gog and Magog seems to be at the beginning of the tribulation period.
Put simply, because an omniscient God has prophesied it to be! Looking at it naturally, the attackers have viewed the comparative wealth of Israel. Gog seeks control of the Middle East. There is also a hatred of the nation from this joint Islamic/atheistic attack. Gog seeks to challenge the authority of the Antichrist who, at the beginning of the tribulation period, will have signed a seven-year covenant with Israel to protect her and give her peace - not out of any genuine love or friendship with the Jews but for personal gain and status.
Earlier in this article we saw that the attack of this vast army from the north on the nation of Israel will appear to be one of the greatest onesided battles in history - a vast army against a tiny nation! Gog will make a massive miscalculation, a grave mistake! Although Israel will seem to be finished, yet God is in control. Let us remember that in situations we find ourselves in and those that are developing in the world scene today, our God is still in control, and His eternal purposes will ultimately be worked-out perfectly. Ezekiel chapter 38 verse 16 shows God to be in control of the situation and to be magnified as a result, v. 23.
Although this conflict is only very brief, there are some devastating results - a great earthquake, infighting among the various nations of the army, rampant disease, then torrential rain, hailstones, fire and falling burning sulphur, vv. 18-23. Five out of every six men in this army are slaughtered, 39. 2, and it then takes seven months to bury the dead, v. 12! The Antichrist seeks to take credit for what God has accomplished, and his power is strengthened. Yet out of all this chaos, the power of God is also seen in the 144, 000 witnesses preaching the gospel of the kingdom - perhaps millions of tribulation saints will be ‘saved’ at this point in time!
What has been described so far will be the greatest army the world has ever seen, yet it will pale into insignificance in comparison with what takes place a few years later at Armageddon, and a few other places, Rev. 16. 12-16. This will be, by far, the greatest conflict the world has ever witnessed. Armageddon will be a coalition of many foes. Psalm 2 verse 2, partially fulfilled at Calvary, will be completely fulfilled at Armageddon. The armies will come from many directions, and it seems that the whole world will come together at this point, Rev. 16. 14. Here, then, at the climax of the tribulation period, there will be great upheavals on Earth and in the heavenly bodies as a result of the original judgements of the seals, then followed by the trumpets and bowls/vials judgements - certainly not a time of peace! In contrast, Gog and Magog are just one enemy coalition, coming mainly from one direction - the north, Ezek. 38. 6, 15; 39. 2, and in a time of unusual peace. Because of this, the present writer believes that the invasion of Gog and Magog cannot be Armageddon, but it can only be in the early stages of the tribulation period.
God’s word reveals His complete plan for humanity. Studying prophecy gives the believer confidence for the future and confirms the inspiration of scripture, as we have seen the precise and accurate fulfilment of some prophecies already. Biblical prophecy comprises about one third of the entire Bible, so not to look at and study prophecy will limit our appreciation of all God’s purposes for mankind.
This particular prophecy will not be enacted until after the rapture of the church, which could be at any moment! Are we looking in glorious anticipation for that day and are we living presently in the light of it and the subsequent day of review at the judgement seat of Christ?
Keep watching, fellow believer. Be ready. Continue to serve faithfully.
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