When will Ezekiel 38-39 be fulfilled?
A long 2,600 years ago the great Hebrew nabi Ezekiel unveiled the prophecy the Lord God had divulged to him concerning the future of the nation of Israel. Recorded in The Book of Ezekiel chapters 36 and 37, the prophet revealed that God would fulfill His promise to regather the Jewish people “from all the countries” (Ezek. 36:24) of the world where they had been dispersed and bring them back to the land promised to their forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Gen. 17:7; 1 Chron. 16:17-18; Ps. 105:8-11; Rom. 9:4).
Like dry bones reanimated into a living person, Israel did indeed become a nation once again on May 14, 1948, after nearly 1900 years since the Romans destroyed Jerusalem in 70 A.D and scattered the Jewish people across the globe. After all these centuries, this prophecy has been fulfilled in our modern generation!
God wasn’t done unveiling the future of Israel to Ezekiel and the world, though, for the following two chapters portray a great trial for the newly established nation of Israel — the Gog-Magog Battle. Because of the unique characteristics and the great detail in which chapters 38 and 39 describe this battle, history shows the Gog-Magog Battle is a prophecy yet to be fulfilled.
The Gog-Magog Battle is set between a massive coalition of nations descended from Noah’s sons Japheth and Ham against Israel (Gen. 10:2-7). The nations are from the territories of ancient Rosh, Magog, Meshech, Tubal, Persia, Cush, Gomer and Beth-togarmah. Their leader is called “Gog, prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal” (Ezek. 38:2-3). The battlefield is on the “mountains of Israel, which had long been desolate” (Ezek. 38:8). The purpose of the invasion is to “plunder and loot” and destroy the people of Israel (Ezek. 38:12, 16).
The end result of an invasion by such a seemingly invincible army on a seemingly unprotected Israel will surprise the invaders and shock the world. The invading nations are in truth being manipulated by God, pulled out of their lands as with “hooks in [their] jaws” (Ezek. 38:4), so that those nations can feel the “hot anger… [of] the Sovereign LORD” (Ezek. 38:18). God drags these specific nations to the “mountains of Israel” to “execute judgment upon him [Gog] with plague and bloodshed… torrents of rain, hailstones and burning sulfur on him and on his troops and on the many nations with him” (Ezek. 38:22). God’s purpose of personally interceding using the supernatural destruction of so massive an army is not just its destruction, but “so I [God] will show my greatness and my holiness, and I will make myself known in the sight of many nations. Then they will know that I am the LORD” (Ezek. 38:23).
By His supernatural victory in the Gog-Magog Battle, God reintroduces Himself to the world and declares in no uncertain terms that He is personally defending Israel. Should the peoples of the world doubt they only have to look on Israel who “will go out and use the weapons for fuel and burn them up… for seven years they will use them for fuel” (Ezek. 39:9) and “for seven months the house of Israel will be burying them” (Ezek. 39:12) in the newly named “Valley of Hamon Gog” (Ezek. 39:11) by a newly built “town called Hamonah” (Ezek. 39:16).
Ezekiel 38:2-3 gives the prophetic name of the leader of this coalition of nations: “Gog, prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal.” Whether Gog is a real name like in 1 Chronicles 5:4 or is a title for a supreme position such as king or president remains to be seen. Whether Gog is the Antichrist or not depends on when one places the timing of the Gog-Magog Battle, which will be addressed later.
Ezekiel 38:1-6 gives the ancient names of the territories that comprise the invading nations in the Gog-Magog Battle: Rosh, Magog, Meshech, Tubal, Persia, Cush, Gomer and Beth-togarmah. If only Ezekiel had gone the extra mile and given the names of the invading nations contemporary to the battle, a lot of debate over their modern identities would have been saved. Never-the-less, God prefers students of Bible prophecy to do their historical research, and the following list of equivalent names is the fruit of that research.
- Magog = Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan (and possibly Afghanistan)
- Rosh = Russia
- Meshech + Tubal + Gomer + Beth-togarmah = Turkey (and possibly Azerbaijan, Armenia)
- Persia = Iran
- Ethiopia = Sudan
- Put = Libya (and possibly Algeria, Tunisia)
Noticeably absent from this list of Middle Eastern nations are those surrounding modern-day Israel, such as Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Gaza, the Arab nations and Iraq. Ezekiel 38:13 describes these nations as just observing, for many of them originate as “Sheba and Dedan [Arab nations] and the merchants of Tarshish and all her villages.” Why these nations are not also actively involved in the Gog-Magog Battle is open to speculation, but a Psalm 83 scenario where Israel has subjugated their surrounding neighbors previous to the Gog-Magog invasion so that they are finally in the peaceful situation Ezekiel describes (Ezek. 38:11) is the most likely possibility.
One glaring similarity among all the Gog-Magog invaders put in a scenario today is that all but Russia claim their national religion to be Islam. Islamic religious fervor to destroy the Jewish people would unite the fractious Muslim nations into a coalition which has never existed in this form before. The obsessive drive for economic wealth would be the draw for Russia to join in and lead this doomed coalition.
The question of when the Gog-Magog Battle will happen was put to the reader in a poll titled “When Will the Gog-Magog Battle Happen?” The 687 respondents cast their vote among a number of categories. The result showed a wide range of opinions as to when they thought this battle would occur in time. The results are as follows:
The answer “Already Has” which 7 (1%) responded in the affirmative is incorrect. That the Gog-Magog Battle was fulfilled in Ezekiel’s day by an invasion of the Scythians, Babylonians or Greeks fails to fulfill the roster of nations that compile the Gog-Magog invasion force. Also, it fails to address Ezekiel chapters 36-38 which prophesy a regathering of Jews to Israel from all over the world using the end-timing clues given as the “latter years” (Ezek 38:8) and “last days” (Ezek. 38:16). A past historical invasion just doesn’t fit the Ezekiel 38-39 description.
Also, the answer “Never” which 37 (5%) voted for can be discarded as incorrect. A literal interpretation being replaced with a metaphorical interpretation that postulates that Ezekiel 38-39’s description is somehow a symbolic struggle between good and evil is Replacement Theology spiritualizing. Prophecy fulfilled is always prophecy fulfilled literally, and the prophecy concerning the Gog-Magog Battle is no different.
The remaining answers each have their own pros and cons, and so each will later be addressed more in detail.
Before looking at the different views in the timing of the Gog-Magog Battle, though, I want to revisit Rosh being claimed as modern-day Russia. Because Russia doesn’t seem to fit into the Islamic national identity that the other coalition nations now share and the historical debate over the identity of Rosh, it is important to identifying the timing of the Gog-Magog Battle that Rosh is indeed properly identified as Russia.
We’ll look at the research given by Dr. Ron Rhodes of Reasoning From the Scriptures Ministries in his authoritative book on Ezekiel 38-39 titled Northern Storm Rising, and I’ll add some of my own points.
Looking at Ezekiel 38:3 in the New International Version, the King James Version, the English Standard Version and others — the word “Rosh” is missing from the list. If one looks at the New King James Version, New American Standard Version, Amplified Version, the Darby Translation and others — Rosh is present in the list of nations. Why the differences in translation?
The difference, Dr. Rhodes reports, is the challenge for the translators to interpret the word “Rosh” or “Ros” as a noun based on the actual land, or as an adjective based on the Hebrew word “Rosh” which means “head,” “top,” “summit,” or “chief.”1 The NAS translators went with the noun form of “Rosh,” while the NIV translators went with the adjective form. Translations based on the Greek Septuagint (LXX) follow the noun form, while those based on the Latin Vulgate follow the adjective form.
Support for Rosh = Russia
While I love studying in the NIV, for the following reasons I believe that the noun interpretation of “Rosh” as a distinct land that is modern-day Russia is the valid interpretation.
1) Various Hebrew scholars such as G.A. Cook believe the noun form of “Rosh” is true to the original Hebrew.2
2) The Septuagint (LXX) translation predates the Latin Vulgate by 700 years and is only three centuries removed from the time of Ezekiel, making it a translation more contemporary with Ezekiel.
3) Tenth Century Byzantine writers such as Ibn-Fosslan identified a group of Scythians dwelling in the northern parts of Taurus upon the river Volga as the Ros.3
4) Ninth Century B.C. Assyrian texts that predate Ezekiel’s time also refer to the Rosh or Rashu.4
5) Even farther back in time as early as 2600 B.C., ancient Egyptian and other Middle-Eastern B.C. inscriptions and texts such as in Sargon’s inscriptions, in a cylinder by Assurbanipal, in an annul by Sennacherib, and five times in Ugaritic tablets record the existence of the Rosh/Rash/Reshu people.5
6) The early Byzantine Church claimed that the Ros peoples are the people who live far north of Greece in the area today we call Russia.6
7) Ezekiel 39:1-2 claims Rosh to be “from the remotest parts of the north.” No other nation exists more directly north and is more remote than modern-day Russia.
8) Current news reports repeatedly show that Russia has very quickly solidified economic and military ties with the nations involved in the Gog-Magog coalition. Russia is building a nuclear reactor in Iran and arming Islamic nations. Russia has also made known their expressed interest in getting a foot-hold into the Middle East to help control its vast oil reserves. Israel’s newly found gas deposits are a direct threat to Russia’s hold over the natural gas supply line.
9) Russia nationally has a long and historic violent streak of Anti-Semitism that God won’t leave unresponded to.
10) When all arguments for or against Russia as being Rosh are put on the table, pure “Vulcan” logic would dictate that Russia can be the only logical descendent of the Rosh people.
While there is debate on the specific timing of the Gog-Magog Battle, the student of Bible prophecy can be positive about the general timing. General timing is clearly spelled out in Ezekiel’s account as events that must happen to set the stage for the battle.
1) The first general timing clue is Ezekiel’s use of the terms “latter years” (Ezek 38:8) and “last days” (Ezek. 38:16). The Gog-Magog Battle must happen in the prophetic scheme of the end times as it relates to the nation of Israel. The key verse to understanding what these terms mean is Deuteronomy 4:30 which reads, “When you are in distress and all these things have happened to you, then in later days you will return to the LORD your God and obey him.” “Distress” is also translated as “Tribulation.” It is the Tribulation of Daniel’s 70th week that brings the Jewish people as a nation back into the belief in God, and later to accept Yeshua as their Messiah. The Tribulation leading up to the Millennial reign of Christ is what the Old Testament prophets consistently and repeatedly taught about. And so, we can know from these key phrases that the Gog-Magog Battle happens in relation to the Tribulation and Millennial Kingdom.
2) The second general timing clue was discussed in the rejection of the claim that the battle already happened in history. Never in the history of the Middle East have the nations described in the coalition been united in an attack against Israel. In no time has such a specific group of nations been destroyed by inclimate weather. And, in no time in history has Israel named a valley Hamon Gog (Ezek. 39:11), nor the adjoining town called Hamonah existed where the Jews buried the invaders. History just does not show such a battle has ever happened, which only leaves a future timing for it to occur.
3) The third general timing clue is given in Ezekiel 36 and 37 — the regathering of the Jewish people back into their homeland “from all the countries” (Ezek. 36:24) of the world. Like the dry bones reanimated into a living person that Ezekiel envisioned, Israel did indeed become a nation once again on May 14, 1948, after nearly 1900 years since the Romans destroyed Jerusalem in 70 A.D and scattered the Jewish people across the globe. After all these centuries, this prophecy has been fulfilled in our modern generation. Because this prophecy has been fulfilled and Israel is a nation once more, that piece of the set-up is in place for the prophecy concerning the Gog-Magog Battle to begin.
4) The fourth general timing clue involves the developments nationally that have to occur to make the nations of the coalition unite in an invasion of Isreal. Two factors have made this coalition possible today. The first is the religion of Islam uniting these nations in satanic hatred of the Jewish people. The second is the economic bounty that Israel now has with its revitalized land and newly discovered gas deposits. Today, the nations of the coalition are united in the single purpose of destroying Israel and plundering its wealth. The daily news is resplendent with stories in support that this general timing clue has been fulfilled in just the last few years.
5) The fifth and only unfulfilled general timing clue is given in Ezekiel 38:11 which reads, “You will say, ‘I will invade a land of unwalled villages; I will attack a peaceful and unsuspecting people — all of them living without walls and without gates and bars.'” Israel must be living without walls, peacefully and unsuspecting of an attack. Israel today lives in constant fear of attack and is always prepared for an invasion by the 60-plus million hostile Muslims surrounding their borders. Because of this most unpeaceful climate, this part of the prophecy cannot have yet been fulfilled. Perhaps a Psalm 83 scenario where Israel has subjugated their surrounding neighbors previous to the Gog-Magog invasion so that they are finally in the peaceful situation Ezekiel describes is the most likely possibility.
Before the Tribulation
The following two views lie heavily on the Pre-Tribulation Rapture viewpoint.
Before Both the Rapture and the Tribulation
Of the 687 respondents who voted on our “When will the Gog-Magog Battle take place?” poll, 101 (14%) voted “Before the Rapture” and 245 (35%) voted “Before the Tribulation.” Combining those views would be the “Before Both the Rapture and the Tribulation” view.
Supporters of this view are Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins of the Left Behind series, and Joel Rosenberg who wrote the currently popular Epicenter.
1) Israel using seven years to utilize the weaponry of the invaders for fuel (Ezek. 39:9) matches the seven years “Seventieth Week of Daniel” (Dan. 9:27) that the Tribulation will last. The “sevens” complement each other in a timeline.
2) With the Muslim world in ruins and their faith in Allah shattered from their defeat in the Gog-Magog Battle, the Muslim world would no longer be an impediment for the Jews to rebuild the Temple which the Antichrist will later desecrate (Dan. 9:27 and 2 Thess. 2:3-4).
3) God declaring Himself to the world is in character with His willingness to warn the world before impending judgment. A great multitude could come to God before the Rapture due to God revealing Himself more fully by His victory in the Gog-Magog Battle, and so more would be included in the Rapture and avoid the wrath of the Tribulation.
1) Placing the invasion before the Rapture would contradict the first general time clue of the terms “latter years” (Ezek. 38:8) and “last days” (Ezek. 38:16). Old Testament prophets like Ezekiel used these terms to indicate a specific “time of Jacob’s trouble” for Israel, which is the Tribulation.
2) Placing the invasion before the Rapture would contradict the fifth general time clue which tells of Israel living in unsuspecting peace before the attack. Unless the peace is derived from a Psalm 83 scenario where Israel has subjugated its surrounding neighbors, true peace may only come to Israel by the peace covenant made between the Antichrist and Israel (Dan. 9:27). That covenant starts the seven year countdown of the Tribulation.
3) The New Testament teaching that no prophetic event has to occur before the Rapture, called “imminency.” Imminency precludes such prophetic events like the Gog-Magog Battle from happening before the Rapture.
4) The removal of the “Restrainer” (2 Thes. 2:6-8) causes the Antichrist to emerge. Because the Church is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 3:16), the Rapture has to happen before the Antichrist can come on the scene and provide the peace Israel’s looking for.
5) A timing problem exists for Israel in that midway through the Tribulation the Antichrist’s abomination in the newly built Temple will cause the Jews to flee into the desert (Matt. 24:15-16). The Jews will no longer have access to the Gog-Magog invader’s weapons to burn. And so, the seven years of Tribulation can no longer match the seven years of burning the weapons.
After the Rapture but Before the Tribulation
A popular supporter of this view is Dr. Tommy Ice of the Pre-Trib Research Center.
1) With the world in chaos from a Pre-Tribulation Rapture, Russia and its Muslim coalition could seize the opportunity to attack a friendless Israel.
2) With the Muslim Gog-Magog nations out of the picture just before the Tribulation, the Antichrist would have an easier time of making good on a peace covenant with Israel.
3) With the more christianized nations in tatters due to a Pre-Tribulation Rapture and the Islamic world in ruins from the Gog-Magog Battle, the remaining European world power could fill the vacuum in the Middle East. By making a peace treaty with Israel and easily conquering the lands of the once Middle-Eastern Muslim countries, the Roman Empire could truly be revived once more. The only remaining world powers would be East-Asian, and the Bible records their continued existence (though under the control of the Antichrist) until the end of the Tribulation (Rev. 16:12).
4) With the Muslim world in tatters, Israel would have no resistance to their rebuilding the Temple.
5) The Rapture does not start the Tribulation, but rather the signing of the peace covenant between the Antichrist and Israel does (Dan. 9:27). This fact would allow a 3 1/2 year or more time delay between the Rapture and the Tribulation, giving Israel the full seven years to burn the weapons from the Gog-Magog Battle before being forced to flee into the desert (Matt. 24:15-16).
1) Placing the invasion before the Tribulation would contradict the first general time clue of the terms “latter years” (Ezek. 38:8) and “last days” (Ezek. 38:16). Old Testament prophets like Ezekiel used these terms to indicate the specific “time of Jacob’s trouble” for Israel, which is the Tribulation.
2) The peaceful precondition of Ezekiel 38:11 in which Israel has to be living unsuspecting and in peace before the Gog-Magog Battle may only occur because of the peace covenant with the Antichrist, who can’t be revealed until the Tribulation begins.
During the Tribulation
The following views place the Gog-Magog Battle during the Tribulation. Of the 687 respondents who voted on our “When will the Gog-Magog Battle take place?” poll, 248 (36%) voted “During the Tribulation.”
In the First Half or Middle of the Tribulation
Supporters of this view are John F. Walvoord, J. Dwight Pentecost, Charles Ryrie, Herman Hoyt and Mark Hitchcock.
1) The fifth general timing clue (Ezek. 38:11) that requires Israel living unsuspecting and in peace before the Gog-Magog Battle could easily be attained by the peace covenant the Antichrist makes with Israel that starts the seven year countdown of the Tribulation (Dan. 9:27).
2) With the more christianized nations in tatters due to a Pre-Tribulation Rapture and the Islamic world in ruins from the Gog-Magog Battle, the remaining European world power could fill the vacuum in the Middle East and fully revive the Roman Empire. The only remaining world powers would be East-Asian, and the Bible records their continued existence (though under the control of the Antichrist) until the end of the Tribulation (Rev. 16:12).
3) By placing the timing of the Gog-Magog Battle early in the Tribulation, the defeat and disillusionment of Muslims worldwide would destroy the strength of Islam. With the Church removed in a Pre-Tribulation Rapture, Christianity would also be removed. The resulting polytheistic and pantheistic religions would integrate well into the apostate one-world religion that the False Prophet promotes (Rev. 13:11-15). The only monotheistic religions left to reject the Antichrist would be Judaism and the newly growing Jesus movement, both of which the Antichrist persecutes greatly during the second half of the Tribulation (Rev. 6:11).
1) Ezekiel 39:9 describes Israel burning the invading enemies weapons for seven years. Placing the Gog-Magog Battle at any time during the Tribulation would push the burning right into the Millennial Kingdom. With Jesus then present to provide everyone’s needs, the curse partially lifted (Isa. 11:8) and the Earth reformatted by earthquakes (Rev. 6:12-14; 16:17-21), there would be no need for Israel to have to burn any weapons for fuel.
2) The tremendous persecution of the Jews during the second half of the Tribulation would not grant them the freedom to bury the invaders dead bodies for seven months (Ezek. 39:12) unless the Gog-Magog Battle occurred earlier than the mid-point.
3) If the Gog-Magog Battle happened closer to the mid-point, the question is raised as to why God would rescue Israel so dramatically from the Gog-Magog nations only to hand Israel immediately over to the intense persecution by the Antichrist.
At the End of the Tribulation (Armageddon)
Supporters of this view believe the Gog-Magog Battle and the final battle of Armageddon are one and the same.
1) Both the Gog-Magog Battle (Ezek. 38-39) and the Battle of Armageddon (Rev. 19:19) are described as taking place during the first general timing clue “latter years” (Ezek. 38:8) and “last days” (Ezek. 38:16) of the Tribulation.
2) Ezekiel 39:4,17-20 and Revelation 19:17-18 both describe dead invaders being eaten by birds and wild animals.
3) Ezekiel 39:22,29 declare at the defeat of the Gog-Magog invasion Israel will again acknowledge God. These references if coupled with Zechariah 12:10 explaining an acknowledgment by Israel of their true Messiah at the end of the Tribulation would make the Gog-Magog Battle and Armageddon one and the same, if the acknowledgment of God the Father and Jesus the Messiah are also one and the same.
1) The players in the two battles do not match. The Gog-Magog Battle involves the specific nations of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Russia, Turkey, Iran, Sudan, Libya, and possibly Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Algeria and Tunisia against Israel (Ezek. 38:1-6). The references to Armageddon include the nations of the entire earth against Israel (Joel 3:2; Zeph. 3:8; Zech. 12:3; 14:2).
2) The locations described for the two battles do not match. Armageddon takes place in a valley — the Valley of Jezreel by the plain of Megiddo (Judges 5:19; 2 Kings 23:29; 2 Chron. 35:22; Zech. 12:11). Ezekiel 38:8 describes the Gog-Magog Battle taking place on the mountains — the “mountains of Israel.”
3) The account of the defeat of the invaders does not match. The Gog-Magog invaders are defeated by God who uses “torrents of rain, hailstones and burning sulfur” as well as in-fighting (Ezek. 38:22). The invading nations at Armageddon are defeated by Jesus who uses “a sharp sword” from His mouth, meaning mere words (Rev. 19:15).
4) The peaceful precondition of Ezekiel 38:11 in which Israel has to be living unsuspecting and in peace before the Gog-Magog Battle (Ezek. 38:11) cannot exist under the Great Tribulation by the Antichrist.
5) Ezekiel 38:13 describes some nations questioning the Gog-Magog invasion. At Armageddon, all the nations are involved in the invasion so none protest (Joel 3:2; Zeph. 3:8; Zech. 12:3; 14:2).
6) Ezekiel 39:9 describes Israel burning the invading enemies weapons for seven years. Placing the Gog-Magog Battle at the end of the Tribulation would push the burning right into the Millennial Kingdom. With Jesus then present to provide everyone’s needs, the curse partially lifted (Isa. 11:8) and the Earth reformatted by earthquakes (Rev. 6:12-14; 16:17-21), there would be no need for Israel to have to burn any weapons for fuel.
7) The leaders of the invasions are not the same. Gog is the prince and ruler of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal (Ezek. 38:3). The invading leader at Armageddon is the Beast who controls the whole earth. While it is known that Satan the Dragon possesses the Antichrist (Rev. 13:2), it is unknown if Gog is possessed by Satan.
8) The armies find themselves fighting two different opponents. The Gog-Magog invaders look to conquer a peacefully unsuspecting Israel (Ezek. 38:11). The Armageddon invaders gather to make war against the returned King — Jesus Christ (Rev. 19:19).
In Relation to the Millennial Kingdom
We’ll continue by looking at three views that place the Gog-Magog Battle in relation to Jesus Christ’s 1,000 year reign on earth called the “Millennium Kingdom.” Of the 687 respondents who voted on our “When will the Gog-Magog Battle take place?” poll, 47 (6%) voted for “End of the Millennium.”
Between the Tribulation and the Millennium
Supporters of this view place the events of Ezekiel 38 and 39 in an interlude time period between the Tribulation and the Millennial Kingdom.
1) This is a consistent argument with the view that an interlude time period could exist between the Rapture and the Tribulation.
2) The fifth general timing clue (Ezek. 38:11) that requires Israel living unsuspecting and in peace before the Gog-Magog Battle could easily be attained after Christ’s Second Coming.
3) An interlude time could be any length of time, granting the seven years given in Ezekiel 39:9 to Israel to burn the invading enemies’ weapons for fuel.
1) With Jesus having defeated all the armies of the world at Armageddon (Rev. 19:19), no army would be left to invade Israel so soon.
2) With Jesus’ return at the Second Coming, no Gog-Magog invasion would be needed to get Israel to again acknowledge God (Ezek. 39:22,29).
3) Only one interlude time is given in the Bible. Three time indicators are given describing 3 1/2 years of the Tribulation. Daniel 12:12 (NIV) reads, “Blessed is the one who waits for and reaches the end of the 1,335 days.” Revelation 11:2-3 reads, “But exclude the outer court; do not measure it, because it has been given to the Gentiles. They will trample on the holy city for 42 months. And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.” The difference between the two books is 75 days. These 75 days will most likely be used by Jesus to judge the world in the Sheep/Goat Judgment (Matt. 25:31-46) and rebuild the planet.
4) The interlude time limited to 75 days does not give Israel the seven months they need to bury the dead invaders’ bodies from the Gog-Magog Battle (Ezek. 39:12).
5) With Jesus present to provide everyone’s needs, the curse partially lifted (Isa. 11:8) and the Earth reformatted by earthquakes (Rev. 6:12-14; 16:17-21), there would be no need for Israel to have to burn any weapons for fuel into the Millennium.
At the Beginning of the Millennium
Supporters of this view, such as Arno Gaebelein, place the Gog-Magog Battle at the beginning of the 1,000 year reign of Christ.
1) The fifth general timing clue (Ezek. 38:11) that requires Israel living unsuspecting and in peace before the Gog-Magog Battle could easily be attained after Christ’s Second Coming.
1) With Jesus’ return at the Second Coming, no Gog-Magog invasion would be needed to get Israel to again acknowledge God (Ezek. 39:22,29).
2) With Jesus having defeated all the armies of the world at Armageddon (Rev. 19:19), no army would be left to invade Israel so soon.
3) No wicked people will have survived the Sheep/Goat Judgment (Jer. 25:32-33; Matt. 25:31-46; Rev. 19:15-18) to enter into the Millennial Kingdom to start a war. Only believers who survived the Tribulation enter the Millennium and they have no reason to declare war on Christ.
4) No weapons would be available to the invaders of the Gog-Magog Battle, nor be left to burn for seven years, for as Isaiah 2:4b states, “They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.”
5) No war exists until the end of the Millennium. Isaiah 2:4b (NIV) describes the Millennium being a time of world peace — “Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.” Revelation 20:7-9 describes the only war that will happen during the Millennium, and that is at the end of the thousand years when Satan is let loose from the pit to rally unbelievers in that age against Jesus Christ.
6) With Jesus present to partially lift the curse (Isa. 11:8) and reformat the Earth from the ravages of the Tribulation (Rev. 6:12-14; 16:17-21), the Millennial Kingdom will begin in an almost holy state. Ezekiel 39:12 describes the land after the Gog-Magog Battle needing cleansing from the defilement of the dead invaders’ bodies. Defilement contradicts the pristine condition the Millennial Kingdom will begin with.
7) Islam will not exist during the Millennial Kingdom. The unifying theme today among the coalition of nations that attack Israel in the Gog-Magog Battle is their satanically inspired Islamic hatred of Israel and desire of its wealth. Since Satan will be bound (Rev. 20:1-3) while Jesus will be reigning directly over the Kingdom, no opposing satanic religion like Islam will exist to unite those nations during the Millennium.
8) With Jesus’ newly returned to rule from Jerusalem with “a rod of iron” (Ps. 2:9), no invader would dare invade Israel.
At the End of the Millennium
The majority of supporters for this view tend to come from a non-evangelical background.7
1) Revelation 20:7-8 places a Gog-Magog Battle at the end of the Millennial Kingdom. “When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth — Gog and Magog — to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore.”
2) Similar terminology exists between Ezekiel 38-39 and Revelation 20 concerning the great number of invaders involved.
3) The prosperity described in Ezekiel 38-39 that Israel possess would be fulfilled by God’s blessings on Israel during the Millennial Kingdom.
4) God uses supernatural weather in both accounts to destroy the invaders.
1) Ezekiel’s chapters would be out of order with this view. Ezekiel 33-39 cover the restoration of Israel and are followed by chapters 40-48 which describe Israel during the Millennial Kingdom.
2) Revelation 20’s chronology doesn’t harmonize with Ezekiel’s chronology. Revelation 20 describes the Millennial Kingdom, which is immediately followed by chapter 21 concerning the eternal state.
3) The Gog-Magog invaders wouldn’t have bodies to require Israel to bury for seven months (Ezek. 39:12). Revelation 20:9’s account records the invaders being incinerated by fire from out of the heavens.
4) Israel would have no reason to use seven months to bury the dead invaders (Ezek. 39:12) when God is just going to resurrect them at the end of the Millennium, judge them at the Great White Throne Judgment, and then throw them into the Lake of Fire.
5) Israel would have no reason to burn the invaders’ weapons into the eternal state.
6) Ezekiel’s and Revelation’s descriptions of the invading armies do not match. Ezekiel describes a coalition of Russia and Muslim nations attacking Israel. Revelation 20:8 describes a much larger scope, with the invaders coming from the “nations in the four corners of the earth.”
7) Ezekiel’s and Revelation’s descriptions of the battlefields do not match. Ezekiel describes the Gog-Magog Battle taking place on the “mountains of Israel,” while the Revelation 20:9 account (in some versions like the NAS) states the battle takes place “on the broad plain of the earth.”
8) Ezekiel’s and Revelation’s descriptions of Israel’s rulers do not match. Ezekiel 38-39 follow chapters 36-37 which describe the rebirth of Israel, a nation not yet in belief in God nor has accepted Jesus as Messiah. The Revelation 20 account has Jesus already ruling from Jerusalem for 1,000 years.
8) Ezekiel’s and Revelation’s descriptions of the invader’s rulers do not match. “Gog” is in control of the coalition against Israel in Ezekiel’s account, whereas Satan is in control of the coalition against Jesus in Revelation’s account. While Satan is clearly mentioned in Revelation’s account, it is unknown if Gog is possessed by Satan or is a man possessed by Satan.
9) Ezekiel’s and Revelation’s descriptions of Israel’s faith does not match. In Ezekiel 38-39, God uses the Gog-Magog Battle to make Himself known to Israel and the world. In Revelation 20, Israel has acknowledged Jesus as God and King for 1,000 years.
10) John’s use of “Gog” and “Magog” in Revelation 20 is more likely to draw a comparison between Ezekiel’s Gog-Magog Battle and the one John is describing at the end of the Millennial Kingdom.
11) The unbelieving children of the Tribulation saints who have survived to live into the Millennial Kingdom will be the ones who wage war against God at the end of the Millennium, as opposed to the children from the age of the “time of the Gentiles” who wage war in Ezekiel and Jesus’ accounts (Luke 21:24).
I’ll conclude this article by analyzing the views and stating when I believe the Gog-Magog Battle will take place.
Let me go on the record, though, by stating that I am not dogmatic about this end time topic, nor should anyone be. The study of the end times (eschatology) is non-primary. Since God has given mankind merely an overview of His future plans, He has left us with nothing concrete enough to pinpoint the exact timing, probably so that we Christians will not just sit quietly by, but get out there and witness with all our energy until the Lord’s return. The study and debate over when the Gog-Magog Battle will take place should never divide the brethren.
Analyzing the Views
Each of the Gog-Magog Battle timing views appear to revolve around dealing with two yet-to-be fulfilled key prerequisites:
- Israel is in a state of unsuspecting peace before the invasion (Ezek. 38:11).
- Israel has the seven months to bury the dead invaders bodies (Ezek. 39:12-16) and the whole seven years to expend the leftover fuel and weapons (Ezek. 39:9).
The three views that time the Gog-Magog Battle in relation to the Millennium do great justice to the first prerequisite in putting Israel at a time of peace due to Jesus’ victory and reign, but cannot overcome the obstacles of the second prerequisite. With Jesus having subjected all His enemies before the start of the Millennium, there would be no invaders to invade. With no invaders, there are no bodies to bury nor weapons to burn.
The best of the three Millennial views is the one placing the timing at the end of the Millennial Kingdom, which Revelation 20:7-8 describes as an uprising of unbelievers born during the Millennium that are led by Satan to his final defeat. While there are some similarities to Ezekiel’s account of the Gog-Magog Battle, the dissimilarities prove Ezekiel is talking about a different Gog-Magog Battle than the battle the Apostle John is describing. I agree that John’s use of “Gog” and “Magog” in Revelation 20 is more likely to draw a comparison between Ezekiel’s Gog-Magog Battle as a type of what the battle will be like at the end of the Millennial Kingdom.
For the two views that place the timing during the Tribulation, they both wrestle with the same prerequisites.
Like the view that proposes Ezekiel’s Gog-Magog Battle is the uprising of Satan at the end of the Millennial Kingdom, the view that places the timing at the end of the Tribulation proposes that Ezekiel’s Gog-Magog Battle is Armageddon. While similarities exist between Gog-Magog and Armageddon, their differences far outweigh their similarities. Also, placing the battle at the end of the Tribulation violates the first prerequisite that Israel is living in peace, a condition which would be impossible under the intense persecution by the Antichrist and Israel’s subsequent flight into the desert.
Placing the timing at the beginning, but not by the middle, of the Tribulation gives Israel the seven months to bury the dead invaders and the full seven years to burn the fuel if they have a reserve of it where they flee to. This view would need then to settle the peaceful condition of Israel by resting it on either the peace covenant with the Antichrist (Dan. 9:27) or a Psalm 83 subjugation of Israel’s surrounding hostile neighbors.
The two views that place the timing of the Gog-Magog Battle before the Tribulation can perfectly grant the time needed to burn the weapons — the full seven years if the Jews have a reserve of it where they flee to, or at least 3 1/2 years before the Tribulation to the middle of the Tribulation before the Jews flee. But, since the Tribulation begins with the peace covenant between the Antichrist and Israel, the only viable scenario for a peaceful prerequisite would be a Psalm 83 fulfillment or to take Ezekiel’s description of Israel being at peace to mean they’re militarily secure, which with the world’s fourth largest military they are today.
As we can see, all the views struggle over some issue.
Which view one holds probably rests more on what one sees is the view that provides the most logical answers to the prerequisites. To me, timing the Gog-Magog Battle just before or at the very beginning of the Tribulation can best fulfill these prerequisites and makes the most logical sense in my mind.
This is how I see the timeline most likely playing out:
- The Rapture of the Church removes the Restrainer.
- Israel subjugates her surrounding neighbors in fulfillment of Psalm 83.
- The Gog-Magog Battle destroys the Russian and Muslim influence in the Middle East, makes the world aware of God’s presence, and restores Israel’s belief in the God of the Torah.
- The Antichrist conquers what’s left of the Middle East and makes a peace covenant with Israel to complete the Revived Roman Empire.
- Israel spends the seven years of the Tribulation burning the weapons.
- Jesus returns at the end of the seven years to defeat His enemies at Armageddon resulting in Israel acknowledging that Jesus is God’s Son.
- Jesus gathers the people from all over the world for the Sheep/Goat Judgment, which results in only believers entering the Millennial Kingdom.
Time will tell when the Gog-Magog Battle will truly take place. But, the players are already in place and the scene is just about all set for this epic battle to be waged in the not-too-distant future.
1) Rhodes, Dr. Ron, Northern Storm Rising, (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishing, 2008), p. 105.
2) Ibid., p. 106.
3) Ibid., p. 108.
4) Ibid., p. 108.
5) Ibid., p. 109.
6) Ibid., p. 109.
7) Ibid., p. 189.