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The Final Doom of Gog and Magog

The fulfillment of Ezekiel 38-39 in Revelation 19-20

by Andrew J. Webb

Several books in the New Testament make reference to the apocalyptic prophecies of the Old Testament, but it should not surprise us that it is the book of Revelation that does it the most often. In fact, Revelation is striking in its almost constant use of the symbolic imagery of the Old Testament. Revelation even employs Old Testament names, such as Mount Zion, Babylon, and Armageddon (the frequently recurring "Har Meggido" of the Old Testament), to describe the powers, places, and battles of the final conflict.

Obviously, this hearkening back to the apocalyptic imagery of the Old Testament is quite deliberate. The nature of the visions given to John should not be seen as a collection of new or random illustrations of coming events with no basis in the revelation that has already been given. Rather, the visions of Revelation show a direct continuity with the prophetic visions of the Old Testament. Just as Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel were given glimpses of the events of the end times, so too was John given a view of events that would surely come to pass (Rev. 22:6). Since we know that Scripture is inerrant and never contradicts its own account (2 Peter 1:19-21, 2 Timothy 3:16), it should not surprise us that there are great similarities between these revelations. But it should not surprise us that there are also dissimilarities between the apocalyptic prophecies of the Old Testament and New Testament either. They are both accurate accounts of end time events, yet the Revelation of the Old Testament was given in a way that was veiled and suited to the understanding of Godís people at the time. The Revelation of John, while just as packed with symbolism, is clearer in itís depiction of these events. This is in keeping with the nature of progressive revelation, as that which was in the Old Testament only partially illuminated, is made clear in the light of the New Testament.

But even in the Revelation of John, with its greater clarity, there is still much that is difficult to understand and interpret. We must remember the words of the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:12 "For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known." Even in this fuller revelation, coming as it does at the end of the canon, there is an aspect of dimness, and of lack of clarity. Even for the martyred saints in glory, all things are not yet fully known, as we are told that they do not yet know when the time will come for their blood to be avenged (Rev. 6:10). All things will not be fully known until the Second Coming of Christ and the establishing of the new heaven and new earth (Rev. 21)

But although we may still lack perfect knowledge of the details of the Apocalypse, the book of Revelation certainly makes clear the main things and is a source of constant encouragement for the saints. God has not kept the end of the history of redemption hidden from his people, but instead has let his people know "how the book ends" so that there might be a sure source "for the greater consolation of the godly in their adversity."

Above all, Revelation is the story of the final victory of the Lamb over the forces of evil and death. Perhaps, nowhere is this better indicated than in the final battle scenes of chapters 19 and 20 where Jesus, "KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS" (Rev. 20:16), triumphs over Satan (20:10), the Beast and the False Prophet (19:20), and their followers (19:21, 20:9). But is this

final battle where the Lord triumphs over the forces of antichrist only to be found in Revelation? The answer to that question must be "no". The imagery of Revelation 19 and 20, and in particular the direct references to Gog and Magog are from the Old Testament book of Ezekiel. In chapters 38 and 39 of Ezekiel we see prefigured the events that are unfolded with greater clarity in Revelation chapters 19 and 20.

Revelation 20 versus 7 and 8 read: "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." This is the first and only reference to "Gog and Magog" in the New Testament. But as has been stated before, this is not the first reference to Gog and Magog in the Bible.

We first encounter Magog in Genesis 10:2: "The sons of Japheth were Gomer and Magog and Madai and Javan and Tubal and Meshech and Tiras." The name "Magog" occurs as part of the list of nations descended from Noah. The word "Magog" is probably actually a two syllable word formed from MA + GOG, the Ma probably from either the Akkadian for "land of" or the Hebrew noun prefix Ma meaning "place". Magog in Genesis 10:2 signifies one of the tribes that settled far to the North of ancient Israel, and this will have particular significance in Ezekiel 38 & 39 as the forces of Gog are said to come from the remotest parts of the North against Israel (Ezekiel 38:15).

In Ezekiel 38 we learn more about the identity of Gog that confirms the initial observations we have made from Genesis 10:2. In Ezekiel 38:2 Gog is said to be of the land of Magog, so literally Gog is of the land of the place of Gog. Gog is also said to be "the prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal." This involves another repetition of the names occurring originally in Genesis 10:2. Here we are being given a strong indication that these place names and titles are symbolic. At the time Ezekiel made his prophecy, there was no kingdom known as Gog to the North. Rather the recurring use of the name indicates to us that these were unbelieving nations to the North descended, as were all men, from the sons of Noah. The use of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal indicate to us that this Gog, will not simply command the men of his own land, but instead will be the head of an alliance or confederation of nations. In fact, while the provenance of Gog is from the North, later language indicates strongly to us that the alliance he commands will consist of nations from the four corners of the earth. Persia to the East, and Ethiopia and Put to the South are specifically mentioned, for instance. All of these nations will be assembled and come out of the North as a "great assembly and a mighty army" (Ezek. 38:15) in order to attack Godís people, Israel (38:16).

The idea of the enemies of Israel coming from the North is also a recurring theme in Old Testament prophetic literature. Throughout Isaiah, the primary enemies of Judah, Assyria and Babylon are described as coming from the North. In Isaiah 14 the enemy from the North is described as a cloud of "smoke" (Is. 14:31). Repeated references are made in the prophetic books to the enemy coming from the North, whether that is Babylon or Assyria as in Isaiah and Jeremiah, or to some later ambiguous enemy, as is the case in Ezekiel 38 and 39. Indeed, it might be said that in the Major and Minor prophets of the Old Testament, the North becomes the source of all judgment, the place from whence the nations descend to sack Judah and Jerusalem and carry her people off as captives. The book of Jeremiah begins with the promise that "Out of the north the evil will break forth on all the inhabitants of the land" (Jeremiah 1:15). But even while the biblical text describes these hordes from the North and the destruction they will bring as evil (Jer. 4:6, 6:1) there is almost always an acknowledgment that they come at the bidding of the Lord. The Lord brings the enemy as a means of judging his people: ""For, behold, I am calling

all the families of the kingdoms of the north,'' declares the LORD; "and they will come and they will set each one his throne at the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem, and against all its walls round about and against all the cities of Judah." (Jeremiah 1:15). In words that must have shocked and angered the people of Israel, the Lord even describes these enemies from the North as his "servants" as is the case with Nebuchadnezzar in Jeremiah 25:9. In Ezekiel 38 and 39 however, the enemies of God and his people are not described as his servants and are clearly not being used as an instrument of Judgment upon Judah and Jerusalem. Rather, while they are gathered together and brought as were previous armies from the North to wage war on Israel (Ezek. 38:4, 38:16, 39:2), these armies are being brought by the Lord for the purpose of their own destruction in the mountains of Judah. The ultimate purpose behind this is that nations would see the glory of the Lord in the destruction of the enemies of His people (Ezek. 38:16, 38:23, 39:7, 39:21).

In Ezekiel 38 and 39, Gog is referred to in the singular repeatedly as the "prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal". This seems to be a strong indication that Gog should not be thought of as merely representing a nation or indeed the entire confederation of nations sent to attack the people of God. Rather, Gog himself is an antichrist figure, most likely the Beast of Revelation. This is in keeping with the repeated emphasis that all those in the world who are not part of the church will follow the beast; "And the whole earth was amazed and followed after the beast" (Rev. 13:3).

That Gog is the Beast is theologically significant, particularly for our view of the millenium and the relation of the events of Revelation 19 to the events of Revelation 20. Although this will be discussed in more detail later, it is worthwhile to note that if, as I maintain, Gog is the Beast, then it means that the events of Revelation 20:7-10 are a recapitulation of the events of Revelation 19:17-21. The Beast is cast into the Lake of Fire in Rev. 19:20, so if Gog is the Beast then the attack against the people of God in 19:17-21 must be the same attack that is described in Revelation 20:7-10.

The language of Ezekiel 38 is most likely figuratively referring to the great mass of people from every nation under the sun, literally from "the four corners of the earth" (Rev. 20:8) who will be deceived by Satan. These are the reprobate who will be marshaled by Satan and the Beast to attack the church, "Godís people". Here we see an example of the theme of counterfeiting which recurs throughout the book of Revelation. Ezekiel 38-39 and Revelation 19-20 speak of counterfeit "church militant" assembled by Satan to attack the true church. Just as the Beast is the antichrist, so his followers compose the antichurch. In Matthew 16:18 Christ promises that "ÖI will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it", and so we see in the vain plotting of Gog in Ezekiel 38:10-11 to overcome and plunder the people of God, a false echo of the assurance of the final victory of the church. For Gog and his followers there is to be no victory, as God fighting for his people will destroy them, and they will be doomed to eternal defeat in hell.

The attack against the people of God in Ezekiel 38 and 39 has a ring of eschatological finality to it; this is a description of the final Apocalyptic battle in which God will triumph over the enemies of His people, the Church. Gog and the Confederation of Nations will "fall on the mountains of Israel"(Ezek. 39:4) and "fall on the open field" (Ezekiel 39:5) and then fire will be sent upon Magog (Ezek. 39:6). Gog and his armies will attack the people of God, seeing them as relatively defenseless against his mighty armies (Ezek. 38:11-12). But, in a scene reminiscent of Godís defense of Jerusalem when it was attacked by Sennacherib (Is. 36), God will again fight for his people and defend the holy city, and the armies of Gog will be utterly destroyed. The carnage

resulting from the Lordís destruction of Gogís armies will be so great that it will take the entire house of Israel 7 months to bury the dead (Ezek. 39:12) and 7 years to burn the assorted equipment of the fallen armies (Ezek. 39:9). The double use of the number 7 in these passages also indicates the totality of the defeat.

We should note that in both Ezekiel 38-39 and Revelation 19-20, it is the Lord who himself defeats the enemies of his people. He is described as a mighty warrior who knocks the weapons out of the hands of the enemy and rains fire from heaven upon them in Ezekiel 39. In Revelation 19 Jesus, who is elsewhere described in this book as the sacrificial Lamb who was slain, is now pictured as a warrior who "judges and wages war" seated upon a white horse (Rev. 19:11). This awesome picture of Jesus as the Divine Warrior Ė "From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty (Rev. 19:15) Ė should be the death knell of any theology that can only accept a Christ who is a gentle and mild mystic sage. Here in the parousia we see Jesus coming as the divine Warrior and Judge of the nations. The time of grace and mercy has passed, now Jesus comes just as he promised to judge and condemn the enemies of God.

Of critical importance to the connection between Ezekiel 38-39 and Revelation 19-20 are the passages in Ezekiel 39:17-20 in which an invitation is extended to "every kind of bird and to every beast of the field" to come to sacrificial feast that the Lord is preparing. This macabre feast will consist of the corpses of the fallen armies. The promise is that the birds and the beasts will be glutted on the flesh and blood of princes of the earth, horses and charioteers, mighty men and all the men of war (Ezek. 39:20). The entire host that had hoped to exalt themselves and despoil the House of Israel will instead become no more than food for the animals. This language of invitation to the feast is also found in Revelation 19 when an Angel "standing in the sun" calls the birds to assemble for "the great supper of God" which is the feast in which the armies of the beast will be consumed after their defeat. Of special interest is the language of verse 19:18 which speaks of the birds being invited to feast upon the "Öflesh of all men, both free men and slaves, and small and great.'' There is a note here of universality. The great host of the beast will consist of all those who are not part of the church. The feast of Revelation 19 itself and the invitation to it are almost a parody of the wedding banquet described by Christ in Matthew 22. The Beast and his followers have tried to put themselves in the place of Christ and his Bride and instead of eating at their own triumphal feast they will become the main course for the birds God has invited to their sacrifice. This is a feast of the cursed, those who are not wed to the Lamb, but who have become the enemies of God and have given their allegiance to the Beast. We can view this feast as the exact opposite of the "marriage supper of the Lamb" of Rev. 19:9.

The concept of the enemies of God being eaten by the birds and the beasts is not only to be found in Ezekiel and Revelation. In Samuel 17, David answers the taunts of the Philistine champion Goliath with an assurance that he will not only give his flesh to "to the birds of the sky and the beasts of the field" but that the carcasses of the Philistine army will also be given to the "birds of the sky and the wild beasts of the earth" (1 Sam. 17:44,46). Here the stated purpose of this curse delivered by David is "that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel" (1 Sam. 17:46). Surely, it is no coincidence that in Ezekiel 39 after the prophecy that the host of Gog will also be given as carrion to the birds and the beasts that the Lord declares that "all the nations will see My judgment which I have executed" (Ezek. 39:21) In both Ezekiel 39 and 1 Samuel 17 the enemies of the Lord are put to shame by not only not being buried, but in becoming nothing more than offal for beasts. In 1 Samuel 17 we also have an incredible prefiguring of the events of the eschaton described in Revelation 19. David, foreshadowing the coming Messiah of whom he was

a type, fights against the enemies of the Lord and His people and triumphs over them, fulfilling his own prophecy that he would give their flesh to the birds and the beasts. Goliath, himself a type of antichrist, represents the Beast, and like the Beast he too is struck down by the Lord whom he ultimately came up to fight against.

The theme of the enemies of the Lord becoming no more than food for wild beasts occurs throughout the Bible. Again and Again, antichrist figures exalt themselves against the Lord and/or attack his people and are struck down and eaten by birds and beasts. We see this in the case of Jezebel, who is eaten by dogs just as had been prophesied (2 Kings 9:36), and even in the case of Herod who exalts himself against God and is struck down and eaten by worms (Acts 12:23). Deuteronomy had warned in 28:26 that this would be the curse placed upon the people of God if they failed to obey the Lord, and so we have a strong indication that this is the proper curse for a people who are possessed of the spirit of antichrist. In Jeremiah we see this promised curse being brought to pass as the Lord punishes Judah and Jerusalem by the hand of their enemies and carries out his warning that they would become "food to the birds of the air" if they did not obey him (Jeremiah 19:7).

The punishment of the armies of the Beast in Revelation 19, then, is quite fitting. They have rebelled against their sovereign Lord and joined forces with the Beast and his false prophet. Once again the Birds will feed on the carcasses of those who defy the Lord and attack His people.

This scene of the utter destruction of the Beast and his followers in Revelation 19:17-21 would seem to complete the destruction of the "antagonistic, ungodly world system." The language is that of a final victory of Christ and His armies over the antichrist and his ungodly host. Here though, a nagging question poses itself as to the relation of these events to the events detailed in Revelation 20:7-10. In these passages do we see one battle described twice or two separate final battles?

Premillenialists have historically taken the position that the events of Revelation 19:17-21 are separate from the events of Revelation 20:7-10 and precede them. So if we were to construct a crude premillenial timeline of the events detailed in Revelation 19 and 20, we would see the battle in Revelation 19 as a final battle with the Beast and his human followers at the end of the end times. The antichrist and the false prophet will be defeated and cast into the Lake of Fire (Hell) for eternity and Satan will be imprisoned (Rev. 20:2) Then, there will be a thousand year (millennial) reign of Jesus Christ on Earth (Rev. 20:4). At the end of this thousand-year reign, Satan will be released and he will deceive the people of the nations. Yet another great host of the deceived will be assembled to attack "the camp of the saints and the beloved city" (Rev. 20:9). God will defeat these armies as well, and Satan will join the beast and the false prophet in Hell. (Rev. 20:10)

Although this solution appears to follow the simple development of events in chapters 19 and 20, there are a number of problems with this interpretation, not the least of which is that it creates three separate chronologically distinct Apocalyptic battles between God and His people and Satan and his minions (Rev. 16:14-16, Rev. 19:11-21, Rev. 20:7-10). In each of these battles Satan deceives all the nations and gathers them together, they fight against the Lord and are utterly destroyed. To imagine this happening three times coming as they do at the end of the period during which the Church is to fulfill her commission to evangelize the nations, stretches the limits of credulity. But of more critical importance to this essay, this interpretation does not seem to fit at all with the nature of the Gog and Magog prophecy in Ezekiel 38 and 39. 

As we have seen, Rev. 19:11-21 clearly uses the same language of the sacrifice and feasting upon the enemies of God that is found in Ezekiel 39:17-20, and the apocalyptic reference to Gog and Magog in Revelation 20:8 cannot be thought to come from anywhere else in the Bible but Ezekiel 38-39. Apart from the use of the names Gog and Magog, Meredith Kline in his article Har Magedon: The End of the Millenium has pointed out that there are other factors which would seem to indicate a clear connection between Rev. 20:7-10 and Ezekiel 38-39:

The relationship of Rev 20:7-10 to Ezekiel 38-39, obvious enough from the adoption of the Gog-Magog terminology in Revelation 20, is also evidenced by a set of basic similarities: the marshaling of hordes from the four quarters of the earth (Ezek 38:2-7, 15; 39:4; Rev 20:8); the march of the gathered armies to encompass the saints in the city of God, center of the world (Ezek 38:7-9, 12, 16; Rev 20:9); the orchestration of the event by God (Ezek 38:4, 16; 39:2, 19; Rev 20:3, 7); the timing of the event after a lengthy period in which God's people were kept secure from such a universal assault (Ezek 38:8, 11; Rev 20:3); the eschatological finality of the crisis (Ezek 39:22, 26, 29; Rev 20:10 ff.); and the fiery destruction of the evil forces (Ezek 38:22; 39:6: Rev 20:9-10)

But if Revelation 19:17-21 and 20:7-10 both refer back to the single apocalyptic battle of Ezekiel 38 and 39, how can these be thought of as describing two separate battles? Two solutions have been offered by premillenialists:

- That Ezekiel 38 and 39 prophesy two separate battles Ė this is rejected by the majority of Biblical commentators who feel that chapter 39 is a recapitulation of Chapter 38

- That the events of 38 and 39 fulfilled in the 2nd Century BC and that John is merely using the language of Ezekiel to describe entirely different events

Neither of these solutions would seem to answer the problem in a satisfactory manner. It would seem to be far easier to assume a one to one relationship between the events of Ezekiel 38-39 and the events of Revelation 19-20. Indeed, it would seem to be difficult to understand why Ezekiel would describe the same battle twice, and John while obviously making reference to his prophecies would not use the same kind of structure to frame his own narrative of future events.

There is also the problem of the logistics of supposing that these are two separate battles. In the account of the battle in Rev. 19:11-21, the victory of Christ over the Beast and His armies is conclusive. The idea of "survivors" of this conflict who again challenge the Lamb and His people seems to fly in the face of the evidence of the totality of the defeat, and language that would indicate there were no survivors (Rev. 19:21). Then there is the problem of nations again rising up after a thousand-year literal reign of Christ. Presumably these are the descendents of the Christians who had triumphed with Christ over the beast. Since the numbers of the nations that will gather to fight against the Saints are described as being "like the sand of the seashore" (Rev. 20:8) which is a biblical way of saying "innumerable" (see Gen. 22:17, 32:12, & 41:49) this scenario presupposes a time of massive apostasy occurring during the very period when Satan is imprisoned and cannot deceive the nations (Rev. 22:3) and Christ is ruling.

For all of the above reasons, it would seem to be more likely that both Revelation 19:17-21 and Revelation 20:7-10 are alluding to the same final battle. So, following the lead of Ezekiel chapters 38 and 39, John has given us a description of the same battle twice with attention given to different details in each chapter. The "thousand years" mentioned in Revelation 20:7 then, are

not a literal period of one thousand years following the events described in chapter 19, but rather the thousand years are a symbolic reference to the church age during which the great commission given by Christ to the church is fulfilled. Once this age comes to a close, we are to expect the Parousia (Rev. 19:11), the final battle between Christ and his people and the powers of antichrist and those they have deceived (Rev. 19:17-21, Rev. 20:7-10) and the final judgment (Rev. 20:11-15).

Chapters 38 and 39 of Ezekiel describe a final cataclysmic battle between Gog and his armies and the Lord that results in the utter devastation of all who oppose the Lord and his people Israel. Here we see a great example of the principle that due to the progressive unfolding of revelation, "what is in the old concealed, is in the new revealed." It was not until the writing of the book of Revelation many hundreds of years later, that it became evident exactly what these chapters in Ezekiel where pointing towards. By using language directly taken from these chapters in his narratives of the final battle between Christ and the antichrist, the Apostle John makes it clear that Ezekielís message was not pointing towards a battle that would involve only the human enemies of Israel. Instead Ezekiel chapters 38 and 39 are a description of the final defeat of the antichrist and his followers from all the nations of the earth, who, in attacking the "camp of the saints and the beloved city" (Rev. 20:9), meet their doom in the "mountains of Israel" (Ezek. 39:4). Both of these passages are references to Mt. Zion, the dwelling place of God in the Old Testament.

John has revealed to us that Ezekiel 38 and 39 are, in fact, the narrative of the last battle of the Beast, Satanís pawn. Gog is the great pretender who exalts himself and tries to take the crown of Christ, and destroy the bride of the Lamb. In that final battle, the false Christ, Gog, comes from his dwelling place, "Magog" (Ezek. 38:2) the false Zion of the North, gathering by lies and deceit his false church from the "four corners of the earth" (Rev. 20:8). Instead of the glory he desires, like Sodom, his inheritance is not the kingdom (Matthew 25:34), but rather fire. Fire that comes from heaven to consume his armies (Ezek. 38:22; 39:6, Rev. 20:9) and the fire of eternal punishment in Hell (Rev. 19:20, Rev. 20:9). This is the final doom of Gog and Magog.

 

ENDNOTES

1. Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 33, Section 3

2. Meredith Kline, Har Megedon: The End of the Millenium, p.215

3. Obviously, I am not the only person who has come to the conclusion that Gog is the antichrist. Several other commentators, including Meredith Kline draw the same conclusion.

4. Vern Poythress, The Book of Revelation: A Guide For Understanding, entire

5.  G.K. Beale, NIGTC: The Book of Revelation, p. 965

6. Kline, p.219

7. Beale, p. 979-980

8. Beale, p.981

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Aune, David. Word Biblical Commentary, Revelation 17-22, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1998

Beale, G.K. NIGTC, The Book of Revelation, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999

Fairbairn, Patrick. An Exposition of Ezekiel, Evansville: Sovereign Grace, 1960

Hughes, Phillip E. The Book of the Revelation: A Commentary, Leicester: IVP, 1990

Kline, Meredith. Har Magedon: The End of the Millenium, JETS 39/2, pp. 207-222, 1996

Kuyper, Abraham. The Revelation of St. John, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1935

Ladd, George E. A Commentary on the Revelation of John, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992

Poythress, Vern S. The Book of Revelation: A Guide for Understanding, Philadelphia: WTS, ?

Stuart, Douglass. The Communicatorís Commentary, Ezekiel, Dallas: Word Books, 1989

 

 

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