Friday, May 29, 2009

GOG – MAGOG, Ezekiel Prophecy and the New Testament?

The basic framework of end time prophecy isn't too hard to grasp - but when we try to narrow it all down to specific timetables we are guaranteed to get it wrong. This is MORE likely if we try to read and understand scripture with a bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other.

We need to be wary of allowing our preconceptions to mislead us from the truth. The Gog-Magog prophecy in Ezekiel is one example to consider. This has often been interpreted as referring to Russia invading Israel, but what is the prophecy really about and what is its significance in the end time program? To gain understanding without being misled by speculation, it is important that we don’t deviate from what scripture itself reveals.

I tend to think it is not prophesying a single event. OT prophecies can predict separate events as if they are one. OT prophecies about Jesus were like this, in which there was no distinction made between His first and second comings.

I have heard this combining of two events into one prophecy being described with the illustration of an observer looking at two distant mountains one behind the other. The distant mountains seem to be one peak because the valley between can not be seen by the observer. Likewise two events (two mountain peaks) separated by time (the valley) are seen as a single event (mountain) by the prophet (the observer).

A battle involving Gog and Magog is mentioned only twice in scripture. There’s an extensive account in Ezekiel and a brief one in Revelation 20. Despite the brevity of the Revelation reference there are several similarities that indicate it is possibly describing the same event as the Ezekiel references.
But, while parts of the prophecy match this event in Revelation 20, there are also aspects that don't fit that scenario, but they do fit descriptions given in Revelation 19 of Armageddon.

So could Ezekiel be describing the events of Revelation 20?
Is he describing Armageddon? (Rev 16 & 19)
Is there possibly a combination of the two?
Or is it an event that the NT ignores? (I personally think this last option is unlikely)

Following is a comparison of the Ezekiel prophecy with the two different events in Revelation. Because the Ezekiel account spreads over three chapters I’ll note the relevant verses but won’t quote the text here. The Revelation accounts are much shorter so I’ll quote the whole relevant sections at the end of this article.

Similarities between Ezekiel and Rev 20 (end of millennium)

1) Gog and Magog are involved.
2) Their attack is directed upon on Israel
3) The attack is at a time when Israel is at peace (Eze 38:11) (Rev 20. end of the millennium, after 1000 years of Christ’s rule on earth)
4) It involves “the nations” or “many nations”.
5) The battle is ended before it begins by fire from God. (Eze 39:6)

Similarities between the Ezekiel account and Revelation’s description of Armageddon.

1) Attack directed on Israel.
2) Many nations join the attack
3) Massive earthquake and mountains thrown down (Eze 38:20)
4) Great hailstones fall (Eze 38:22)
5) Dead are left for the birds of the air to eat (Eze 39:4)

Those are the similarities but what about the differences?

The latter three events are not mentioned with regard to the post millennium battle.
Gog and Magog are not mentioned in the Armageddon account.
Will Israel be at peace and living in safety leading up to Armageddon?
The Antichrist’s army at Armageddon is not destroyed by fire from heaven – but by Jesus who has returned to earth.
The leaders of the battle at Armageddon are thrown alive into the lake of fire. The leaders in Ezekiel are given a grave.(Eze 39:11).

Other questions raised:
The aftermath of the Ezekiel battle leaves a battleground strewn with weaponry that is gathered and used for fuel. If this is after the millennium, it would mean that life continues on this earth for several more years prior to the second resurrection and the judgment. This is not suggested in Revelation – but then again it is not ruled out either.

If the Ezekiel battle does not fit anything described in Revelation, then the NT is entirely silent about a major event that happens in the end times. I don’t see this silence is likely but I suppose it is possible.

Armageddon, before millennium

Rev 16:16 -21
Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.
The seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and out of the temple came a loud voice from the throne, saying, “It is done!”
Then there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder and a severe earthquake. No earthquake like it has ever occurred since the human race has been on earth, so tremendous was the quake.
The great city split into three parts, and the cities of the nations collapsed. God remembered Babylon the Great and gave her the cup filled with the wine of the fury of his wrath.
Every island fled away and the mountains could not be found.
From the sky huge hailstones, each weighing about a hundred pounds, fell on people. And they cursed God on account of the plague of hail, because the plague was so terrible.

Rev 19:17-21
And I saw one angel standing in the sun. And he cried with a great voice, saying to all the birds that fly in mid-heaven, Come and gather together to the supper of the great God, so that you may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of commanders, and the flesh of strong ones, and the flesh of horses, and those sitting on them, and the flesh of all, both free and slave, both small and great.
And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth and their armies, being gathered to make war against Him who sat on the horse, and against His army.
And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet doing signs before it, (by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast), and those who had worshiped his image. The two were thrown alive into the Lake of Fire burning with brimstone.
And the rest were slain by the sword of Him who sat on the horse, it proceeding out of His mouth. And all the birds were filled from their flesh.

Scriptural account of Battle After the Millennium

Rev 20:7-9
And when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be loosed out of his prison. And he will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle. The number of them is as the sand of the sea. And they went up over the breadth of the earth and circled around the camp of the saints, and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of Heaven and devoured them.


Joop said...

I love it when Christians like you do some reseach on Gog-Magog vs Armageddon.
As I see it I think Armageddon is a (spiritual)battle in heavenly realms (not on earth) : satanic/antichrist -powers against the Church (in heaven, as we are citizens in heaven). Antichrist will loose and thrown alive into the lake of fire.
Also the satan will be bound and put into hades for 'thousand years'.
Soon after the millenium begins. A time of peace and restoration begins. Then satan has to be released, he will seduce lots of people and rebellion starts (Gog - Magog). The Church will be attacked again, however. God intervenes, and satan will be thrown into the Lake of fire.
You have to ask yourself, what is meant by 'Israel'? The nation, or the 'real Israel of God'.
I believe: Gog = satan (a prince), and Magog (unsure, probably Ma= Dark Gog=Place/country. Spiritual: in the north, where darkness prevails (in winter).
You may notice, English is not my native lanquem, so please forgive my spelling errors.
God bless,

Onesimus said...

Thank you for your comments joop.

I disagree with you about Armageddon being a spiritual battle in heavenly realms, but I'm pleased to see that we seem to be more in agreement about the millennium.

By Israel, the scripture means Israel the people (not the current political entity). I agree with Paul when he reveals in Romans 11 that "all Israel will be saved" - but taking in mind that he also says that not all Israel is Israel.

Onesimus said...

I would also add that I totally disagree with “replacement theology” in which the church is seen to have replaced Israel as God’s chosen people. Romans 9-11 clearly shows that God has not cast aside Israel. He remains faithful to the covenant He made with them even if they haven’t remained faithful to Him. That covenant includes blessing when they are faithful and cursing when they are unfaithful. Of course, faithfulness also includes the recognition of (and allegiance to) their Messiah.

Joop said...

I believe Armageddon being symbolic, not literal on earth, because by reading all of Rev 16 I believe it is not literally meant, mostly symbolic. Like the drying up of the Euphrate to make way for the kings (from the east). Long time ago a river a like Euphrate would have been a real barrier for most armies. Not today anymore.
By advanced technology, soon in battles less and less soldiers are needed, as machines (robots, drones) take over. As can be seen today already.
Moreover, a literal army of 200.000.000 soldiers seems ridiculous to me (and expensive). Consider the German army in june 1941 attacking the Sovjet Union, it was 'just' an army of about 3.500.000 soldiers, attacking an enormous country.
How can a small area like Armageddon have so many (200.000.000) people? Crowded indeed.

At the other side: consider the false mystical 'christian' movements with ther yoga, reiki, and (occult) meditation techniques. Why would they practise that?
My answer: to gain power in the heavenly realms. By visualisation techniques and claiming: "We are (little) Gods" (=satanic!)

As for 'replacement' theologie, you wrote a lot of things here.
First, we can agree, God did not reject (old) Israel. And he would not reject the Jews today.
Also Paul mentions there are in fact two Israels, as you also mentioned: not all Israel is Israel.
So which Israel is the true Israel?
And what is meant my "all Israel will be saved?". All the Jews?

As you notice, I asked a lot of some challenging questions.
Hope you like it.

God bless,

Onesimus said...

When the bible is clear about an issue I try to stick with the clear message the bible gives and I don’t try to rationalise it away or turn its message into something more palatable to my own reasoning.

The descriptions of Armageddon are very down to earth.

1) Armageddon, part of the Jezreel Valley or valley of Meggido, is a literal place in Israel. It served as the site of many important battles in the history of Israel. It was the place where Saul and Jonathon died, and where Josiah fell in battle. It was also the site of a significant battle in World War I.

2) Those gathered together at Armageddon are the kings of the world, also described as the kings of the earth, and their armies.

They are kings and armies of flesh and blood whose corpses become food to the birds of the air.

It is also very important not to turn assumptions drawn from scripture into a speculative scenario – and then draw meaning from outside of scripture in order to rationalise or refute that speculative view.

You associate the 200,000,000 horseman (Rev 9) with the kings of the east (Rev 16). The former are associated with the sounding of the sixth trumpet, the latter with the pouring of the sixth bowl. While there are clear similarities and the Euphrates is mentioned in both, the circumstances associated with the sixth trumpet and the sixth bowl are different.

Even so, under the circumstances of the prophesied time I think it is a bit presumptuous to say a literal army of 200,000,000 seems ridiculous and would be too expensive. It will be a time unprecedented in human history so comparisons with any other time or event don’t really mean anything.
As for the ability of “a small area like Armageddon” to hold “so many people” – we are not told how many will literally be at that place. As a meeting place of the armies, it would most likely be the location of the leaders of those armies and their troops – not the actual location of every single soldier in every single army called to battle.

As for the matter of Israel –I think I answered that earlier when I said:

By Israel, the scripture means Israel the people (not the current political entity). I agree with Paul when he reveals in Romans 11 that "all Israel will be saved" - but taking in mind that he also says that not all Israel is Israel.


[God] remains faithful to the covenant He made with them even if they haven’t remained faithful to Him. That covenant includes blessing when they are faithful and cursing when they are unfaithful. Of course, faithfulness also includes the recognition of (and allegiance to) their Messiah.

[interesting how those holding to “replacement theology” are keen to appropriate the blessings promised to Israel but not so keen to cling to the equally promised curses!]

How do gentiles become believers? Through the power of the gospel and the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Do all who hear the gospel respond favourably to the conviction of the Holy Spirit with repentance? No, some resist Him and remain in rebellion against God.

Similarly there is a remnant of Jews who have turned to God through repentance and others who remain in rebellion. Jews and gentiles alike have hardened their heart against God.
Scripture indicates two agencies by which Jews will be brought into recognition and acceptance of their messiah.
1) Gentile believers will rouse them to jealousy, but to do that EVIDENCE of salvation must be clearly demonstrated by the gentile.
2) When Jesus returns they will see the one they pierced IS alive and therefore IS the messiah they have awaited.

Who is Israel?
It is my understanding that Israel is made up of those Jews who (while not currently recognising their messiah) have not hardened their hearts against God.

Trenton D. Adams said...

Hi Onesimus,

So, are you suggesting that the trumpets and vials are during the end of the thousand year reign?


Onesimus said...

Hi Trent,
The short answer is no.

They precede the 1000 year reign. I'm not sure where I gave the impression that they come afterwards.

The seal, trumpet and vial judgements come to a conclusion with Jesus' return and the defeat of the beast and false prophet.

Satan is then imprisoned and denied his deceiving power over the nations. Jesus and His saints rule for 1000 years. Satan is released and raises a final rebellion which is dealt with before it can amount to anything.

This rebellion seems to relate to part of the Ezekiel prophecy but not to all of it. I see the possibility that Ezekiel was prophesying a combination of this rebellion and the earlier (pre-1000 year) Armageddon in the same way that Jesus first and second comings were often seen as a single event by OT prophets.

The defeat of satan's final rebellion is followed by satan being thrown in the lake of fire, the end of this current creation, the judgement and then the establishment of a new heavens and a new earth.

I take the series of events from Revelation 19 onwards as being sequential including a literal 1000 year reign of Jesus on earth.

Trenton D. Adams said...

I think I must have drew conclusions of what you were saying. I just saw an interesting correlation as you described the events. Mainly how God devours Gog and Magog with fire, and the last trumpet/vial is hail with fire. So, I assumed you were trying to point out that they matched.

I'll have to read it in more focused detail later. I am very tired today, so I'm probably not thinking straight. lol