The Bible says that in last days an unprovoked, spontaneous, knee-jerk but massive invasion of Israel will come from a power in the North, in coalition with a ring of nations who do not share a border with the Jewish state. The invasion is so overwhelming that it would seem to be the end – and yet, the outcome is a surprise to all.
Gog & Magog
Ezekiel 38:2 (KJV)
Son of man, set thy face against Gog, the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him.
2 Peter 1:19 (KJV)
We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts.
Matthew Henry’s Commentary of Ezekiel 38
… this prophecy, it is most probable, had its accomplishment some time after the return of the people of Israel out of their captivity … If the sacred history of the Old Testament had reached as far as the prophecy, we should have been better able to understand these chapters, but, for want of that key, we are locked out of the meaning of them.
Introducing Gog and Magog
With war in the Middle East raging and potential apocalyptical scenarios remaining a possibility, it is prudent to explore the vital subject of Bible prophecy. It is a light that shines in a dark place (2 Peter 1:19). A significant part of the last day’s prophecy focuses on Israel at war. We already looked at Psalm 2 and Psalm 83 for insight; now we are looking at TheBook of Ezekiel to one of the most famous and fascinating of all prophecies: Gog and Magog.
This remarkable prophetic passage, found in Ezekiel 38 and 39, after the famous Valley of Dry Bones in Chapter 37, speaks about a massive latter-day coalition attack of Israel from the North. This invasion is so overwhelming and unexpected that the only way the nation survives is through divine intervention. It is a remarkable prophecy for its details, description, and final destiny.
In the above quote Matthew Henry, famous for the commentary that bears his name, writing in 1712, was totally at a loss as to ascribing a date in history for the fulfilment of this prophecy. He was offering only an educated guess. One option that did not occur to him is that the prophecy could have a future end-time fulfilment. Even one hundred and fifty years ago, scholars would have probably come up with the same conclusion as Henry. Yet the earthshaking changes that have happened in the geopolitical world since the end of World War II mean that today, virtually all the major ingredients for the fulfilment of this prophecy are already in the cupboard, waiting to be mixed, baked and served.
Definition: ‘Gog’ means ‘rooftop’ and maybe even mountain. ‘Magog’ simply means ‘from Gog,’ so Gog and Magog refer to ‘Gog from the land of Gog.’ Gog represents anti-God and antichrist forces which are violent in their antagonism to the Word of God and the people of God. But which nation or nations represent Gog today? Let us look at this prophecy more closely.
Gog & Magog Step By Step
- WHEN: It will be in the latter days: Ezekiel 38:8: ‘After many days you will be visited. In the latter years you will come into the land’ (NKJV). This seems to be clear enough: the invasion will happen in the latter days (verse 16) or years (verse 2), probably the end of this age. But the big question is ‘when’ in the last days? Here are the options:
- Before the Great Tribulation?
- In the middle of the Tribulation?
- At the end of the Tribulation, namely ‘Armageddon?’
- After the Millennium (Revelation 20:8)?
Remember that as you look at the details of this prophecy, almost all the components are present today. As such, it could very well have a pre-tribulation fulfilment, as affirmed by some Hebrew Christian scholars like Arnold Fruchtenbaum and Lance Lambert. The fact that there is no mention of the Messiah in this passage lends credence to this view.
The Million Dollar Question: Who is Gog?
- The enemy will come from ‘the north quarter’: ‘Gomer, and all his bands; the house of Togarmah of the north quarters (38:6 KJV); ‘And thou shalt come from thy place out of the north parts (38:15 KJV); (God) will cause thee (Gog) to come up from the north parts, and will bring thee upon the mountains of Israel (39:2 KJV).
Can we correctly identify Gog? The most popular choice is Russia, arguing from modern translations that the text says Gog comes from the ‘far north.’ What can be more ‘north’ of Israel than Russia? Before 1991, the overwhelming consensus for the identity of Gog was the Soviet Union, which was a tailor-made villain for an Ezekiel-like invasion. The USSR could theoretically invade Israel without a coalition of far-flung nations (remembering it was itself an empire encompassing fifteen nations along with the Warsaw Pact alliance).
Is Russia Gog?
Today the Russian Federation is the successor state of the once-powerful Soviet Union. With the current frostiness in relations between Russia and the Western world, including NATO and the European Union, ‘Russia = Gog’ continues to be the most favoured interpretation. But is this correct? The key to solving this mystery is the place names used, like Mesech, Tubal, and the House of Togarmah.
It is beyond the scope of this article to explore the Biblical place names in-depth. But there is a credible school of thought that says that all the main players in Last days prophecy are all from the Middle East, not Europe. Even if there is a revived Roman Empire in the end times, remember that the Empire had two spears of power: Rome in Europe and Constantinople which is both in Europe and the Middle East. Rome East outlasted Rome West by a thousand years (1453 v. 476 AD).
Furthermore, in the original Hebrew of Ezekiel 38:6, it does not say ‘far north.’ The Hebrew phrase is tsapone (north) yereka (translated part, quarter, side). Hence the KJV translates this as Gog comes from the ‘north quarters,’ not the far north. The point is that there is room to include other countries as candidates for Gog besides Russia.
Note: Russian Christians greatly dislike the interpretation of Russia being Gog. They have been an (Orthodox) Christian country for over a thousand years. Since 1991 churches have grown, both Orthodox and Evangelical. They nominate another northern power: China … and China, they add, is still communist.
So if Russia is not Gog, who is? A viable option is a nation also North of Israel and the current state of its relationship is rock-bottom: Turkey. The place names of Ezekiel 38 could very well be in Asia Minor. Turkey is one of the most important nations in the world due to its strategic location, history, heritage, its de facto Turkic highway and commonwealth from Central Asia to the Balkans in Europe. Whether Turkey is Gog or not, it is very important to ‘watch Turkey.’
To be continued.
(From our book At the Door: Key Nations, Last Days and the Coming King, published by Teach All Nations)