The Coming Invasion

A conflict is coming unlike any other. It’s the Battle of Gog and Magog.
Today much of the world despises Israel. All it takes to substantiate this truth is a look at the UN’s overwhelming number of anti-Israel resolutions, the countries that have waged war against Israel in hopes of annihilating it, and the news media’s endless caricature of Israel as an aggressor—despite this tiny nation’s constant battle merely to survive. But more hostility is coming.

The Bible says that in the end-times, nations will fight against Israel at the Battle of Gog and Magog (Ezek. 38—39). Prior to that time, the Jewish people will be regathered in their land in unbelief (20:33–38; 22:17–22). The Battle of Gog and Magog will culminate with the Messiah’s return to defend Israel and set up His Messianic Kingdom (chaps. 40—48).

Which Nations Will Attack Israel?
Scholars debate much about the identity of the nations involved in the future Battle of Gog and Magog. The prophet Ezekiel wrote, “Now the word of the LORD came to me, saying, ‘Son of man, set your face against Gog, of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal’” (38:1–2).

The word Rosh can mean “chief” or “head.” Consequently, some theologians believe Gog is the chief prince of two places—Meshech and Tubal—rather than the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal. But the text most likely means Gog is the prince of the three territories.1

Magog, Meshech, and Tubal were sons of Noah’s son Japheth (Gen. 10:1–2). Their descendants populated Asia Minor (Turkey) and the regions farther north. Rosh likely was close by. Ancient historian Josephus identified Magog with the Scythians who eventually inhabited the areas around the Black and Caspian Seas.2 Gog, the leader of this faction of opponents, will come “out of the far north” (Ezek. 38:15).

Ezekiel also prophesied that Persia (Iran), Ethiopia (Sudan), Libya, Gomer, and Togarmah will join Gog’s forces against Israel (vv. 5–6). Gomer, like Magog, was Japheth’s son; and Togarmah was Gomer’s son (Gen. 10:2–3). Some scholars place the descendants of Gomer and Togarmah in central Europe, but it’s more likely they lived in southern Russia and later moved to Asia Minor 3

Ezekiel 38:13 also mentions Sheba, Dedan, and the merchants of Tarshish. But it is not clear if they join the attack on Israel. Sheba and Dedan were probably in southern or central Arabia, and the merchants of Tarshish were traders in the Mediterranean world.

Therefore, the Battle of Gog and Magog will be a northern confederacy led by Gog in the areas associated with southern Russia and Asia Minor and will also involve nations from northern Africa and the Middle East. Though some interpreters spiritualize the places as symbols of a general plot against God, it is best to take the text at face value and interpret the names as real nations that attack Israel.

What Will Provoke the Attack?
The news media today constantly accuse Israel of provoking Arab hostility. But it is impossible to read the Bible’s account of the future Battle of Gog and Magog and see Israel as the instigator. Israel’s future attackers—much like its enemies today—will use evil thoughts to produce evil plans (v. 10). They will take advantage of Israel’s disposition toward peace and safety and invade the Jewish nation to seek plunder and spoil (vv. 11–13).

Interestingly, the passage says God will lead the aggressors (v. 4). In fact, God asserts, “I will bring you against My land” (v. 16). How should we understand this passage?

It is best to see God as the one putting structure to the thoughts and plans of evil men. In other words, God lets some evil take place but turns it in a direction to advance His ultimate purpose in the world, “that the nations may know Me” (v. 16).

When Will the Attack Occur?
Bible scholars differ concerning when this battle will occur. The venerable theologian Harry A. Ironside, citing Zechariah 14:1–4, taught it will take place near the end of the seven-year Tribulation.4 To be sure, Ezekiel 39:17–20 depicts a call for birds to eat the flesh of the defeated hordes after the Battle of Gog and Magog in the same way they are called to do so after Christ returns to destroy His enemies at the end of the Tribulation (Rev. 19:17–18).

Israel’s future attackers—much like its enemies today—will use evil thoughts to produce evil plans.

Yet some incongruities exist in this view, such as how Israel’s burning of war instruments could last seven years after the battle if the Millennium (Christ’s 1,000-year reign on Earth) is about to begin (Ezek. 39:9).

Others equate the Battle of Gog and Magog with the Gog and Magog in Revelation 20:8, which describes Satan’s future, last-gasp attack on Jerusalem to dethrone God and Christ at the end of the Millennium. But there are too many differences between the two accounts to make a definite correlation.

Others believe the battle will occur early in the Millennium or before the Rapture or between the Rapture and the start of the Tribulation. But all of these views lack precision and raise questions.

The best view is that the Battle of Gog and Magog will occur early in the first half of the Tribulation. The peace treaty between the Antichrist and Israel at the beginning of Daniel’s 70th week (Dan. 9:27) will make Israel feel safe and secure, as implied in Ezekiel 38:11. Based on history, the current Arab-Israeli conflict, and future prophecy, Israel’s window of time for feeling safe and secure appears quite small. Thus the battle most likely will take place during the first three and a half years of the Tribulation, when the Jewish people will feel protected.

How Will God Judge Gog and Magog?
Most of Ezekiel 38—39 describes God’s judgment of the confederacy that will come against Israel. But God will not fight Israel’s enemies by assisting the nation in direct military combat. Instead, He supernaturally will cause a tremendous earthquake in Israel and confuse the minds of the attacking armies so they fight one another:

Surely in that day there shall be a great earthquake in the land of Israel. . . . Every man’s sword will be against his brother. And I will bring him to judgment with pestilence and bloodshed; I will rain down on him, on his troops, and on the many peoples who are with him, flooding rain, great hailstones, fire, and brimstone (38:19, 21–22).

The dead attackers will become food for animals and birds and will be buried in Israel over a period of seven months (39:4, 11–13, 17–20). God’s judgment will be just, true, and complete.

A Glorious Ending
The Battle of Gog and Magog will result in God’s glorification and Israel’s ultimate restoration. God will be magnified and known among all nations, including Israel (38:23; 39:7, 13, 21–22, 28). His intervention on Israel’s behalf will help the Jewish people know the Lord their God.

In addition, God’s victory will assure Israel of His ultimate plan for the Jewish nation’s restoration in the Messianic Kingdom: “And I will not hide My face from them anymore; for I shall have poured out My Spirit on the house of Israel” (39:29). That is why the Ezekiel 38—39 account of the Battle of Gog and Magog precedes the Ezekiel 40—48 teaching of the coming Kingdom and the glorious future for Israel and the Jewish people.

ENDNOTES
  1. The NASB and NKJV translate Rosh as a place name, whereas the KJV and NIV do not. Either way, the issue does not affect the passage’s overall interpretation.
  2. Josephus Antiquities of the Jews 1.6.1.
  3. C. P. Weber, “Gomer,” The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, ed. Merrill C. Tenney (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1976), 2:774–75
  4. H. A. Ironside, Ezekiel (New York, NY: Loizeaux Brothers, 1949), 264–65.

3 thoughts on “The Coming Invasion

  1. Dear Mr Stallard,
    I just wanted to tell you that I love Israel in truth,because God loves you.
    Yours faithfully from Mr Eric John Parker.

  2. Gog and Magog:

    You did not mention the differences between the Rev. 20:8 and the Ezekiel account.

    I am convinced this battle is at the end of the Millennial Kingdom.

    1. Israel will dwell in safety, not by trusting in the anti-Christ, but because Jesus has established an earth of peace;
    2. Israel is dwelling in un-walled villages. This indicates that Israel has no need for defensive positions, war material’, or organized military defence.
    3. Nothing is recorded that Israel will do away with armed forces, but that they have entered into peaceful negotiations with the Beast, which likely means that they have agreed not to attack their antagonistic nations;
    4. The most absurd statement that the coalition of Russia and others will come against Israel at or near the beginning of the time of Jacob’s Trouble and God will total wipe them out as described in Ezekiel does not fit the end-time scenario. If that happens, who will the anti-Christ need to fight against, who will push at him, who will cause him to go forth into great battles?
    5. The description of the method of fighting in Ezekiel, does not need to be representative of the mode of transportation, armament, (swords, spears, horses, et.), but can biblically be presumed to be literal;
    6. Reason: war implements will not be needed for one thousand years, and probably will be illegal;
    7 After Satan is loosed, he instigates secret forming of swords, spears, bows and arrows, and shields, mostly made of wood–thus the need to burn them. This is the only reasonable explanation of burning the war material, since it will not fit the idea of burning tanks, rockets, rifles, planes, bombs, grenades, and the like. This final assault needs a massive amount of horses and pack animals;
    7. Gog and Magog has nothing to do with Israel until the end of the millennial kingdom.

    We rely heavily on the OT for understanding the end-time events, so why not depend on Ezekiel’s prophecy to provide understanding of John’s Rev. 20:8?

    Respectfully Submitted by:
    Paul L. Williams, D. Min.
    Guthrie, Ok

    1. Paul, thank you for your thoughtful response and for reading my IMG article on Ezekiel 38-39. I was limited space-wise in the article so I could not review every view in detail. I simply mentioned there were too many differences. Generally, I think all the views have good reasons that believers have advanced that are worth considering. And as I say in the article, this is the hardest time element to figure out in prophecy in my judgment. So, we will have to wait to see what God does to be absolutely sure. Let me make some comments on your points:

      # 1. Both views can account for the feeling of safety. My view has the peace treaty at the beginning of the tribulation as a possible indicator. Your view has the 1000 years of peace.

      # 2 and # 3. My view would allow that Israel feels no need for defense. The terminology can be interpreted that way and still be true to grammatical-historical interpretation.

      # 4. I am not sure I understand your statement about absurdity. The nations mentioned in Ezekiel 38 & 39 are not the only nations in the world. If they are destroyed early in the trib, there are still the kings of the east on the other side of the Euphrates as well as much of Europe and Africa (and who knows about the Western Hemisphere) where people can come to be part of the attack on Antichrist which turns into an eventual attack against Christ at His coming.

      # 5 & 6 & 7. I understand the argument about the war implements and I think it has value. However, a change to literal horses and other pre-modern weapons can happen much sooner due to the massive destruction going on in the world during the trib where nations have to resort to old methods. Electronic grids will probably go down in the trib most likely and access to gasoline may be limited. I could see this argument go either way.

      My main reason for not seeing Eze. 38 & 39 the same as Rev. 20 is that the Rev. 20 time frame does not fit the flow of the book of Ezekiel. I believe Eze. 38-39 must make sense within the argument of Ezekiel and not just be based on comparisons with other passages like Daniel 11 and Revelation 20. In Ezekiel 36, we have the reminder from God that Israel is going to have a spiritual renewal (new covenant) in the land in the end-time days. In Ezekiel 37, God reminds us that Israel must be brought back to the land nationally in order for the spiritual renewal to take place. I think the initial return to the land is in unbelief (Eze. 20 & 22, Zeph. 2:1). Then in Eze. 38 & 39, there are those who don’t like Israel being back in the land. Then in Eze. 40-48, we see what corresponds to a description of the millennium.

      All in all, although a case can be made for the Rev 20 view, I think an earlier time frame better fits the message of Ezekiel itself.

      Thanks so much for your diligent study of the Word of God. It is an exciting thing to be waiting together for how God is going to unfold his prophetic fulfillment. On some things he has only given us glimpses.

      Till He comes,

      Mike S

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