Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Identity of Gog and Magog

At the culmination of the Millennium, Satan is released and deceives the nations into attacking Jerusalem. These nations are subsequently consumed by fire from God.

Reve 20:8 And [Satan] shall 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 whom [is] as the sand of the sea.
Reve 20:9 And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.

These scriptures, along with several others in Revelation [Rev 19: 17-18], seem to be an obvious reference to Ezekiel 38-39.

Ezek 38:2 Son of man, set thy face against Gog, the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him,

Ezek 38:8 After many days thou shalt be visited: in the latter years thou shalt come into the land [that is] brought back from the sword, [and is] gathered out of many people, against the mountains of Israel…
Ezek 38:9 Thou shalt ascend and come like a storm, thou shalt be like a cloud to cover the land, thou, and all thy bands, and many people with thee.

Ezek 39:4 Thou shalt fall upon the mountains of Israel, thou, and all thy bands, and the people that [is] with thee: I will give thee unto the ravenous birds of every sort, … (cf: Rev 19:17-18)

Ezek 39:6 And I will send a fire on Magog (Rev 20:9), …


For the futurist, the identity of Gog and Magog can be very confusing. I say this being an ex-futurist. The reason is because most futurists believe the battle of Gog & Magog will occur AFTER the Millennium after the “second” return of Christ.

If you read Ezekiel 38-39, though, you will find that the Ezekiel’s battle of Gog and Magog is also very similar to the battle of Armageddon which occurs BEFORE the millennium. In fact, many futurists have even admitted this. (Others place Ezekiel’s Battle of Gog and Magog before or during the Tribulation.)

For example, we read in Revelation regarding the battle of Armageddon:

Reve 19:17 And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God;
Reve 19:18 That ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all [men, both] free and bond, both small and great.

Notice how similar this is to the description of Ezekiel’s battle of Gog and Magog:

Ezek 39:17 And, thou son of man, thus saith the Lord GOD; Speak unto every feathered fowl… Assemble yourselves, and come; gather yourselves on every side to my sacrifice that I do sacrifice for you, [even] a great sacrifice upon the mountains of Israel, that ye may eat flesh, and drink blood.
Ezek 39:18 Ye shall eat the flesh of the mighty, and drink the blood of the princes of the earth, of rams, of lambs, and of goats, of bullocks, all of them fatlings of Bashan
(Compare also Ezekiel 39:11 to Rev 14:20)

In Ezekiel, the forces of Gog and Magog are accompanied by many nations from across the known world [Ezekiel 38:1-6]. This is similar to both the Battle of Armageddon [Rev 16:14, 19:19] as well as the Battle of Gog and Magog [Rev 20:8] in which the armies are composed of many nations from the earth.

Unlike the battle of Armageddon though, Ezekiel’s battle of Gog and Magog seems to begin after period of peace [Ezek 38:8,11; compare Ezekiel 37]. Revelation’s Battle of Gog and Magog also occurs after a period of peace, the Millennium.

If you are a full preterist like myself, this confusion is easily resolved. The battle of Armageddon is one and the same as the battle of Gog and Magog. The vision of the battle of Gog and Magog is a recapitulation of the battle of Armageddon. Both visions contain specific references to Ezekiel 38-39.

The Millennium is the period of time between the death/resurrection/ascension of Christ and the Roman-Jewish war of 67-70AD. The Roman-Jewish war is the “Tribulation.” The battle of Armageddon / battle of Gog & Magog is the final judgment upon apostate Israel and the triumph of Jesus Christ & his Church.

But who then is Gog, Magog, and the remaining nations? As some preterists have suggested, Rome is certainly to be associated with those nations that attack Jerusalem/Israel in those last days. The Roman armies, as all three descriptions of the battle describe, was composed of nations from across the world. It has also been pointed out by Kurt Simmons that the borders of the Roman Empire closely match the borders of the nations mentioned in Ezekiel 38.

But there is one major problem. When compared to the events of Ezekiel 38-39, the fate of the Roman armies does not parallel Ezekiel’s prophecies regarding Gog and Magog. In both the book of Revelation and Ezekiel, the armies of Gog and Magog are destroyed and Magog is burned with fire. To put it simply, this does not happen to the Roman Armies that attacked Israel in 67-70 AD.

To sidestep this, Simmons explains that the attack of Gog and Magog is on the Church by Rome (ie: Nero) and their defeat is when the “church reigns supreme in Christ.” [To be fair, although Simmons also equates the battle of Armageddon with the battle of God and Magog, he believes that ”the Neronean persecution was the battle of Armageddon/Gog and Magog.” ]

Now I agree that the vision of Armageddon is fulfilled in part by the triumph of the Church, primarily in the spread of the Gospel and its complete establishment among the nations [Rev 14:6-8; the spread of the Gospel -> the fall of Babylon; Matt 24:14; Rev 19:15,21 (sword of his mouth = the word of God)]

But I am hard pressed to believe that this alone satisfies the prophecy of Gog and Magog. Starting in Ezekiel 39, it is clear that there is a literal destruction of the literal armies of Gog and Magog in the mountains of Israel:

Ezek 39:4 Thou shalt fall upon the mountains of Israel, thou, and all thy bands, and the people that [is] with thee: I will give thee unto the ravenous birds of every sort, and [to] the beasts of the field to be devoured. ...
Ezek 39:9 And they that dwell in the cities of Israel shall go forth, and shall set on fire and burn the weapons, both the shields and the bucklers, the bows and the arrows, and the handstaves, and the spears, and they shall burn them with fire seven years: ...
Ezek 39:11 And it shall come to pass in that day, [that] I will give unto Gog a place there of graves in Israel, the valley of the passengers on the east of the sea: and it shall stop the [noses] of the passengers: and there shall they bury Gog and all his multitude: and they shall call [it] The valley of Hamongog.
Ezek 39:12 And seven months shall the house of Israel be burying of them, that they may cleanse the land.

I simply cannot identify this with the triumph of the church. Neither can I associate it with the Roman armies who were VICTORIOUS in Israel. It was Israel’s armies who were destroyed, not the Romans. Granted, many Roman soldiers died upon the “mountains of Israel” but it would be an extreme stretch to say their deaths were the fulfillment of Ezekiel 39.

How is this to be resolved? Are we to read the text figuratively? Are we to stretch the meaning of the text?

There is actually a very interesting solution to this “mystery” (you’ll see why I call it a mystery later). First, let’s begin by identifying the Gog and Magog of Ezekiel 38-39. In other words, who would contemparies of Ezekiel identify them as? Magog, along with several other nations listed, is a direct reference to the table of Nations in Genesis 10. Gog, though, seems to be a derivation from the word Magog itself. Regardless of what anyone says, no one knows for sure where the “Magog” of Genesis 10 is located, although it is probably north of Israel. [NOTE: Josephus records that Magog refers to the Scythians.]

Why then does Ezekiel use this mysterious location?

The first step in solving this riddle is to realize that Ezekiel’s prophecy against Gog is actually one of a series of prophecies against several nations or groups including Ammon (Ezek 25:2-7), Moab (25:8-11), Edom (25:12-14), Philistia (25:15-17), Tyre (Ezek 26,27,28:1-19), Zidon (28:20-24), and Egypt (Ezek 29-32), the “shepherd’s of Israel” (Exek 34), and mount Seir (Ezek 35).

At the time of Ezekiel’s prophecy, Israel was in captivity to Babylon. Babylon had destroyed their country, their capital, their people and their temple. But notice who is conspicuously missing from Ezekiel’s prophecies of doom! Babylon. Of course Babylon is mentioned in the prophecies, but only favorably (Ezek 26, Babylon against Tyre; Ezek 29-32, Babylon against Egypt…). It makes perfect sense that if Ezekiel wanted to prophecy against the very nation in which he was captive, he would have tried to make it less obvious by calling Babylon by another name, in this case, Magog.

But why Magog? Although it is only conjecture, it has been proposed (http://www.metrocast.net/~moza/atbash.htm) that Magog is “code” for Babel. The Hebrew letter mem (M) immediately follows the letter lamed (L). In addition, the Hebrew letter gimel (G) follows beth (B). Beginning with “BBL,” and substituting the Hebrew letter which immediately follows it in the Hebrew alphabet yields “GGM.” Reversing the order, you have “MGG” or Magog.

It has been proposed by others that Jeremiah used a similar scheme to disguise the name Babylon. His term “Shishak” can be similarly translated to Babel.

Like Babylon, Gog and Magog is the world power at the time, conquering and subduing other nations. In addition, Gog and Magog will not attack until Israel returns from captivity and is at peace. Afterwords, when Gog and Magog attacks, they will be destroyed. The implication is simple. Israel was currently in captivity to Bablyon, but after their release, Babylon would one day attack again and be destroyed on the mountains of Israel. This was the judgment upon the nation that destroyed Jerusalem and held its citizens captive.

But if Magog is Babylon in Ezekiel, who is the Magog of Revelation? If we equate Rome = Magog = Babylon, we run into the same problem as before…Rome was not conquered by Israel. How then is the mystery solved?

Actually a very simple solution is possible. John the Revelator actually uses the city Babylon in his prophecies. It is proposed that the “Babylon” of Revelation [Reve 14:8, 16:9, 17:5, 18:2, 18:10, 18:21], is identical with Magog. If the Magog of Ezekiel is in fact Babylon, then John’s use of Magog as synonym with the MYSTERY BABYLON makes perfect sense.

In fact, the Babylon of Revelation is completely destroyed and burned with fire (Reve 17:6, 18:8-9) just as Magog is in Ezekiel’s prophecy (Ezek 39:6) and the Magog of Revelation (20:9). But what of the remaining nations?

According to the vision found in Revelation 17, Mystery Babylon is seen together with a dragon with seven heads and ten horns. The seven heads, represent the Roman Empire (which sits upon seven mountains). The ten horns are the “kings of the earth” of Reve 17:2, who later betray Mystery Babylon and burn the city with fire. The ten horns include all the nations that conquered by Rome and which also made up their army.

The final question remains. Who is Magog? According to most preterists (both Full and Partial), Mystery Babylon of Revelation represents apostate and rebellious Israel. The destruction of the "Babylon" symbolizes the literal destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.

Following this hermeneutic, Ezekiel’s prophesy can be deciphered with no contradictions:
1) Ezekiel 38:1-3. Gog and Magog refers to apostate and rebellious Israel. Magog = Babel = Babylon = Mystery Babylon = Apostate Israel. (Gog refers to its deceptive leadership of the time including the false prophets, antichrists, …see also Ezekiel's prophecy against the shepherd's of Israel).
2) Ezek 38:4-18. The armies that descend upon the mountains of Israel like a cloud are those of Rome and the nations they conquered. At this point Mystery Babylon sits upon the dragon with 7 heads (Rome) and 10 Horns (Roman conquered nations). Therefore they are a “system” or one entity. It is only later that the 10 Horns betray and attack Israel.
3) Ezek 38:19. This imagery is identical to that used in the book of Revelation to describe the Tribulation period. It describes the Roman-Jewish war of 67-70AD.
4) Ezek 38:23. This scripture refers to the establishment of Jesus’ church (verse 23) among the gentile nations.
5) Ezek 39:1-20. Again Gog and Magog refers to apostate and rebellious Israel, who along with the city of Jerusalem, is destroyed at the culmination of the Roman – Jewish war in 70 AD.
6) Ezek 39:21-29. This is a reference to the establishment of Jesus Christ’s Church among all the nations.

If the battle of Gog and Magog in Revelation is equated with the battle found in Ezekiel 38-39 of the same name, one can run into any number of complications and contradictions. By identifying Magog as Babylon and the battle of Armageddon with the battle of Gog and Magog, all the inherent complications simply disappear.

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