WHAT IS THE “WAR OF GOG AND MAGOG”?
May 9, 2011
by Joel C. Rosenberg
[Tuesday, May 10 update: Today Israel celebrates her 63rd Independence Day. May the Lord bless and protect all Israelis and draw them close to His heart. May the Lord also bless and protect the Palestinian people and give His mercy and grace to both sides of this painful conflict. Jesus said, “Love your neighbor” and “Love your enemy.” Not easy, but the only way forward.]
Let’s start by defining
- who “Gog” and “Magog” are,
- when this prophecy will take place, and
- what countries will be participating in the coalition against Israel:
The Hebrew Prophet Ezekiel lived in Babylon (Iraq) more than 2,500 years ago and the Lord gave him a vision of events that would take place in the future.
Ezekiel 38:16 specifically tells us these events will take place in the “last days” — that is in the End Times before the Messiah comes to set up His kingdom on earth.
Ezekiel chapters 36 and 37 set the stage for the “War of Gog and Magog” by describing that:
- Israel will be reborn as a country in the last days,
- the Jewish people will come back to the Holy Land from exile all over the world,
- the Jewish people will rebuild the ancient ruins and make the deserts bloom again.
These things have all happened, and this suggests we are getting closer to the fulfillment of the next set of prophecies.
Ezekiel 38:2 tells us that the war will be led be someone known as “Gog.” This is not a personal name. We’re not looking for someone named David Gog. Or Ahmed Gog. Or Dmitri Gog. Rather, “Gog” is a title, like a “Pharoah” or a “Czar.” Through the prophecy, this Gog is described as a military leader, a political leader, and a coalition builder. In Ezekiel 38:10 he is described as developing an “evil plan,” we know this is an evil man, a tyrant.
The Hebrew prophet gives us more clues. This “Gog” is going to be from the “land of Magog.” One has to do some historical detective work to determine what Magog is, but it is possible. Flavius Josephus, the first century Roman historian, wrote in his famous book, The Antiquities of the Jews, that the people of Magog are the people whom the Greeks called “Scythians.” This is a critical clue because we know from history that the Scythians were a people group that migrated from the Middle East northward and settled north of the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea in the region we know today as Russia and the former Soviet Republics.
There are other interesting clues, as well. Ezekiel 38:15 says that Gog “will come from your place out of the remote parts of the north.” Ezekiel 39:2 says Gog will come “from the remotest parts of the north” and come “against the mountains of Israel.” The country that is farthest to the north in relation to Israel is Russia.
Thus, we can determine that a Russian dictator will build a diplomatic and military coalition to surround and attack the State of Israel in the End Times.
The question then is what other countries will be part of the coalition?
In Ezekiel 38:5, we learn that the first ally Russia will have is “Persia.” Until 1935, of course, Persia was the legal name of the country we know today as Iran. So we know that Russia and Iran will build an alliance in the last days to attack Israel.
Ezekiel tells us that another country in the alliance will be what many English Bibles translate as “Ethiopia.” The Hebrew word, however, is “Cush” and Cush is the upper Nile region that we now know as Sudan. While the current state of Ethiopia may also be involved in the war, the focus is really Sudan, which today, of course, is a radical Islamic Sunni state closely allied with Iran and Russia and deeply anti-Semitic and anti-Israel.
Next, Ezekiel says a nation called “Put” will be part of the alliance. Josephus identifies “Put” as “ancient Lybios” — the territory that today we call Libya and Algeria. Interestingly, both countries today are deeply hostile to Israel and closely allied with Russia.
The next country mentioned is “Gomer.” When one does the historical detective work, one learns that Gomer is what we now call Turkey. For much of the past 80 years, it didn’t make sense that Turkey would turn against Israel. Why? Because Turkey was a NATO ally, and a friend of Israel, the U.S. and the European Union. But in the last few years, the Turkish government has swung dramatically away from the West, towards Russia and Iran, and become deeply hostile towards the State of Israel.
The next country Ezekiel mentions is “Beth Togarmah.” This is the Turkish-speaking peoples that spread out from Turkey across the Caucasus, and across Central Asia. We can’t be certain precisely which modern nation states from this area will join the anti-Israel alliance, because these are almost all Muslim countries with close links to Russia and Iran.
Interestingly, Egypt is not mentioned by Ezekiel as part of the Russian-Iranian alliance against Israel. This is interesting because Egypt has been such an historic enemy of Israel and the Jewish people. That said, perhaps Egypt’s non-involvement in the War of Gog and Magog could be explained by the peace treaty Egypt signed with Israel in 1979. This treaty is now in danger of unraveling, but at least for the near term Egypt is still unlikely to be in a position to strategically threaten Israel.
Iraq — whether under its biblical names of Babel, Babylon, Babylonia, Shinar, or Mesopotamia — isn’t mentioned in the prophecy either, yet it, too, is an historic enemy of Israel. Still, given the liberation of Iraq in 2003, the subsequent violence, and the rebuilding now going on, Iraq is not likely to be a threat to Israel in the near term.
Syria and Lebanon are not mentioned by name in the prophecy either. However, Ezekiel tells us repeatedly that the main military force that will be coming against Israel will be coming from the north, which means they will be coming through Lebanon and Syria.
WHAT IS THE WAR OF GOG AND MAGOG?
May 11, 2011
(NOTE: As we honor Israel’s 63rd modern Day of Independence, are there signs this prophetic war is close at hand?
The subject is timely. As nearly eight million Israelis are celebrating this week the 63rd birthday of the modern State of Israel, there are real questions in the region about how much longer the Jewish State can and will survive. A growing number of Radical Islamic leaders are declaring that Israel will soon be “wiped off the map,” and are vowing to assist in that effort. Iran is feverishly trying to build nuclear weapons and the ballistic missiles to deliver them. Hezbollah in Lebanon has built up a force of more than 40,000 rockets aimed at Israel. The bloodthirsty regime in Syria is slaughtering opponents of the regime while buying weapons systems aimed at Israel. Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood is rapidly rising in power and the current presidential candidate front-runners in Egypt are speaking with growing hostility towards the Jewish State. Fatah has chosen to make peace with the Hamas terrorist organization rather than with Israel. Meanwhile, a growing number of Orthodox rabbis in Israel believe recent events are indicators that the “War of Gog and Magog” is coming soon. A growing number of Christians around the world think the “War of Gog and Magog” is coming soon, as well. Are they right?)
Let’s look at what the Bible teaches.
The Hebrew Prophet Ezekiel describes a Russian dictator (Gog) who will form a military coalition with Iran, Sudan, Libya, Algeria, Turkey and a group of other North African, Middle Eastern and Central Asian countries in “the last days” (Ezekiel 38:16). In the days of Ezekiel, of course, there was no Islam. Today we know that most of the nations Ezekiel mentions are majority Muslim countries, and Russia is about 20% Muslim and increasingly allied with Radicalized Islamic countries.
The Bible explains very clearly that the target of this military coalition in the End Times will be Israel.
Ezekiel 38:8 says “in the latter years, you [Gog and his coalition] will come into the land that is restored from the sword, whose inhabitants have been gathered from many nations to the mountains of Israel which had been a continual waste; but its people were brought out from the nations and they are living securely, all of them.”
Ezekiel 38:16 says that the coalition “will come up against My people Israel” and that “it shall come about in the last days that I will bring you [Gog] against My land.”
Ezekiel 39:2 says that Gog will come “from the remotest parts of the north…against the mountains of Israel.”
Clearly, then, the main pre-requisite for this prophecy regarding the “War of Gog and Magog” to come true is that the State of Israel has to be prophetically reborn in the last days. Indeed, this is what the prophecies of Ezekiel chapters 36 and 37 describe in detail.
The Lord showed Ezekiel that Jews would be living in exile, scattered throughout the world because of sin and disobedience to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Ezekiel 36:16-21).
But solely because of His grace and mercy, the Lord promised to re-gather the Jewish people to the land of Israel.
The Lord promised that “I will cause men — My people Israel — to walk on you and possess you” (Ezekiel 36:12).
The Lord said that the Jewish people would rebuild the ancient ruins and the ”waste places” (Ezekiel 36:10).
The Lord said that the land and “mountains of Israel” at that time would “put forth [their] branches” and bear fruit for “My people Israel.” (Ezekiel 36:8)
The Lord said that first the physical restoration of Israel and the Jewish return to the Land would be set into motion (Ezekiel 37:4-8)
After the physical restoration of the State of Israel began, then the spiritual restoration of the Jewish people would be set into motion (Ezekiel 37:9-14).
Then, once Israel was reestablished as a State, and the Jewish people were being re-gathered to the Land, and the Lord was drawing the Jewish people back into a relationship with Him, and Israel was living securely in the Land (Ezekiel 38:8) with a degree of prosperity even (Ezekiel 38:12), then — and only then — would the Russian-Iranian coalition be set into motion to rob, kill and destroy Israel and the Jewish people.
It should be noted that Ezekiel does not describe Israel having “peace.” Rather, twice Israel is described as “living securely” (Ezekiel 38:8 and 38:11).
I recognize that these verses can be difficult for some Palestinian Arabs and some Israeli Arabs to read, whether they are born again Christians or nominal Christians (raised in churches but without a personal relationship with Jesus Christ), and especially if they are Muslims. The Bible indicates that Jews will be a sinful people when they are brought back into the Land. Only after they return, the Bible teaches, will the Holy Spirit be poured out upon the Jewish people in an increasingly significant way (Ezekiel 39:29 and Joel 2:28-32 — or Joel chapter 3 in Hebrew Bibles). Then, a growing number of Jewish people will repent and return to a personal relationship with the Lord. Meanwhile, Jesus said in Matthew 24 and Luke 21 that there would be “wars and rumors of wars” and “revolutions” and “lawlessness” in the last days. Certainly, the rebirth of Israel — while prophetic and God-ordained — has come with wars, rumors of war, revolutions, sins, and even crimes committed by some Arabs as well as some Jews. The Bible doesn’t teach this period of the last days will be easy, and the Bible is right.
That said, we would not be honest to the Word of God if we were to ignore, deny or try to explain away the plain meaning of these verses. The Bible told us well in advance that Israel would be reborn and the Jews would come back to the Land, and this has come to pass. Genesis 12:1-3 tells us that the Lord will bless those who bless the children of Abraham, and He will curse those who curse the children of Abraham. Those who have cursed Israel have, sadly, found themselves facing great pain and suffering. Sometimes Bible truths are difficult to accept, but they are true nonetheless and we must accept them by faith.
But while the Bible clearly explains that the Lord will bring the Jewish people back to the Land of Israel and allow them to reclaim their God-given ownership of the Land, nowhere in the Bible are Jews (or any group of people) given a license to commit injustice. To the contrary, the Bible teaches Israel to love her neighbors (Leviticus 19:18 and Matthew 19:19). The Bible also teaches Israel to love her neighbors and pray for those who persecute them (Matthew 5:44). The Jews do have rights to the ownership of the Land, but they also have responsibilities to govern justly and compassionately, in accordance with the Scriptures. In Leviticus 19:33-34, for example, the Lord says: “When a stranger [non-Jew] resides with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am the Lord your God.”
Those of us who are followers of Jesus Christ need to teach sound Bible doctrine regarding Israel and the Palestinians. We need to love both, bless both, pray for both. Moreover, we need to stand with and encourage our brothers and sisters in the Messiah whether they are Jewish or Arab. The Bible gives us no freedom to ignore, deny, or oppose our brothers and sisters on either side. Rather, Jesus said, “blessed are the peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9). We need to be pro-actively building relationships with Israelis and Palestinians and being ambassadors of Christ and agents of reconciliation whenever and wherever possible.
We do not have to agree with everything that our brothers and sisters believe — especially if those beliefs are unscriptural — but we are commanded to love them unconditionally and sacrificially. After all, Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)
Now, back to the prophecy and its analysis:
It could be reasonably argued that Israel is living more securely today than at any other time in its 63 years. The Israeli Defense Forces are widely considered the strongest and most effective ground fighting force in the Middle East. The Israeli Air Force is widely considered dominant in the skies. Israel has peace treaties with two major neighbors, Egypt and Jordan (though the future of the treaty with Egypt is increasingly in question). Yasser Arafat is gone. Saddam Hussein is gone. Osama bin Laden is gone. Palestinian suicide bombings are not a daily part of Israeli life since 2004. Rockets are occasionally fired from Gaza at Israeli civilians living in the south, but this is not nearly as bad as it was prior to Operation Cast Lead in January 2009. Moreover, Israel has just deployed a short-range rocket defense system called “Iron Dome” that is very effective. Meanwhile, Israel has submarines, ballistic missiles, and first rate intelligence services in her defense. Israel has also enjoyed decades of a close strategic partnership with the United States, has a strong and vibrant economy, and is widely believed to have defensive nuclear weapons, though the government maintains a policy of “strategic ambiguity” on the subject, neither confirming nor denying the existence of those weapons.
Could Israel currently be secure enough to fulfill this prophetic prerequisite? Honestly, I am not sure. Perhaps events soon will lead Israelis to being and feeling even more secure. But there is no question that even with emerging new threats on the horizon, Israelis feel more secure today than ever before its modern State’s existence.
Given the fact that the major End Times prophecies of Ezekiel 36 and 37 have essentially come true in our lifetime, does this mean that we will see Ezekiel 38 and 39 come true in our lifetime as well? To me, it is too soon to say so definitively. Certainly we are seeing geopolitical events unfold in recent decades and in recent years that are strikingly consistent with what the Bible describes as preparations essential for the “War of Gog and Magog.” So we should be ready. We should be prepared — not caught off guard — if events accelerate in the near future. But we must also remember that the Lord in His sovereignty could also decide to delay events for quite some time for His own purposes.
That said, it should be noted that when the Russian dictator finishes building his military coalition in Israel and begins to move his forces to surround Israel in the “last days,” Ezekiel gives us no indication that any country will come to Israel’s defense. There are not indications that the United Nations, or the European Union, or NATO will defend Israel. Nor is there any indication that the United States will defend Israel. Rather, Israel will be — and will feel — all alone in the world.
WHAT IS THE WAR OF GOG AND MAGOG?
The Good News
May 12, 2011
As the forces of the Russian dictator (Gog) and his military coalition — including Iran, Libya, Algeria, Sudan, Turkey and other key Islamic nations — converges against the State of Israel in the last days, the Hebrew Prophet Ezekiel tells us that at the last moment, when there seems to be no hope for Israeli Jews, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is going to supernaturally intervene.
Ezekiel 38:18-19 — “‘It will come about on that day, when Gog comes against the land of Israel,” declares the Lord God, ‘that My fury will mount up in My anger. In My zeal and in My blazing wrath I declare that on that day there will surely be a great earthquake in the land of Israel.”
Ezekiel tells us that this earthquake will shake the entire globe and “all the men who are on the face of the earth will shake at My presence” (38:20).
The enemy forces will become so frightened and disoriented that they will turn and start fighting each other (38:21).
Terrible diseases (pestilence) will start to spread through the enemy forces (38:21).
As God judges these enemies of Israel, the text says He “will rain on him [Gog] and on his troops, and on the many peoples who are with him, a torrential rain, with hailstones, fire, and brimstone.” (38:22)
The Lord also says “I will send fire upon Magog and those who inhabit the coast lands in safety.” (39:6) In other words, parts of Russia and other enemy countries will be devastated by fire from heaven.
The Bible does not tell us exactly how this will happen, but it clearly describes a supernatural judgment. This is not a war started by the Israeli Defense Forces. These are not missiles from the Israeli Air Force. There is no evidence in the text of Israelis defending themselves. Perhaps they are engaging in diplomacy. Perhaps they are hoping for the U.S. or the U.N. or other nations to intervene. Whatever the case, the God of Israel steps in and defends Israel Himself, raining fire and brimstone down on the enemy forces and utterly destroying them.
Why does the Lord act? The Lord tells us directly in 38:23, “I will magnify Myself, sanctify Myself, and make Myself known in the sight of many nations; and they will know that I am the Lord.” The nations have forgotten that God does love the Jewish people. He does love the nation of Israel. They are not perfect, but He loves them and has made promises to them, and He intends to keep those promises. And He wants the rest of the world to know there is a God in Israel.
The devastation is so horrific that chapter 39 tells us it takes the Israelis seven months to bury all the bodies of the enemy forces (39:12-16).
Ezekiel tells us it would probably take longer than seven months but the birds of the air and the beasts of the field eat many of the bodies (39:17-20)
Sin has consequences. God said in Genesis 12:1-3 that those who bless the children of Abraham will be blessed, but those who curse them will be cursed. God is patient. He is slow to anger. But when pushed too far, He will act against those who hate the Jewish people and seek to rob, kill and destroy them. Let the nations be warned.
There is more to the story, however. Not only will the “War of Gog and Magog” be a day of great judgment; it will also be a day of great mercy. The Bible says that the militaries of these enemies will be destroyed. There are hints here and in other texts (Jeremiah 49, for example) that the governments of these countries will be judged, as well. But God is not going to wipe out all the people of these enemy countries. To the contrary, He wants them to see His glory and His mercy.
Ezekiel 39:21 — “I will set My glory among the nations; and all the nations will see My judgment which I have executed and My hand which I have laid on them.”
Did you catch that? “All” the nations will “see” God’s glory and judgment. Today, we are living in the first generation in human history where because of the miracle of global satellite television technology people in every country on the planet will be able to watch the prophecies of the Bible come true before their very eyes.
As a result, I believe Ezekiel 38-39 describes the end of Radical Islam — and effectively the end of all of Islam — as we have known it. When the God of Israel destroys the forces of Radical Islam supernaturally while Muslims watch on Al Jazeera, how will they wake up the day after and believe that the Quran is true and that Muhammad is a true prophet? The vast majority of Muslims will abandon Islam. Many will turn to faith in Jesus Christ. Not all, of course, but many will because they will have seen the Word of God come true right in front of them. And the Word was God and the Word is God and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us and His name is Jesus the Messiah. (John chapter 1)
Israelis will feel very afraid and very much alone right up until the Lord shows His mighty hand. But then even those who are secular will know there is a God in heaven.
Ezekiel 39:22 — “And the house of Israel will know that I am the Lord their God from that day onward.”
Ezekiel 39:25-26,28 — “Therefore, thus says the Lord God, ‘Now I will restore the fortunes of Jacob and have mercy on the whole house of Israel; and I will be jealous for My holy name. They will forget their treachery which they perpetrated against Me, when they live securely on their own land with no one to make them afraid….Then they will know that I am the Lord their God because I made them go into exile among the nations, and then gathered them again to their own land and I will leave none of them there any longer.’”
On top of all this, the Lord says He will no longer hide His face from the Jewish people and, in fact, will pour out His Holy Spirit upon them. “I will not hide My face from them any longer, for I will have poured out My Spirit on the house of Israel, declares the Lord.” (39:29)
As a result, many Jews will come to faith in Jesus as Messiah, for that is the role of the Holy Spirit–to reveal the true identity of Jesus to people. Jesus said in John 14:26, ”The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” Not all Jews will come to faith in Jesus at that time, but many will because the Father will pour out His Holy Spirit on the house of Israel.
While we know these events will all happen in the “last days” (38:16), we cannot determine whether the “War of Gog and Magog” will happen before the Rapture (when the Lord suddenly snatches born again believers in Jesus off of the earth, prior to the Tribulation) or not, because the text does not tell us one way or the other.
That said, I believe it is very possible — not certain, but very possible – that these events will unfold within this generation, and possibly quite soon. We are certainly seeing geopolitical events unfolding in a way consistent with Ezekiel 38-39.
Therefore, the most important question we must ask is this: Since the Lord in Ezekiel 38:7 told Gog, the enemy of Israel, to “get ready, be prepared,” then what should Israelis themselves and friends of Israel be doing?
Shouldn’t we, too, get ready and be prepared — spiritually, emotionally, physically, financially, and in every other possible way?
These prophecies are some of the most interesting and important descriptions of End Times events in all of the Bible. Unfortunately, too few people in the world are aware of them, or have read them, much less studied them carefully.
May the Lord bless you and reveal Himself and His heart to you as you get yourself ready for the prophecies coming.