In chapters 38 and 39 of the prophetic book of Ezekiel, a future attack on Israel initiated by a leader called Gog is detailed:
EZEKIEL 38:1 The word of the LORD came to me: 2 "Son of man, set your face toward Gog, of the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him 3 and say, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I am against you, O Gog, chief prince of Meshech and Tubal. 4 And I will turn you about and put hooks into your jaws, and I will bring you out, and all your army, horses and horsemen, all of them clothed in full armor, a great host, all of them with buckler and shield, wielding swords. 5 Persia, Cush, and Put are with them, all of them with shield and helmet; 6 Gomer and all his hordes; Beth-togarmah from the uttermost parts of the north with all his hordes – many peoples are with you. 7 Be ready and keep ready, you and all your hosts that are assembled about you, and be a guard for them." (ESV)
Although there are many theories about the modern identity of the nations listed here as being involved in this attack, who these nations are is not the focus of this article. Instead, we are going to look at the timing of this event to determine where it falls in the prophetic time line of the end of the age.
Many today teach that the Gog/Magog war will occur before the rise of the Antichrist. According to this view, the Gog/Magog war precedes the final "battle of Armageddon" by several years. But is this understanding accurate? Is the Gog/Magog war a separate event from Armageddon? The goal of this article is to show from the Scriptures that these are not separate events, but rather different names for the same event.
Ezekiel's prophecy continues with a description of what Gog and his armies decide to do to the people of God who dwell in the physical land of Israel at that time:
EZEKIEL 38:8 "After many days you will be mustered. In the latter years you will go against the land that is restored from war, the land whose people were gathered from many peoples upon the mountains of Israel, which had been a continual waste. Its people were brought out from the peoples and now dwell securely, all of them. 9 You will advance, coming on like a storm. You will be like a cloud covering the land, you and all your hordes, and many peoples with you. 10 Thus says the Lord GOD: On that day, thoughts will come into your mind, and you will devise an evil scheme 11 and say, 'I will go up against the land of unwalled villages. I will fall upon the quiet people who dwell securely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having no bars or gates,' 12 to seize spoil and carry off plunder, to turn your hand against the waste places that are now inhabited, and the people who were gathered from the nations, who have acquired livestock and goods, who dwell at the center of the earth. 13 Sheba and Dedan and the merchants of Tarshish and all its leaders will say to you, 'Have you come to seize spoil? Have you assembled your hosts to carry off plunder, to carry away silver and gold, to take away livestock and goods, to seize great spoil?' " (ESV)
The prophecy speaks of a time AFTER displaced Israelites have returned to the Holy Land from the nations into which they had been scattered. At the time Gog decides to invade, Israel will have been restored from war. The people of Israel will then be dwelling safely in unprotected towns on the mountains of Israel. They will have accumulated a large amount of material goods.
EZEKIEL 38:14 "Therefore, son of man, prophesy, and say to Gog, Thus says the Lord GOD: On that day when My people Israel are dwelling securely, will you not know it? 15 You will come from your place out of the uttermost parts of the north, you and many peoples with you, all of them riding on horses, a great host, a mighty army. 16 You will come up against My people Israel, like a cloud covering the land. In the latter days I will bring you against My land, that the nations may know Me, when through you, O Gog, I vindicate My holiness before their eyes." (ESV)
In the introduction to this prophecy, we are told that God will cause Gog to gather a great army from the nations to attack Israel at a time when they are back in the Holy Land and living in undefended towns and settlements. The reason God states for provoking Gog to do this is so the nations may truly know who He is. Clearly Ezekiel is speaking here of a time when all on the earth does not yet understand who the true God is.
The great army brought together by Gog is said to come from the north. The gathering of this army is also spoken of by the apostle John in the 16th chapter of Revelation:
REVELATION 16:12 Then the sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up, so that the way of the kings from the east might be prepared. 13 And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. 14 For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty. 15 "Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame." 16 And they gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon. (ESV)
Armageddon is the Greek transliteration of the Hebrew har Megiddo (the hill of Megiddo). However, lying below that hill is the real focus of the prophecy, the Plain of Esdraelon (also known as the Plain of Megiddo or the Valley of Jezreel). As shown in the map below, the Plain of Esdraelon is approximately 55 miles north of Jerusalem, 20 miles southeast of the modern Israeli port city of Haifa, and just to the south of Nazareth.
It is in the Plain of Esdraelon that the armies from the east, having traveled across the dried up Euphrates River (highlighted yellow in the map below), will join with Gog's forces for their planned assault on those living on the mountains of Israel to the south.
Going back to Ezekiel, we see that God is not going to allow the prophetic "beast" called Gog to succeed in his plans:
EZEKIEL 38:17 "Thus says the Lord GOD: Are you he of whom I spoke in former days by My servants the prophets of Israel, who in those days prophesied for years that I would bring you against them? 18 But on that day, the day that Gog shall come against the land of Israel, declares the Lord GOD, My wrath will be roused in My anger. 19 For in My jealousy and in My blazing wrath I declare, on that day there shall be a great earthquake in the land of Israel. 20 The fish of the sea and the birds of the heavens and the beasts of the field and all creeping things that creep on the ground, and all the people who are on the face of the earth, shall quake at My presence. And the mountains shall be thrown down, and the cliffs shall fall, and every wall shall tumble to the ground." (ESV)
Here we see the first thing that will occur when God's wrath is poured out on Gog is that a great earthquake will shake the land of Israel. In fact, this earthquake will be so massive that it will cause the mountains to crumble and every wall to collapse. This same earthquake is mentioned by the prophet Zechariah:
ZECHARIAH 14:3 Then the LORD will go out and fight against those nations as when He fights on a day of battle. 4 On that day His feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives that lies before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley, so that one half of the Mount shall move northward, and the other half southward. 5 And you shall flee to the valley of My mountains, for the valley of the mountains shall reach to Azal. And you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the LORD my God will come, and all the holy ones with Him. (ESV)
Speaking of an event that will occur after the end time capture and subjugation of Jerusalem (Zec. 14:1-2), Zechariah tells us of a great earthquake that will strike the land of Israel (specifically, the Mount of Olives) when Yeshua returns. In fact, the earthquake will be directly related to the Messiah's feet coming to rest on the Mount of Olives. As prophesied, Yeshua will return to the same location he left from many centuries earlier:
ACTS 1:9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven." 12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day's journey away. (ESV)
The earthquake which takes place at the return of Yeshua is the same one spoken of in Revelation:
REVELATION 16:17 Then the seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, "It is done!" 18 And there were noises and thunderings and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such a mighty and great earthquake as had not occurred since men were on the earth. 19 Now the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. And great Babylon was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of His wrath. 20 Then every island fled away, and the mountains were not found. (NKJV)
Here we see several parallels to Ezekiel's prophecy regarding the earthquake which will strike at the time Gog attempts to attack Israel. First, we see that this mammoth quake will level all the mountains (Eze. 38:20; Rev. 16:20). Additionally, we see that the earthquake will cause the walls of all the cities of the nations to collapse (Eze. 38:20; Rev. 16:19). Since the mountains and cities of the earth can only be destroyed one time, it's clear that these two passages are speaking of the same events.
Next, Ezekiel begins to speak of what will happen to Gog's armies:
EZEKIEL 38:21 "I will call for a sword against Gog throughout all My mountains," says the Lord GOD. "Every man's sword will be against his brother." (NKJV)
Ezekiel tells us that the armies of the nations that Gog has assembled together will turn on one another instead of attacking Israel. In the 14th chapter of Zechariah, we see a similar description of how this battle will turn out:
ZECHARIAH 14:12 And this shall be the plague with which the LORD will strike all the peoples that wage war against Jerusalem: their flesh will rot while they are still standing on their feet, their eyes will rot in their sockets, and their tongues will rot in their mouths. 13 And on that day a great panic from the LORD shall fall on them, so that each will seize the hand of another, and the hand of the one will be raised against the hand of the other. 14 Even Judah will fight at Jerusalem. And the wealth of all the surrounding nations shall be collected, gold, silver, and garments in great abundance. 15 And a plague like this plague shall fall on the horses, the mules, the camels, the donkeys, and whatever beasts may be in those camps. (ESV)
Zechariah records that when God strikes the armies advancing on Jerusalem and starts causing the soldiers to instantly decay in their tracks, tremendous fear will come upon all of them. This fear will cause the armies to panic and lash out at whoever is within striking distance. Ironically, it appears that many of the invaders will kill each other.
EZEKIEL 38:22 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." (NKJV)
An interesting feature of this description of God's destruction of Gog's troops is the mention of "great hailstones" which will fall upon them. These same hailstones are described in John's account recorded in Revelation:
REVELATION 16:21 From the sky huge hailstones of about a hundred pounds each fell upon men. And they cursed God on account of the plague of hail, because the plague was so terrible. (NIV)
At the end of Ezekiel 38, God once again reveals WHY He is going to incite Gog to attack Israel and then destroy his armies in such a spectacular manner:
EZEKIEL 38:23 Thus I will magnify Myself and sanctify Myself, and I will be known in the eyes of many nations. Then they shall know that I am the LORD." (NKJV)
In chapter 39, Ezekiel continues to prophesy about the fate of Gog and his armies:
EZEKIEL 39:1 "And you, son of man, prophesy against Gog and say, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I am against you, O Gog, chief prince of Meshech and Tubal. 2 And I will turn you about and drive you forward, and bring you up from the uttermost parts of the north, and lead you against the mountains of Israel. 3 Then I will strike your bow from your left hand, and will make your arrows drop out of your right hand. 4 You shall fall on the mountains of Israel, you and all your hordes and the peoples who are with you. I will give you to birds of prey of every sort and to the beasts of the field to be devoured. 5 You shall fall in the open field, for I have spoken, declares the Lord GOD. (NKJV)
Later in the 39th chapter of Ezekiel's prophecy, we will see a more detailed description of how the birds of prey will be used to consume the slain armies of Gog.
EZEKIEL 39:6 "I will send fire on Magog and on those who dwell securely in the coastlands, and they shall know that I am the LORD. 7 And My holy name I will make known in the midst of My people Israel, and I will not let My holy name be profaned anymore. And the nations shall know that I am the LORD, the Holy One in Israel. 8 Behold, it is coming and it will be brought about, declares the Lord GOD. That is the day of which I have spoken." (ESV)
Once again, God reiterates that this event is designed to show the world WHO YHVH truly is. But verse 7 gives us some additional tantalizing information: This great deliverance will also make YHVH known to His own people, Israel. God states that from this point forward His holy name will no longer be profaned by Israel. Not only will this event introduce the true God to the world, it will also make Him known and holy in the eyes of Israel.
Next, Ezekiel describes the aftermath of the slaughter and how the land will be cleansed following the battle:
EZEKIEL 39:9 "Then the inhabitants of the cities of Israel will go out and make fires and feed them with the weapons — shields and bucklers, bows and arrows, clubs and spears; they shall use them as fuel for seven years. 10 They will not gather firewood in the fields or cut any in the forests, but will use the weapons as fuel for their fires. They will despoil those who despoiled them and plunder those who plundered them — declares the Lord GOD. 11 On that day I will assign to Gog a burial site there in Israel — the Valley of the Travelers, east of the Sea. It shall block the path of travelers, for there Gog and all his multitude will be buried. It shall be called the Valley of Gog's Multitude. 12 The House of Israel shall spend seven months burying them, in order to cleanse the land; 13 all the people of the land shall bury them. The day I manifest My glory shall bring renown to them — declares the Lord GOD. 14 And they shall appoint men to serve permanently, to traverse the land and bury any invaders who remain above ground, in order to cleanse it. The search shall go on for a period of seven months. 15 As those who traverse the country make their rounds, any one of them who sees a human bone shall erect a marker beside it, until the buriers have interred them in the Valley of Gog's Multitude. 16 There shall also be a city named Multitude. And thus the land shall be cleansed." (JPS Tanakh)
Ezekiel records that this revelation of the power of God will bring honor to Israel. For seven months, the people of Israel will be engaged in burying the remains of Gog's armies. The weapons carried by them will be burned for fuel for seven years. Since there will be no need to cut any trees for firewood during this time, it will allow the land of Israel a chance to heal.
After briefly discussing the disposition of the remains of Gog's armies, God directs Ezekiel to address in greater detail the immediate aftermath of the battle:
EZEKIEL 39:17 "As for you, son of man, thus says the Lord GOD: Speak to the birds of every sort and to all beasts of the field, 'Assemble and come, gather from all around to the sacrificial feast that I am preparing for you, a great sacrificial feast on the mountains of Israel, and you shall eat flesh and drink blood. 18 You shall eat the flesh of the mighty, and drink the blood of the princes of the earth — of rams, of lambs, and of he-goats, of bulls, all of them fat beasts of Bashan. 19 And you shall eat fat till you are filled, and drink blood till you are drunk, at the sacrificial feast that I am preparing for you. 20 And you shall be filled at my table with horses and charioteers, with mighty men and all kinds of warriors,' declares the Lord GOD." (ESV)
In Revelation 19, John also records that the flesh of those who ally themselves with the beast Gog will be eaten by scavenger birds:
REVELATION 19:17 Then I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the birds that fly in the midst of heaven, "Come and gather together for the supper of the great God, 18 that you may eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, both small and great." 20 Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone. 21 And the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse. And all the birds were filled with their flesh. (NKJV)
The sword which proceeds from the mouth of the Messiah is the word of God (Heb. 4:12). By pronouncing judgment upon Gog and his armies for their rebellion, Yeshua will bring upon them the wrath of God resulting in total destruction.
EZEKIEL 39:21 "And I will set my glory among the nations, and all the nations shall see my judgment that I have executed, and my hand that I have laid on them. 22 The house of Israel shall know that I am the LORD their God, from that day forward. 23 And the nations shall know that the house of Israel went into captivity for their iniquity, because they dealt so treacherously with me that I hid my face from them and gave them into the hand of their adversaries, and they all fell by the sword. 24 I dealt with them according to their uncleanness and their transgressions, and hid my face from them." (ESV)
As mentioned earlier, the destruction of the armies of Gog will once and for all reveal to Israel that YHVH is their God. It will also make the nations recognize Him, and cause them to realize that He never truly abandoned Israel, but simply punished them and hid His face from them because of their sins.
Ezekiel finishes this prophecy by recording God's promise to Israel:
EZEKIEL 39:25 "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. 26 They shall forget their shame and all the treachery they have practiced against Me, when they dwell securely in their land with none to make them afraid, 27 when I have brought them back from the peoples and gathered them from their enemies' lands, and through them have vindicated My holiness in the sight of many nations. 28 Then they shall know that I am the LORD their God, because I sent them into exile among the nations and then assembled them into their own land. I will leave none of them remaining among the nations anymore. 29 And I will not hide My face anymore from them, when I pour out My Spirit upon the house of Israel, declares the Lord GOD." (NKJV)
Clearly, the aftermath of the Gog/Magog war is portrayed as the beginning of God once again favoring Israel. The pouring out of the Holy Spirit on the whole House of Israel will take place after the Messiah has destroyed God's enemies and regathered all Israel into the Holy Land. This same thing is spoken of by the prophet Jeremiah:
JEREMIAH 31:31 "Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the House of Israel and the House of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more." (ESV)
Ezekiel 39 clearly indicates that God's intervention in destroying the armies of Gog is the BEGINNING of a marvelous time for the regathered people of Israel. There is no room in this prophecy for a later "battle of Armageddon." Once Yeshua has returned and defeated the armies of Gog, the official beginning of the millennial reign of the Messiah will begin. It will be a golden age not only for Israel, but for the entire world.
Despite what some teach about the battle of Gog/Magog, the Bible makes it clear that this conflict is the same one popularly called the "battle of Armageddon" in the book of Revelation. Both Ezekiel and Revelation record that this battle will feature an earthquake which will level the mountains and collapse all the cities of the world. They both state that huge hailstones will fall from the sky on the attackers. Both Ezekiel and Revelation show that the attackers who march against Israel will be slain in great numbers and become food for scavenger birds. By comparing the similar points of the two prophecies, it is clear that these two prophecies are different descriptions of the same event. Therefore, we can be certain that the battle of Gog/Magog–Armageddon is the final major rebellion of the nations against God before the start of the Millennium.
Bryan T. Huie
September 1, 2007