(Part 1 of 3)
I want to write about a matter I know there is a lot of variance about and that I feel fairly strongly about because of proper biblical exegesis. Writers on this site and elsewhere have differing views, but I have rarely seen much in the way of justification for a specific viewpoint for the topic I am going to write on. Opinions seem fixed and interpretation molded around that view. People lock their views in vaults, and they do not justify those views. I suspect a good number of people don’t read what others write, in any case. I would not say that if I did not try to read most of the articles myself.
One of the key principles to any exegesis or exposition is that all conclusions must be in harmony with the rest of scripture. In order to do that, one must know what the rest of scripture says and how it links in with the whole revelation of God.
The matter I wish to examine critically is the “Gog/Magog War.” Ideas fall into 3 main timeframes, and it is this area that is disputed. As to the combatants, there seems to be general agreement with verses 2 and 3 of Ezekiel 38 being understood. It is the timeframe that I want to write about.
The three times given are (1) before the Rapture; that is, it could be anytime now. (2). Somewhere in the Tribulation. (3). At the end of the Tribulation as part of the whole Armageddon conflict. There has been the suggestion that this happens after the start of the Millennium, but that is so unlikely I won’t spend time on it.
I am convinced thoroughly that (1) is incorrect, and I know it is the dominant view of some RR writers, and I am not writing against anyone in any way. Please continue to read this fairly and not delete. I don’t hold my position without proof, and the proof is internal. One must be able to support one’s position. With that in mind, let us look at it.
- We live in the day of grace when the gospel is proclaimed. It is said to be the age of God’s silence, which means God always has control over the world but does not intervene as He did in Noah’s time, and Sodom, and with the destruction of the Assyrian army in Hezekiah’s time, and especially as He will in the Tribulation. That is God in open judgment. God may have had a “behind the scenes” influence in World War 1 and WW2, but it was not openly known or seen. In the Gog/Magog war, it most certainly will be seen. The “silence” of God belongs to the age of grace. It would be totally inconsistent for God to intervene openly now in the affairs of the world.
- Israel is always the key to prophecy. It is especially so in the Ezekiel account. Romans is very clear that these are the times of the Gentiles, and that is where all the emphasis is. Israel is on the back burner until the Gentile Church is removed, and then God takes up His people again. God will never work with Jew and Gentile at the same time. The Gog/Magog war sees God intervening openly for His people, and that dispensationally can’t happen this side of the Rapture.
- The internal evidence in Ezekiel 38 and 39. The internal evidence is very great for NO Gog war before the Rapture, and we will consider those aspects now.
(a). 38:3-4. [[“and say, Thus says the Lord GOD, ‘Behold, I am against you, O Gog, prince of Rosh, 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 splendidly attired, a great company with buckler and shield, all of them wielding swords]] – God takes this initiative to bring armies to destruction. This has not happened in the age of grace and will not happen before the Rapture. It is the call and gathering of the Gog/Magog army. Right now, at the end of the Church age, we can see the beginnings of these power alignments, but that is not the war.
(b). We come to verse 8. This verse is a problem for all three views of timing. [[Ezekiel 38:8 “After many days you will be summoned. In the latter years you 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.”]] It cannot be said today that Israel is dwelling securely. Neither is that nation “restored from the sword” with the PLO and Hezbollah firing up to 225 Iranian rockets daily into Israel. Verse 8 just cannot apply to our times. It is an impossibility. Israel is surrounded by enemies.
The problem also exists possibly that near the end of the Tribulation when the forces gather for Armageddon, Israel is also not at peace. This is when I think the Gog conflict happens, along with Armageddon. It can’t really be said that the nation at that time is at peace.
The only time that happens is in the Millennium when Israel is settled and restored. However, the Lord reigns from Jerusalem, and before that, there has been a judgment of the sheep and goat nations. The forces of Gog would definitely be considered goat nations and would not enter the Tribulation anyway, so they cannot be present then.
(c). Another problem is found in this verse – [[Ezekiel 38:11 “and you will say, ‘I will go up against the land of unwalled villages. I will go against those who are at rest, that live securely, all of them living without walls, and having no bars or gates.”]] The purpose of walls, bars and gates was to protect the city and villages. In this verse, it speaks of a time of peace in Israel, a proper peace with security, and implied no threat from any enemy. That application to our days is ludicrous, and even at the end of the Tribulation when I think this happens, is problematic. The description presupposes a fully unprotected community dwelling peacefully, BUT Israel is one of the best-protected areas in the world.
Verses 8 and 11 are difficult. Maybe we are not to know exactly. The Gog/Magog war just can’t happen before the Rapture. It does not fit in any shape or form.
(d). This is a critical verse – [[Ezekiel 38:14 “Therefore, prophesy, son of man, and say to Gog, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, ‘On that day when My people Israel are living securely, will you not know it?'”]]
I have recently done a series on The Day of the LORD and pointed out over and over the special importance of the statement “In/On that day,” or “At that time.” Those catch phrases always refer to the times of the end, in the Day of the LORD, AFTER the Rapture, never before. The emphasis again is on living securely. No one can say that Israel dwells securely today; otherwise, it would not have both offensive and defensive weapons in abundance possessed by Israel to protect its very existence.
(e). IMPORTANT VERSE. Next, we look at this verse – [[Ezekiel 38:16 “and you will come up against My people Israel like a cloud to cover the land. It will come about in the last days that I shall bring you against My land, in order that the nations may know Me when I shall be sanctified through you before their eyes, O Gog.”]] “In the last days” in the Old Testament could never have referred to the Rapture or the time before the Rapture because the Rapture was a mystery to be revealed by Paul in 1 Thessalonians chapter 4 and not before. The term always referred to the time just before the Second Coming. Note this wording – “My people Israel.” Go back to Hosea and read this carefully –
[[Hosea 1:8-9 “When she had weaned Lo-ruhamah, she conceived and gave birth to a son, and the LORD said, ‘Name him Lo-ammi, for ‘you are not My people and I am not your God.‘”]]
Then we move along with the most important conjunction, which is “Yet.” [[Hosea 1:10 “Yet the number of the sons of Israel will be like the sand of the sea which cannot be measured or numbered and it will come about that, in the place where it is said to them, ‘You are not My people,’ it will be said to them, ‘You are the sons of the living God.’“]]
The change is there from “Not My people” to “You are the sons of God.” Ezekiel 38:16 uses “My people Israel,” the same aspect of this Hosea verse – [[Hosea 2:23 “I will sow her for Myself in the land. I will also have compassion on her who had not obtained compassion, and I will say to those who were not My people, ‘You are My people,‘ and they will say, ‘You are my God.'”]]
Israel does not become “You are My people“ in the converted state until after the Second Coming. In the relationship sense today, Israel is “not My people,” though in the general sense they are the earthly people of God.
There is one more verse to consider in the Hosea passage that throws so much light on this subject. It is this one – [[Hosea 1:11 “The sons of Judah and the sons of Israel will be gathered together, and they will appoint for themselves one leader, and they will go up from the land, for great will be the day of Jezreel.”]]
That verse just quoted is where redeemed Israel will appoint one Leader, which we know will be the Messiah after the Second Coming. After their restoration, they will be restored as His people, just as Hosea and Ezekiel 38:16 teaches. What is the reason for this? It is stated, and it is this, “for great will be the day of Jezreel.” Jezreel is the valley that contains the hill “Har Megiddo,” which is Armageddon. It is Armageddon that is the great day and spells the deliverance for Israel from the Gog forces, and AFTER that, Israel can be termed as “My people” in the greatest affection.
See too, that expression “in the last days,” and as it occurs in the Old Testament, it can only mean the last days of the AGE leading into the Second Coming (same usage as in Matthew 24:1). In the New Testament, when Paul speaks of the last days, as in 2 Timothy 3, he means the last days of the CHURCH AGE, which is right now.
Through God’s dramatic destruction of the Gog alliance, the nations will know God, and He will be sanctified through what happens in Israel. That just cannot happen at this time before the Rapture. It would be totally out of place. Israel currently is “not My people.” So great will be Armageddon that the nations will know God and His mighty works.