One of the most challenging prophecies in the Bible is the war of Gog and Magog as detailed in Ezekiel 38 and 39. Many sermons, articles and videos have attempted to explain this end times battle in which a group of nations will attack the nation of Israel – only to have God Himself supernaturally intervene to defeat them. When does this war take place? What is the purpose of this conflict? This article will explain the timing and spiritual significance of the Gog Magog wars.
The Key To Understanding The Gog Magog Prophecy
Much of the confusion over the understanding of the Gog Magog War is that the language used in Ezekiel 38 and 39 seems to indicate two different times in Israel during two different eras: Ezekiel 38 details Israel during the Millennial reign of Jesus Christ – the 1,000 year period on Earth after the Day of The Lord, reign of the Antichrist and Armageddon. Ezekiel 39 (for the most part) describes Israel at the start of the Day of The Lord (also known as the Great Tribulation). This is critical to understand in order to rightly divide this prophecy.
Gog Magog – Verse by Verse Analysis
The Gog Magog prophecies are actually a series of 5 messages given to the prophet Ezekiel directly from God. They are arranged as follows:
Ezekiel 38:1-13 – The Lord’s anger with Gog and his armies for their attack on Israel during the Millennium.
Ezekiel 38:14-23 – God instructs Ezekiel to deliver a prophecy to Gog regarding the Millennial attack and their defeat by The Lord’s supernatural intervention.
Ezekiel 39:1-16 – God’s prophecy to Gog regarding the attack on Israel at the start of the Great Tribulation.
Ezekiel 39:17-24 -The Lord instructs Israel to deliver a prophecy to the fowls of the air and beasts of the field regarding their consumption of the defeated enemies of Israel.
Ezekiel 39:25-29 – God’s stated purpose for the Gog Magog wars.
Ezekiel 38 – Gog’s Attack On Israel During the Millennial Reign of Christ
Many people argue that the Gog Magog war takes place at the end of the Millennial reign of Christ Jesus. And this is correct. The most basic Biblical evidence of this can be found in Revelation 20:
“And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, And 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. 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.”- Revelation 20:7-9.
More evidence can be found in Ezekiel 38:
“Son of man, set thy face against Gog, the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him, And say, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I am against thee, O Gog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal: And I will turn thee back, and put hooks into thy jaws, and I will bring thee forth, and all thine army, horses and horsemen, all of them clothed with all sorts of armour, even a great company with bucklers and shields, all of them handling swords…
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, which have been always waste: but it is brought forth out of the nations, and they shall dwell safely all of them.
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. Thus saith the Lord God; It shall also come to pass, that at the same time shall things come into thy mind, and thou shalt think an evil thought: And thou shalt say, I will go up to the land of unwalled villages; I will go to them that are at rest, that dwell safely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having neither bars nor gates, To take a spoil, and to take a prey; to turn thine hand upon the desolate places that are now inhabited, and upon the people that are gathered out of the nations, which have gotten cattle and goods, that dwell in the midst of the land.” – Ezekiel 38:2-4; 8-12.
These passage in very plain language say that at the time that Israel is attacked it will be a “land of unwalled villages” where people “dwell safely…without walls.” The walls of Jerusalem are a key aspect of the stability of the Israelites in the Promised Land. As the enemy has been trying to secure the Holy City for the entire history of the Bible, the twelve tribes were constantly forced to construct and rebuild walls to protect God’s city. Even today, Israel is renowned for its defenses, walls and military as it is surrounded by enemies. The only time it will be “without walls” is during the Millennial reign of Christ – when Satan has been imprisoned in the abyss and The Lord Jesus Christ literally rules the Earth from Jerusalem.
The Bible describes the reign of Jesus Christ as one of unprecedented peace on Earth:
“And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” – Isaiah 2:2-4.
“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.” – Isaiah 9:6-7.
Israel will not be at any threat from attack:
“And it shall be in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem; half of them toward the former sea, and half of them toward the hinder sea: in summer and in winter shall it be. And the Lord shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one Lord, and his name one. All the land shall be turned as a plain from Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem: and it shall be lifted up, and inhabited in her place, from Benjamin’s gate unto the place of the first gate, unto the corner gate, and from the tower of Hananeel unto the king’s winepresses. And men shall dwell in it, and there shall be no more utter destruction; but Jerusalem shall be safely inhabited.” – Zechariah 14:8-11.
Thus, it is very plainly established, letting Scripture interpret Scripture, that the only time when Israel will dwell safely with no need for walls or defense is during the Millennial reign of Jesus Christ – the Prince of Peace. This is further bolstered by the fact that during the Millennium there will be no satanic influence on Earth (as Satan will be locked in the abyss). It is only after the 1,000 years, when Satan is released from his prison that he makes his final attempt to incite worldwide rebellion against God – recruiting sinful rebels from all over the world, including the Gog-Magog confederacy, to attack The Lord at Jerusalem:
“And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, And 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. 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.” – Revelation 20:7-9.
Thus the first section of Gog Magog can be understood by a literal reading of the text as an attack launched at the end of the Millennium.
Section 2 – The Prophecy To Gog
It is important to understand that the second half of Ezekiel 38 is when The Lord instructs Ezekiel to prophesy directly to Gog. In this passage the judgments of both wars are mentioned:
“Therefore, son of man, prophesy and say unto Gog, Thus saith the Lord God; In that day when my people of Israel dwelleth safely, shalt thou not know it? And thou shalt come from thy place out of the north parts, thou, and many people with thee, all of them riding upon horses, a great company, and a mighty army: And thou shalt come up against my people of Israel, as a cloud to cover the land; it shall be in the latter days, and I will bring thee against my land, that the heathen may know me, when I shall be sanctified in thee, O Gog, before their eyes.” – Ezekiel 38:14-16.
This passage is still referring to the Millennial war when Israel is dwelling safely. Note that Gog comes with “many people.” But in the subsequent verses, the passage shifts to discuss the judgment of Gog for both of the wars against Israel he initiates:
“Thus saith the Lord God; Art thou he of whom I have spoken in old time by my servants the prophets of Israel, which prophesied in those days many years that I would bring thee against them? And it shall come to pass at the same time when Gog shall come against the land of Israel, saith the Lord God, that my fury shall come up in my face. For in my jealousy and in the fire of my wrath have I spoken, Surely in that day there shall be a great shaking in the land of Israel; So that the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the heaven, and the beasts of the field, and all creeping things that creep upon the earth, and all the men that are upon the face of the earth, shall shake at my presence, and the mountains shall be thrown down, and the steep places shall fall, and every wall shall fall to the ground.”
This passage makes several reference to events that occur during the Day of The Lord and Daniel’s 70th week – the final 7 years before the Second Coming of Christ to Earth. Thus rather than being about the end of the Millennium – it is a reference to the events just before the millennium.
In Ezekiel 38:17 – the Lord asks Gog: “Art thou he of whom I have spoken in old time by my servants the prophets of Israel, which prophesied in those days many years that I would bring thee against them?”
This passage, often overlooked in commentaries on Ezekiel 38 is a glaring indicator to help understand the passage. In the Septuagint (the oldest extant version of the Old Testament and one that conforms most to the King James Version New Testament) the verse reads: “Thou art he concerning whom I spoke in former times, by the hand of my servants the prophets of Israel, in those days and years, that I would bring thee up against them.” (Ezekiel 38:17, LXX)”
Gog is someone referenced in Scripture by multiple prophets. So who could this be? This would be none other than the Antichrist – the satanically empowered false messiah who will rule the Earth for 3 1/2 years before the Second Coming of Christ. But what is critical to understand about the Antichrist is that his spirit inhabits the body of several leaders throughout Biblical history before assuming his final role of global ruler:
“And there are seven kings: five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come; and when he cometh, he must continue a short space. And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition.” – Revelation 17:10-11.
For more information on this see our article: The Return of the Antichrist and our forthcoming article: “Who Is Gog?”
The First Gog Magog War Occurs At The Day of The Lord
During the Day of The Lord, there will be earthquakes so devastating mountains will collapse:
“And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.” – Revelation 6:12-14.
This fulfills the prophecy of Ezekiel 38 of mountains being shaken so violently that they are thrown down. As Beginning and End has detailed in our Rapture Series, the opening of the 6th Seal initiates the Rapture and the start of the Day of The Lord – the Biblical name for the final end times period before the Second Coming of Christ (but commonly known as the Great Tribulation).
As detailed in our article: The Day of The Lord – The Event The Starts The End of The World, the opening of the 6th Seal triggers devastating earthquakes that lets the entire world know that God has now risen to judge the Earth:
“For the day of the Lord of hosts shall be upon every one that is proud and lofty, and upon every one that is lifted up; and he shall be brought low: And upon all the cedars of Lebanon, that are high and lifted up, and upon all the oaks of Bashan, And upon all the high mountains, and upon all the hills that are lifted up, And upon every high tower, and upon every fenced wall… And they shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth. In that day a man shall cast his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which they made each one for himself to worship, to the moles and to the bats; To go into the clefts of the rocks, and into the tops of the ragged rocks, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth.” – Isaiah 2:12-21.
Note that in this passage the “high mountains” are brought down low as well as every “high tower” and “fenced wall” when The Lord shakes the Earth. This is precisely what Ezekiel 38’s second section predicts as judgment against Gog:
“Surely in that day there shall be a great shaking in the land of Israel; So that the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the heaven, and the beasts of the field, and all creeping things that creep upon the earth, and all the men that are upon the face of the earth, shall shake at my presence, and the mountains shall be thrown down, and the steep places shall fall, and every wall shall fall to the ground.”
The Gog-Magog initial invasion will be met with a devastating earthquake of the Day of The Lord. Continuing in Ezekiel 38:
“And I will call for a sword against him throughout all my mountains, saith the Lord God: every man’s sword shall be against his brother. And I will plead against him with pestilence and with blood; and I will rain upon him, and upon his bands, and upon the many people that are with him, an overflowing rain, and great hailstones, fire, and brimstone. Thus will I magnify myself, and sanctify myself; and I will be known in the eyes of many nations, and they shall know that I am the Lord.”
This is the finial indication that the first Gog-Magog invasion coincides with the 6th seal of Revelation 6. When the seventh seal is opened there is “silence in Heaven” – a time of final warning to the Earth before the wrath of God is unleashed in the trumpet and bowl judgments. At the sounding of the first trumpet, The Lord Jesus Christ, at the altar in heaven casts a censer of fire to the Earth and the trumpet sounds unleashing the first judgment:
“The first angel sounded, and there followed hail and fire mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth: and the third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up.” – Revelation 8:7.
The judgments are almost identical to those prophesied against Gog. In fact as explained in our article on the angel at the altar in Revelation 8, the casting of the censer with brimstone and fire occurred in the Old Testament as well as a judgment against rebels against God.
Ezekiel 39 – The First Gog Magog Invasion In Detail
The Third Section describes the pre-Millennial invasion of Gog Magog:
“Therefore, thou son of man, prophesy against Gog, and say, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I am against thee, O Gog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal: And I will turn thee back, and leave but the sixth part of thee, and will cause thee to come up from the north parts, and will bring thee upon the mountains of Israel…
Thou shalt fall upon the open field: for I have spoken it, saith the Lord God. And I will send a fire on Magog, and among them that dwell carelessly in the isles: and they shall know that I am the Lord. So will I make my holy name known in the midst of my people Israel; and I will not let them pollute my holy name any more: and the heathen shall know that I am the Lord, the Holy One in Israel. Behold, it is come, and it is done, saith the Lord God; this is the day whereof I have spoken.” – Ezekiel 39:1-2; 5-8.
The Revelation 20- Millennial invasion by Gog and Magog involves the full forces of every remaining rebel against God on Earth. In the initial invasion described above, The Lord specifically preserves “one sixth” of Gog’s forces from destruction. Additionally Ezekiel 39:8 reveals the purpose of the initial Gog-Magog invasion:
“So will I make my holy name known in the midst of my people Israel; and I will not let them pollute my holy name any more: and the heathen shall know that I am the Lord, the Holy One in Israel.”
This battle and God’s supernatural defense of Israel will commence the end times reconciliation of Israel to The Lord Jesus Christ. It will be the start of a spiritual awakening in which Israel will once again acknowledge the God of the Bible and Lord and the remnant will come to saving faith in Christ. This is discussed in detail in our article: “All Israel Shall Be Saved! The End Times Salvation Israel.”
The “polluting” of God’s name is a reference to false worship in the temple:
“For the children of Judah have done evil in my sight, saith the Lord: they have set their abominations in the house which is called by my name, to pollute it. And they have built the high places of Tophet, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire; which I commanded them not, neither came it into my heart.” – Jeremiah 7:30-31.
In the end times, Israel will no longer engage in pagan religious worship but will return to Biblical Judaism. Clearly, if this was taking place after 1,000 years of Jesus ruling the Earth in Jerusalem, His Holy name would not be “polluted” “any more.” In the Millennium, Christ will be worshiped properly by Israelites who will be sought after by Gentiles for their Biblical wisdom. This verse alone established that the Gog-Magog conflict in Ezekiel 39 is pre-millennial as opposed to chapter 38 which is post-millennial.
Note The Lord also says: “…this is the day whereof I have spoken.” That “day” is the Day of The Lord, which is mentioned repeatedly in the Old Testament. It is the time when the church has been removed via the Rapture and God turns His Face, mercy and grace back towards Israel.
The Start of Daniel’s 70th Week
“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: So that they shall take no wood out of the field, neither cut down any out of the forests; for they shall burn the weapons with fire: and they shall spoil those that spoiled them, and rob those that robbed them, saith the Lord God.”
Once the battle is done, the Israelites will use the weapons for weapons for seven years – coinciding with the length of Daniel’s 70th week the specific time prophet outlined for the final reconciliation of Israel and restoration of the temple in the end times. The fact that the weapons are used for fuel and the very peculiar burial instructions for Gog and his armies also indicate that there is a supernatural element to this invading force (see our upcoming article: “Who Is Gog?” for more details).
Prophecy To The Birds And Beasts
“And, thou son of man, thus saith the Lord God; Speak unto every feathered fowl, and to every beast of the field, 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. 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.
“And ye shall eat fat till ye be full, and drink blood till ye be drunken, of my sacrifice which I have sacrificed for you. Thus ye shall be filled at my table with horses and chariots, with mighty men, and with all men of war, saith the Lord God.” – Ezekiel 39:17-20.
Being eaten by birds and beasts in ancient times was akin to the worst kind of defeat in battle. It is referenced many times in Scripture. Both David and Goliath threatened it to each other before David’s conquest, for example. This prophecy was to indicate that end times enemies of God: Gog, the Magog forces, the Antichrist and his armies, etc. will ultimately suffer that fate. This is confirmed in Revelation 19:
“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; 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.” – Revelation 19:17-18.
Again, in almost identical language the prophecy is confirmed. The end of section 4 also emphasizes the overall point of the first Gog-Magog invasion:
“And I will set my glory among the heathen, and all the heathen shall see my judgment that I have executed, and my hand that I have laid upon them. So the house of Israel shall know that I am the Lord their God from that day and forward.” – Ezekiel 39:21-22.
The unbelieving world will know God is real and rules the Earth. But additionally, Israel will awaken to the same understanding that The Lord is “their God” and this will happen “…from that day and forward.” Again, by a literal reading of the text it is clear that the conquest of Gog-Magog is the start of Israel’s spiritual awakening.
“And the heathen shall know that the house of Israel went into captivity for their iniquity: because they trespassed against me, therefore hid I my face from them, and gave them into the hand of their enemies: so fell they all by the sword. According to their uncleanness and according to their transgressions have I done unto them, and hid my face from them.” – Ezekiel 39:23-24.
The Lord’s Pronounced Reconciliation
Section 5 is God’s proclamation of His reconciliation of Israel:
“Therefore thus saith the Lord God; Now will I bring again the captivity of Jacob, and have mercy upon the whole house of Israel, and will be jealous for my holy name; After that they have borne their shame, and all their trespasses whereby they have trespassed against me, when they dwelt safely in their land, and none made them afraid. When I have brought them again from the people, and gathered them out of their enemies’ lands, and am sanctified in them in the sight of many nations;”
Like a loving Father the final section ends with God expressing why Israel went through its trials and tribulations: because of their sin. At the Second Coming of Christ, believing Israel will be regathered in the Promised Land and “dwell safely” for 1,000 years. They will have repentant hearts and faith in Jesus Christ, the Messiah who was once rejected. Many passages speak of this great day:
“Oh that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion! When God bringeth back the captivity of his people, Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad.” – Psalm 53:6.
“Thus saith the Lord; Behold, I will bring again the captivity of Jacob’s tents, and have mercy on his dwelling places; and the city shall be builded upon her own heap, and the palace shall remain after the manner thereof.” – Jeremiah 30:18.
This was the ultimate purpose. The Lord will bring the believing remnant of Israel back into good standing and let them occupy the nation and Jerusalem with Christ their king and all the brothers and sisters in the faith. Which is precisely the state they are in Ezekiel 38 (dwelling in unwalled villages in peace and safety of the Millennial kingdom).
“Then shall they know that I am the Lord their God, which caused them to be led into captivity among the heathen: but I have gathered them unto their own land, and have left none of them any more there.” – Ezekiel 39:28.
Lord willing, it is now clear that Ezekiel 38 and 39 describes two distinct invasions by the Gog-Magog forces that are over 1,000 years apart. The first invasion takes place at the start of the Day of The Lord and is abruptly ended when The Lord Jesus Christ hurls heavenly fire and brimstone to Earth and the judgments of the first trumpet are unleashed. The Second invasion will take place at the end of the Millennium, when believing Israel is dwelling in true peace. Satan will make his final attempt to usurp God but will fail spectacularly, leading to the Devil’s final punishment and the creation of the new Heaven and Earth.