During the last few weeks of our labors in Houston, Texas, as Missionary of our Protestant Reformed Churches, it was our privilege to have discussed rather broadly the implications of Revelation 20:1-10. As happens so often, when studying the Bible, thus it also was our happy experience to find that we could only interpret this passage of Scripture in the light of other clear and lucid passages of Scripture. And so it happened, that, when we came to consider the meaning of Rev. 20:7-10, particularly verses 7 and 8, it became necessary to study also Ezekiel 38 and Ezekiel 39. For we were confronted with the question as to what the meaning is of the text “. . . and shall come forth to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to the war: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea.. . . .”
We were told by the brethren and sisters in Houston that they felt that I should sometime write a series of articles, an expository study of the Scriptures, as they teach us what God prophesied concerning Gog and Magog in the Old Testament Scriptures, and further shown to John on the isle of Patmos in visionary, apocalyptic form to transpire at the very end of the New Testament dispensation, the end of the ages. They felt that here we have some definite revelation which gives us directives to understand the altogether unique history in which we are living today with the rise of the nations, literally at the four corners of the earth. All the earth and all the nations are awakening and taking part in history!
The question is: is Satan loosed from the chains, that held him for a thousand years, so that he could not deceive the nations? And is God permitting him with the divine permission of His will and counsel to perform his desire to marshal1 the nations together against the Church, against Israel, so that the camp of the saints is being steadily and surely surrounded, Rev. 20:9? Are these the days of which Jesus speaks when he says: “But when ye see these things begin to come to pass, look up, and lift up your heads: because your redemption draweth nigh.” Luke 21:28. Such was the final conclusion to which we arrived in the aforementioned study. We were not to attempt to change the “course of history” as determined by the Lord and foretold in all the prophets, but were to look at this prophetic word, as a light which shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn and the day-star arise in our hearts. II Peter 1:19.
In this series of essays we will call attention primarily toEzekiel 38 and Ezekiel 39 and to Revelation 20:8. Of course, we shall try to ascertain the meaning of this prophecy also from other passages of Holy Writ, interpreting Scripture in the light of Scripture.
May this modest effort on our part contribute somewhat for a better understanding of this somewhat obscure passage of Holy Writ, and, above all, for a better understanding of our fast-moving times on the clock of God’s history in the world!
Time And Circumstances Of Ezekiel’s Prophecy
The prophet Ezekiel lived and prophesied during the time of the deportation of Judah to Babylon. He prophesied from the fifth year of Jehoiachin, B.C. 595. He was a contemporary prophet of Jeremiah, who continued to prophesy in the land of Judah; Ezekiel was deported with the royal captives into the land of Chaldea, and seems to have lived at the river Chebar. His prophecy is thus at the end of the second fourteen generations; from David to the Babylonian Captivity. He stood on the threshold of the era in Israel’s history which would constitute the last of the three “14 generations” of which is spoken in Matthew 1:17. He stands at the beginning of the great decline. The glory of Israel is departed. Jerusalem lies in ruins, her walls are broken down, her sons are carried away, and seemingly the promise of God to give the land to Israel has failed! And the enemies reproach the name of God all the day, saying that the Lord hath forsaken Zion, and that He is no longer jealous over her; that the zeal of the LORD of hosts over the beloved city has ceased. God’s work has come to an end; the LORD hath forsaken His people! And the righteous, in the land of captivity, sigh and hang their harps upon the willows, because they cannot sing the LORD’S song in a strange land! Psalm 137:1 ff.
Such are the circumstances in which the Word of the LORD comes to Ezekiel.
Now the search-light of prophecy must cast its light across the ages, lighting the way more and more unto the perfect Day, the Day of our Lord Jesus Christ. For is He not the end of the law for righteousness to every one who believeth? Is He not the fulfillment of all their hopes, the glory of His people Israel and the light of the nations? Luke 2:32. Truly, Israel shall never really again be a nation. Such may be the boast and aim of the proud patriots of Jesus’ day (John 8:33), and they may try to maintain the last remnant and semblance of a place among the nations (John 11:48); but the hard fact is and remains that after the Babylonian Captivity Israel never was an independent nation again, but rather was the “battlefield of the nations.” It was the place and land where the nations of the three continents, Asia, Europe, and Africa, fought their battles, and the land which they, traversed in their battle with each other. It was the “navel” of the earth. Ezekiel 38:12. Israel has this strategic, geographical position at the time of the writing of the prophecies. But Israel, as a land, never again comes to glory. Do not the disciples ask the Lord at the time of His ascension from Olivet, “Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” Acts 1:6.
What we have just written in the foregoing paragraph is of utmost importance for the proper understanding of Ezekiel’s prophecy concerning Gog and Magog! If Israel is never restored again after the Babylonian Captivity, then the fulfillment of this prophecy is still to be realized in the “last times.” It means, then, that the hope of Abraham to receive land of promise is to be fulfilled in that the Lord will destroy Gog and Magog; that the land will be cleansed from the dead of the armies of Gog, who are destroyed by the Lord utterly. The search-light of prophecy here is beamed across the ages, and we see the final battle of God with his foes to give the land to Israel and to His seed forever. And this realization will not be at the end and close of the “Millennium,” as erroneously conceived of by the Chiliasts of every color and shade, but will be realized in a “better country, that is, an heavenly.” Hebrews 11:16, God has prepared for Israel a city, and therefore He is not ashamed to be called the God of Israel, the true Israel of God, according to the purpose of election!
Israel, the Israel of God, will be restored!
They shall surely return from captivity. Only it shall be the remnant that shall return! Isaiah lo:22 ff. reads: “And it shall come to pass in that day, that the remnant of Israel, (shear/) and such as are escaped out of .the house of Jacob, shall no more stay upon them that smote them; but shall stay upon the LORD, the Holy One of Israel in truth. The remnant shall return, even the remnant of Jacob, unto the mighty God. For though thy people Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, yet a remnant of them shall return: the consumption decreed shall overflow with righteousness, For the LORD God of hosts shall make a consumption, even determined in the midst of all the land.” Yes, they returned, but it was a very small group, hardly large enough to survive. It was but a remnant. The greatest majority never returned to the land! The types and shadows are being broken down, and they are removed for better things to come! Thus had Isaiah prophesied some hundred and fifty years before Ezekiel already! Hence, Israel will never again return to the former state of being a nation in the land under her own King! The throne of David shall never again be erected upon earth, but shall be established forever in the glories of the heavenly Canaan, at the right hand of the majesty of God.
Wherefore Ezekiel’s calling unto the office of prophet is signaled by an apocalyptic theophany as portrayed in Ezekiel 1. It is on a par with the vision of the throne and of Him who sitteth thereon in the Apocalypse of John, Chapter 4. Ezekiel portrays to us the glories of the New Testament Pentecostal universality of Israel in the symbolic temple, and the glories of the ages to come, when Israel shall possess the land forever in a new heaven and a new earth where righteousness shall dwell.
Now the chapters 38 and 39 reveal to us what will take place in the latter days, just before the descent of the New Jerusalem, and the ushering in of the eternal state, when the tabernacle of God shall be with man; we see here the end of the ages and the Parousia of Jesus Christ. Rev. 21:3; Matt. 24:3. In the appearance upon the scene of history of Gog and Magog we are brought to the final battle; this will be the consummation of the ages. After the destruction of Gog in the land of Israel there shall be no more history. Then it can be said: it is done!
The Identity Of Gog and Magog
It is interesting to notice that, in the entire Old Testament, the only reference to Gog as a King and Magog as a nation is in Ezekiel 38 and 39. Magog, as a nation, is spoken of in Ezekiel 38:2, where we read: “Son of man, set thy face against Gog, the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him . . .” Also in Chapter 39:6 we read of Magog as follows: “And I will send a fire on Magog, and among them that dwell carelessly (confidently) in the isles: and they shall know that I am the Lord.” The only reference directly to Gog and Magog in the New Testament we find in the Apocalypse of John. In Rev. 20:8we read: “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.”
So much for the Scripture references to Gog and Magog.
The question is: to what nations does Magog belong? Who is this Gog? Can he be identified as a definite historic personage, such as can be done with Pharaoh, king of Egypt. And can Magog be found on the Bible map at the time of Israel’s deportation into exile in Ezekiel’s day? Again we ask: has there ever been a nation since the time of Exile which was called by the name of Magog, and who had a king named Gog? O, to be sure, in the early times of the Patriarchs we meet with a man, the son of Reuben who is called Gog. However, in vain do we look for any king or nation with that name, as a historic person in the past.
We are confident that the name “Gog” must be a symbolic one. It means: high, a mountain. Hence, it evidently is a symbolic name for a king, a ruler with the most lofty pretenses ever to have come up into the heart of a man against the Lord and against His Anointed. It is the symbolic name for the leader of all the nations who come to battle against the church, and who are slaughtered in the battle of God Almighty in the end of time, the consummation of history!