Many Bible prophecy commentators insist that an attack on Israel led by Gog of Magog described in Ezekiel 38 will transpire before the start or at the start of the tribulation. This teaching is prevalent, but is it correct? In this article, I critique the teaching that the Gog and Magog war will occur before the start or at the start of the tribulation.
The Challenge of Timing
There’s two big issues that make it hard to place the events of Ezekiel 38 and Ezekiel 39 in an end times timeline.
- These chapters contain details that can arguably fit the events described in different time frames.
- Revelation 20:7-9 refers to a Gog and Magog war during a final revolt led by Satan at the end of the Millennium.
“(7) And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, (8) 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. (9) 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)
As a result, there are differing views about the fulfillment of Ezekiel 38 and Ezekiel 39.
Ezekiel 38 contains the first direct reference to Gog from the land of Magog. Ezekiel 38:1-7 lists the nations that’ll join the Gog and Magog war on Israel:
“(1) And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, (2) Son of man, set thy face against Gog, the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him, (3) And say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against thee, O Gog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal: (4) 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: (5) Persia, Ethiopia, and Libya with them; all of them with shield and helmet: (6) Gomer, and all his bands; the house of Togarmah of the north quarters, and all his bands: and many people with thee. (7) Be thou prepared, and prepare for thyself, thou, and all thy company that are assembled unto thee, and be thou a guard unto them.” (Ezekiel 38:1-7)
The modern day locations of these nations is not a focus of this article nor is the identity of Gog. We are trying to find the timing of Gog and Magog war. Let’s continue.
Ezekiel 38:8-18: Israel Before the Gog and Magog War
Ezekiel 38:8-18 describe the inhabitants of the land of Israel and the mountains of Israel enjoying great peace and prosperity when Gog invades.
“(8) 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. (9) 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. (10) 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: (11) 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, (12) 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. (13) Sheba, and Dedan, and the merchants of Tarshish, with all the young lions thereof, shall say unto thee, Art thou come to take a spoil? hast thou gathered thy company to take a prey? to carry away silver and gold, to take away cattle and goods, to take a great spoil?” (Ezekiel 38:8-13)
Some argue that the peace and prosperity in the land of Israel and in the mountains of Israel described by Ezekiel 38 is related to either:
- A great victory that Israel will have over its neighbors prior to the start of the tribulation.
- Israel living under a false sense of security before the start or at the start of the tribulation.
My counterpoint to those ideas is that the safety and prosperity described in Ezekiel 38 is consistent with what occur during the Millennium in Israel.
Ezekiel 38:8: Dwelling Safely
Ezekiel 38:8 states that the inhabitants of Israel will dwell safely at the time when the Gog and Magog war begins.
“(8) 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.” (Ezekiel 38:8)
The Hebrew word for “safety” (betach) appears in verses that refer to the security that Israel will have in the Millennium. Ezekiel 34:25-29 is a good example where betach shows up three times:
“(25) And I will make with them a covenant of peace, and will cause the evil beasts to cease out of the land: and they shall dwell safely in the wilderness, and sleep in the woods. (26) And I will make them and the places round about my hill a blessing; and I will cause the shower to come down in his season; there shall be showers of blessing. (27) And the tree of the field shall yield her fruit, and the earth shall yield her increase, and they shall be safe in their land, and shall know that I am the LORD, when I have broken the bands of their yoke, and delivered them out of the hand of those that served themselves of them. (28) And they shall no more be a prey to the heathen, neither shall the beast of the land devour them; but they shall dwell safely, and none shall make them afraid. (29) And I will raise up for them a plant of renown, and they shall be no more consumed with hunger in the land, neither bear the shame of the heathen any more.” (Ezekiel 34:25-29)
Other examples include Jeremiah 23:5-7, Jeremiah 32:37-39, and Zechariah 14:10-11. Jeremiah 23:5-7 and Jeremiah 32:37-39 are displayed in the following table:
Dwelling Safely in the Millennium
Jeremiah 23:5-7: (5) Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth (6) In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS. (7) Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that they shall no more say, The LORD liveth, which brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt;
Jeremiah 32:37-39: (37) Behold, I will gather them out of all countries, whither I have driven them in mine anger, and in my fury, and in great wrath; and I will bring them again unto this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely: (38) And they shall be my people, and I will be their God: (39) And I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me for ever, for the good of them, and of their children after them:
Some may wonder why the people of Israel will feel safe. Ezekiel 28:24-26 states they will dwell safely after the Lord judges their enemies:
“(24) And there shall be no more a pricking brier unto the house of Israel, nor any grieving thorn of all that are round about them, that despised them; and they shall know that I am the Lord GOD. (25) Thus saith the Lord GOD; When I shall have gathered the house of Israel from the people among whom they are scattered, and shall be sanctified in them in the sight of the heathen, then shall they dwell in their land that I have given to my servant Jacob. (26) And they shall dwell safely therein, and shall build houses, and plant vineyards; yea, they shall dwell with confidence, when I have executed judgments upon all those that despise them round about them; and they shall know that I am the LORD their God.” (Ezekiel 28:24-26)
It’s easy to imagine why the inhabitants of Israel will feel safe. They will know that they have a Protector who can destroy anyone who may pose a threat to them.
Ezekiel 38:11: Unwalled Villages & Cattle
Zechariah 2:1-5 is a passage about the Millennium. It states that Jerusalem will be a city without walls because of the large population and the cattle that live there:
“(1) I lifted up mine eyes again, and looked, and behold a man with a measuring line in his hand. (2) Then said I, Whither goest thou? And he said unto me, To measure Jerusalem, to see what is the breadth thereof, and what is the length thereof. (3) And, behold, the angel that talked with me went forth, and another angel went out to meet him, (4) And said unto him, Run, speak to this young man, saying, Jerusalem shall be inhabited as towns without walls for the multitude of men and cattle therein: (5) For I, saith the LORD, will be unto her a wall of fire round about, and will be the glory in the midst of her.” (Zechariah 2:1-5)
These details align with Ezekiel 38:11, which describes Israel as a land of unwalled villages and a land where its inhabitants own cattle:
Unwalled Villages and Cattle
Ezekiel 38:11: 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, 12 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.
Zechariah 2:4-5: (4) And said unto him, Run, speak to this young man, saying, Jerusalem shall be inhabited as towns without walls for the multitude of men and cattle therein: (5) For I, saith the LORD, will be unto her a wall of fire round about, and will be the glory in the midst of her.
As was just mentioned, cities in Israel will have no need for protective walls and barriers during the Millennium because the Lord will serve as the land’s walls and bulwarks (see also Isaiah 60:16-18):
“(1) In that day shall this song be sung in the land of Judah; We have a strong city; salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks. (2) Open ye the gates, that the righteous nation which keepeth the truth may enter in. (3) Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. (4) Trust ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength:” (Isaiah 26:1-4)
7 Years to Burn Weapons
Some suggest that the Gog and Magog war must come near the start or at the start of the tribulation because people will take seven years to burn the weapons used in the invasion:
“(9) 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: (10) 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.” (Ezekiel 39:9-10)
This view makes little sense because the people of Israel will be persecuted during the tribulation. In contrast, I do not see any reason why the people in Israel could not simply clean up the weapons in the land during the Millennium.
A Complete Gathering of Israel
The biggest reason why I do not believe that the Gog and Magog war will come prior to the start or at the start of the tribulation relates to the aftermath of Gog’s defeat described in Ezekiel 39. Ezekiel 39 mentions that there will be a complete gathering of Israel from the nations after the defeat of Gog:
“(21) 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. (22) So the house of Israel shall know that I am the LORD their God from that day and forward. (23) 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. (24) According to their uncleanness and according to their transgressions have I done unto them, and hid my face from them. (25) 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; (26) 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. (27) 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; (28) 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. (29) Neither will I hide my face any more from them: for I have poured out my spirit upon the house of Israel, saith the Lord GOD.” (Ezekiel 39:21-29)
Many passages indicate that this gathering will occur near the start of the Millennium. For instance, Isaiah 11:11-12 describe a global gathering of the Lord’s people after He has returned:
“(11) And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea. (12) And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.” (Isaiah 11:11-12)
In addition, Isaiah 66:18-20 describes the gathering of the surviving nations to Jerusalem and the survivors will bring the remnant of Israel with them:
“(18) For I know their works and their thoughts: it shall come, that I will gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come, and see my glory. (19) And I will set a sign among them, and I will send those that escape of them unto the nations, to Tarshish, Pul, and Lud, that draw the bow, to Tubal, and Javan, to the isles afar off, that have not heard my fame, neither have seen my glory; and they shall declare my glory among the Gentiles. (20) And they shall bring all your brethren for an offering unto the LORD out of all nations upon horses, and in chariots, and in litters, and upon mules, and upon swift beasts, to my holy mountain Jerusalem, saith the LORD, as the children of Israel bring an offering in a clean vessel into the house of the LORD.” (Isaiah 66:18-20)
Let’s also consider Deuteronomy 30:1-6 and Ezekiel 36:21-26. The similarities between these passages and Ezekiel 39:25-28 are shown in the table below:
The Global Gathering of the Remnant of Israel Before the Millennium
- Gathering of Israel
- Change in Heart
Ezekiel 39:25-28: (25) 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; (26) 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. (27) 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; (28) 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.
Deuteronomy 30:1-6: (1) And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt call them to mind among all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath driven thee, (2) And shalt return unto the LORD thy God, and shalt obey his voice according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul; (3) That then the LORD thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath scattered thee. (4) If any of thine be driven out unto the outmost parts of heaven, from thence will the LORD thy God gather thee, and from thence will he fetch thee: (5) And the LORD thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it; and he will do thee good, and multiply thee above thy fathers.(6) And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.
Ezekiel 36:21-26: (21) But I had pity for mine holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the heathen, whither they went. (22) Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD; I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine holy name’s sake, which ye have profaned among the heathen, whither ye went. (23) And I will sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the heathen, which ye have profaned in the midst of them; and the heathen shall know that I am the LORD, saith the Lord GOD, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes. (24) For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. (26) A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.
Therefore, “they shall dwell safely all of them” in Ezekiel 38:8 refers to the gathering of Israel that will take place near the start of the Millennium”.
“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.” (Ezekiel 38:8)
Multiple Invasions by Gog?
I do not believe a Gog and Magog war will occur before the start or at the start of tribulation. Instead,
- I believe Ezekiel 38 has a lot of details about the Gog and Magog war in the Millennium (some which I did not mention in this article for the sake of keeping this article from being twice as long).
- I also believe there may be some details in Ezekiel 38 and especially in Ezekiel 39 about an attack in the latter stages of the end times.
Therefore, it is not unreasonable for Ezekiel 38 and Ezekiel 39 to cover two time periods like how Jeremiah 50 and Jeremiah 51 may cover multiple periods of fulfillment. Read Psalm 83 War & the Gog Magog End Time Invasion if you want to read about the invasion that will transpire in the latter stages of the end times.
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