Understanding Armageddon and the Gog-Magog Invasion

Understanding Armageddon and the Gog-Magog Invasion

UNDERSTANDING ARMAGEDDON AND THE GOG-MAGOG INVASION

The term Armageddon is one of the best known (and least understood) four-syllable biblical words. Some suggest that the term Armageddon references a battle that is profiled in the book of Revelation, others suggest it references two or more conflicts, separated by a thousand years. Some argue that Armageddon does not refer to a battle at all, but to a location. Of those who believe it is a geographic location are two groups – one believes it is a valley, the other teaches it is a battle in the mountains. Others note that the Battle of Armageddon is linked to (and the same as) the conflicts mentioned in Psalm 83 and Isaiah 17, while still others link the Battle of Armageddon with the engagements mentioned in Ezekiel 38-39 (also called the Gog-Magog War).

This article will provide a biblical overview of pivotal battles and wars in prophetic passages of Scripture, and how these battles and wars correlate with the Battle of Armageddon.

WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT? Satan loves confusion, doubt, and division. Those who do not know the truth are vulnerable to false teaching and can easily become discouraged when prophecies fail to unfold as bad teachers predict (as was the case which Jesus did not return in May of 2014, or October 2015). Believers in Christ are to know the teachings of Christ and be able to “correctly handle the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15b).

KEY PROVISIONS  In recent decades there has been a push to view the Bible as allegorical. Many now hold that the Bible may impart a few generally positive guiding principles, but it certainly is not a living, Spirit-inspired message from God to be taken literally. Many faulty approaches to interpreting Scripture flow from this corrupt view. In researching this vital subject and writing this article, I followed the most common hermeneutic practices (procedures governing the interpretation of Scripture) established by conservative leaders of the historic Christian Church. These guiding principles include:

  • A belief that the Bible is accurate, true, and inspired.
  • A belief that major prophetic sections of the books of Revelation and Ezekiel are written in chronological order.
  • A belief that Bible prophecy is specific and every detail of a prophecy must be fulfilled for the prophecy to be considered fulfilled. [For example, if a prophecy notes that 6 nations will attack Israel, and only 4 nations attack, that prophecy would be considered not yet fulfilled.]
  • A belief that some variance in detail does not negate the possibility of writers profiling the same event. [For example, the Gospel writers presented significantly different details when recording the events that took place on the Sunday following the cross.]

KEY TERMS Understanding what Bible prophecy notes will happen in the future begins with an understanding of key biblical terms. These include:

  • Armageddon: The word appears only once in the New Testament (Rev. 16:16) and references the location of the last (and decisive) battle before the return of Christ and commencement of His Millennial Reign. This battle will conclude the seven-year Tribulation period. During this battle the armies of the Antichrist and False Prophet will be defeated by Jesus Christ. The Antichrist and False Prophet will be judged and thrown into the pit of fire, and Christ will then usher-in His Millennial Kingdom.
  • Millennial Reign: The literal 1000-year period in which Christ will reign on a renewed earth in fulfillment of the Isaiah 9:7 prophecy. His Kingdom and reign will be marked by peace and righteousness. His subjects will include the saints, Tribulation martyrs, and believers who survived the Tribulation period. [Please view this linked video teaching for additional information on this vital subject: https://vimeo.com/260667687]
  • The Gog-Magog War: In general, this references vast evil armies moving against Israel. The primary biblical reference point for this war is Ezekiel chapters 38-39, however, the terms Gog and Magog are also referenced in Revelation 20.
  • Elam: An ancient reference to southwestern Iran (Persia).
  • Gog and Magog: In Genesis 10, Gog is mentioned as an individual (a descendant of Noah), and his land is Magog. Gog can also be understood as a title, meaning leader. e., Gog is the leader of the inhabitants of Magog.

WHAT IS CLEAR Though there is debate regarding the interpretation of some prophetic passages, the vast majority of Bible Scholars agree on the basics.

  • The Psalm 83 War is NOT the Battle of Armageddon or the Gog-Magog War. The names of the nations or people groups attacking Israel, the scope of the battle, how Israel is victorious in the fight, and the aftermath of the battle are markedly different in the Psalm 83 War than in the Battle of Armageddon (Revelation 16-19) or the Gog-Magog War (Ezekiel 38-39).
  • The Psalm 83 War can likely be linked to the destruction of Damascus (noted in Isaiah 17), and the expansion of Israel’s borders or sphere of control (noted in Ezekiel 23, Jeremiah 49 and Isaiah 19).
  • The Battle of Armageddon is profiled in Revelation 16-19.
  • Ezekiel’s eschatological profile of future Israel is chronological. Chapter 36 prophecies promise a renewed Israel, chapter 37 prophecies note a restored Israel, chapter 38-39 prophecies notes an invasion against a restored Israel, and chapter 40 prophecies profile the Millennial Reign of Christ in Israel.
  • The Bible notes that there are TWO battles involving Gog and Magog. There is conjecture regarding the timing of the first Gog-Magog conflict, but virtually all conservative scholars agree that this conflict is profiled in Ezekiel 38-39 and will precede the Millennium. The second Gog-Magog conflict will take place at the end of the Millennial Reign of Christ, and is profiled in Revelation 20:1-10.

WHAT IS NOT ABSOLUTELY CLEAR Good Bible scholars are not in agreement on the following points regarding the wars.  

  • Whether or not the Psalm 83 War prophecy has already been fulfilled. Most believe that the Psalm 83 War is yet future, but some notable teachers hold that Psalm 83 prophecies were fulfilled in the battle for Israel that took place in 1948, or that Psalm 83 prophecies were fulfilled in stages, in conflicts that took place in 1948, 1949, 1967 and 1973. Those who hold this view believe that the Isaiah 17 prophecy regarding the destruction of Damascus is imminent but can occur separately from the fulfillment of the Psalm 83 prophecy by some years.
  • Whether or not the Ezekiel 38-39 Gog-Magog War is the same is the Revelation 16-19 Battle of Armageddon. What follows is a comparative analysis of the two conflicts.

WHY SOME BELIEVE THE REVELATION 16-19 BATTLE OF ARMAGEDDON AND THE EZEKIEL 38-39 GOG-MAGOG CONFLICT ARE ONE AND THE SAME.

  • In both conflicts, vast armies attack Israel.
  • In both conflicts, God intervenes and brings about the victory (which is different from the Psalm 83 War where Israel’s army, blessed by God, secures the victory).
  • The depiction of God’s wrath in Ezekiel 38:19-22 resembles happenings associated with the Battle of Armageddon as profiled in Revelation 16. In both passages, God aids Israel by sending an earthquake and pestilence, and fire and hail fall from the sky.
  • The Revelation 16-19 Battle of Armageddon directly precedes the Millennial Reign of Christ, which tracks well with the eschatological chronology in Ezekiel: in chapter 36 there is a promise to renew the land of Israel, in chapter 37 Israel is restored as a nation, in chapters 38-39, Israel is attacked but supernaturally protected, and in chapter 40 the Millennial Reign of Christ begins.
  • The immediate aftermath of the wars is similar when comparing Ezekiel 39:17-20 with Revelation 19:17-20.
  • God and Magog are mentioned in Ezekiel 38 and Revelation 20.
  • Historically, most have equated the Gog-Magog War with Armageddon.
  • The devastating earthquake that flattens every mountain in Ezekiel 38 is very similar to the earthquake prophesied to take place during the Battle of Armageddon in Revelation 16.

WHY SOME BELIEVE THE REVELATION 16-19 BATTLE OF ARMAGEDDON AND THE EZEKIEL 38-39 GOG-MAGOG CONFLICT ARE SEPARATE AND DISTINCT CONFLICTS

  • There seem to be more nations involved in the Battle of Armageddon than in the Gog-Magog
  • In the Gog-Magog War of Ezekiel 38-39, it takes seven months to bury the dead, and Israelis utilize enemy weapons for fuel for seven years. This is not mentioned in the Revelation 16-19 Battle of Armageddon, and some argue that because the Revelation 16-19 battle happens at the end of the Tribulation period, there is not an interpretation allowing for the burying of the dead over a period of months, or for the use of enemy weapons as fuel for seven years. Note: The argument is that such activity would extend well past the end of the Tribulation period, and would not appear to fit well with the time that Jesus reigns on a supernaturally renewed earth and is providing for His people in what is known as the Millennial Reign of Christ.
  • The purpose of God bringing victory to Israel in the Ezekiel 38-39 Gog-Magog War is to bring Israel to repentance so that all acknowledge the Lord. The purpose of God moving to bring victory to Israel in the Battle of Armageddon is to deliver believers from the horrors of the reign of the Antichrist.
  • In Matthew 24 and in Revelation 12, those who flee the wrath of the Antichrist run to the hills (a move encouraged by Jesus in Mark 13:14). However, the Gog-Magog War takes place in the mountains (which God will flatten via a supernatural earthquake). This likely puts this Ezekiel 38-39 Gog-Magog War before the mid-point of the Tribulation.
  • In the Ezekiel 38-39 Gog-Magog War, the name of the leader of the armies advancing against Israel is Gog—in Hebrew, the numerical value of his name is 12. In the Battle of Armageddon, the leader of the armies advancing against Israel is the Beast—the numerical value of his name is 666.
  • In Ezekiel 38-39, the battle takes place in the mountains of Israel, and the battle does not seem to impact In the Revelation 16-19 Battle of Armageddon, enemy forces are vanquished in a valley (Joel 3:2), and a river of blood runs through Israel (Rev 14:20).
  • The Ezekiel 38-39 Gog-Magog War occurs when Israel is enjoying peace and safety (“…a nation of unwalled villages…” 38:11). The Revelation 16-19 Battle of Armageddon takes place at the end of the Tribulation. At that time, the Antichrist is oppressing and threatening to destroy Israel, and some Hebrews have fled to the mountains of Petra (Revelation 12:6) for safety.
  • The purpose of Gog-Magog invasion is to “take the spoil,” while the purpose of Armageddon is to destroy Israel once and for all.
  • The primary direction of advancing armies in the Gog-Magog War come from the North—in the Battle of Armageddon enemies move against Israel from all corners of the globe.
  • At the end of the Battle of Armageddon, Jesus Christ stands on the Mount Olivet—there are no references to a divine presence appearing in the Ezekiel 38-39 Gog-Magog

RESPONSES TO ANTICIPATED QUESTIONS REGARDING THE ABOVE   (see red font):

  • There seem to be more nations involved in the Battle of Armageddon than in the Gog-Magog It is possible that Ezekiel 38 presents a partial listing of enemy nations (noting only key players or leaders of the engagement), and that the “every nation of the world” verse associated with the Battle of Armageddon is a general statement meaning many nations are involved in the attack. Neither passage provides conclusive evidence to argue for or against the view that the Gog-Magog War is the same as the Battle of Armageddon.
  • In the Gog-Magog War of Ezekiel 38-39, it takes seven months to bury the dead, and Israelis utilize enemy weapons for fuel for seven years. This is not mentioned in the Revelation 16-19 Battle of Armageddon, and some argue that because the Revelation 16-19 battle happens at the end of the Tribulation period, there is not an interpretation allowing for the burying of the dead over a period of months, or for the use of enemy weapons as fuel for seven years. In the Gog-Magog War, the dead are buried—in the Battle of Armageddon the dead are vaporized by the power of God or savaged by birds and wild animals. The differences regarding the dead, and the fact that Israel will use weapons of war for fuel for seven years after the Gog-Magog War represents reasonably compelling evidence supporting the view that the Gog-Magog War and the Battle of Armageddon are two separate conflicts.
  • The purpose of God bringing victory to Israel in the Ezekiel 38-39 Gog-Magog War is to bring Israel to repentance so that all acknowledge the Lord. The object of God moving to bring victory to Israel in the Battle of Armageddon is to deliver believers from the horrors of the reign of the Antichrist. Again, these differences represent reasonably compelling evidence supporting the view that the Gog-Magog War and the Battle of Armageddon are two separate conflicts.
  • In Matthew 24 and in Revelation 12, those who flee the wrath of the Antichrist run to the hills (a move encouraged by Jesus in Mark 13:14). However, the Gog-Magog War takes place in the mountains (which God will flatten via a supernatural earthquake). This likely puts this Ezekiel 38-39 Gog-Magog War before the mid-point of the Tribulation. References to the location of the Gog-Magog War and the Battle of Armageddon are general and do not provide conclusive evidence that these are two different conflicts. Those who argue that Armageddon must take place in the Valley of Jehoshaphat must remember that the engagement will involve millions of soldiers and that soldiers and equipment will likely occupy the entire region. Also, the word Armageddon means the mound (mountain) of Megiddo or “Mountain of Assembly.”
  • In the Ezekiel 38-39 Gog-Magog War, the name of the leader of the armies advancing against Israel is Gog—in Hebrew, the numerical value of his name is 12. In the Battle of Armageddon, the leader of the armies advancing against Israel is the Beast—the numerical value of his name is 666. The difference in how the key leaders are referenced (more than the difference in the numerical value of the names of the leaders) represents reasonably compelling evidence supporting the view that the Gog-Magog War and the Battle of Armageddon are two separate conflicts.
  • In Ezekiel 38-39, the battle takes place in the mountains of Israel—the battle does not seem to impact In the Revelation 16-19 Battle of Armageddon, enemy forces are vanquished in a valley (Joel 3:2), and a river of blood runs through Israel (Rev 14:20). Again, references to the location of the Gog-Magog War and the Battle of Armageddon (and the inclusion of the detail about the ‘river of blood’) do not represent conclusive evidence that these are two different conflicts.
  • The Ezekiel 38-39 Gog-Magog War occurs when Israel is enjoying peace and safety (“nation of unwalled villages” 38:11). The Revelation 16-19 Battle of Armageddon takes place at the end of the Tribulation, at a time when the Antichrist is oppressing and threatening to destroy Israel (and some Hebrews have fled to the mountains of Petra (Revelation 12:6) for safety. In the Hebrew text, the term “safety” can be understood as confidence. That is, though there is a threat of war (as there is today), Israel can be at peace and feel safe because they are confident in their military’s ability to check any threat against them. This is the primary counter-argument to those who teach that Israel will only live in peace and safety AFTER the Psalm 83 War and expansion of borders or AFTER they enter into a peace compact with the Antichrist (Daniel 9:27).
  • The purpose of Gog-Magog invasion is to “take the spoil,” while the purpose of Armageddon is to destroy Israel once and for all. The distinction regarding motive represents compelling evidence supporting the view that the Gog-Magog War and the Battle of Armageddon are two separate conflicts.
  • The primary direction of advancing armies in the Gog-Magog come from the North—in the Battle of Armageddon enemies move against Israel from all corners of the globe. The different notations regarding the direction of the attack do not represent conclusive evidence that the Gog-Magog War and Battle of Armageddon are separate The reference “from the North” can merely be a reference to the location of the base of the principal leader, the primary (but not sole) direction of the advance, or the direction that armies from the four corners of the earth will gather and begin their advance.
  • At the end of the Battle of Armageddon, Jesus Christ stands on Mount Olives, but there are no references to a divine presence appearing in the Ezekiel 38-39 Gog-Magog Even though Ezekiel was writing before the birth of Christ, the distinction regarding the conclusion of these battles is significant enough to represent compelling evidence supporting the view that the Gog-Magog War and the Battle of Armageddon are two separate conflicts.

REASONABLE CONCLUSIONS

  • The Psalm 83 War prophecy could be partially fulfilled at this point in history, but it appears that all Psalm 83 prophecies have not yet been completely fulfilled. It can be argued that the 10 nations or people groups identified in Psalm 83 have not, in coordination, attacked Israel as prophesied, and the stated result of the Psalm 83 War – that these nations would be “filled with shame and seek your name” (83:16-18) has not yet been realized.
  • The Isaiah 17 prophecy regarding the destruction of Damascus can likely be associated with (or will immediately follow) the Psalm 83
  • The expansion of Israel’s borders will likely be associated with (or immediately follow) the complete fulfillment of the prophesied Psalm 83 and Isaiah 17 conflicts (see Ezekiel 23, Jeremiah 49 and Isaiah 19).
  • The expansion of Israel’s borders (see Ezekiel 23, Jeremiah 49 and Isaiah 19) likely explains why the nations near Israel are not mentioned in the coalition of nations attacking Israel in the Ezekiel 38-39 Gog-Magog War or Battle of Armageddon.
  • The Ezekiel 38-39 Gog-Magog War is different from the Battle of Armageddon, and because it will take place in the mountains (where God’s people will later take refuge), the battle will likely take place before the midpoint of the Tribulation.
  • There will be TWO wars associated with the terms Gog and Magog. The first is the war is profiled in Ezekiel 38-39, the second is profiled in Revelation 20 and takes place at the end of the Millennial Reign of Christ.

PROJECTED TIMELINE/SEQUENCE OF EVENTS (Note: It is possible that several of the prophecies noted below will be fulfilled simultaneously)

  • The Psalm 83 War prophecy will be completely fulfilled.
  • Damascus will be destroyed (Isaiah 17).
  • Israel’s borders will expand (Ezekiel 23, Jeremiah 49 and Isaiah 19).
  • Elam (southwest Iran) will threaten Israel but will be destroyed by a preemptive Israeli strike (Jeremiah 49:34-39).
  • Russia (Rosh/Ros or Gog) will lead an invasion against Israel—advancing from the North (Ezekiel 38-39).
  • The Antichrist will stand in a new Temple in Jerusalem and proclaim himself to be God (2 Thess. 2:4).
  • The Antichrist will lead the armies of the world to attack Jerusalem in the Battle of Armageddon (Rev. 16-19).
  • The Battle of Armageddon will conclude when Jesus appears on Mt. Olivet and defeats all enemy forces (Rev. 19:17-21). The Antichrist and False Prophet will be thrown into the fiery lake of burning sulfur (Rev. 19:20).
  • The Millennial Reign of Christ will begin after the Battle of Armageddon. After 1000 years, Satan will be released and will lead one last desperate battle against the rule of God. He will gather forces and attempt to attack Jerusalem in the second war associated with the terms Gog and Magog (Rev. 20:7-10). Satan and all who follow him will be defeated. Then will come the final judgment and eternal reward for believers (Rev. 20:11-15).

WHAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN BEFORE THE PROPHECIES CAN BE FULFILLED?

  • Regarding the Rapture: NO prophecies need to be fulfilled before the Rapture takes place. The Rapture can come at any time. All are cautioned to be ready for the imminent return of the King (Matt. 24:44).
  • Regarding the Psalm 83 War: Some aspects of this prophetic war may have been fulfilled, but as stated in the Responses To Anticipated Questions section above, several key parts of this prophecy seem to be yet outstanding. The fulfillment of this prophecy is likely among the next of the major prophecies to be fulfilled.
  • Regarding the Isaiah 17 prophecy concerning the destruction of Damascus: This prophecy is likely linked to the Psalm 83 War and among the next of the major prophecies to be fulfilled.
  • Regarding the Ezekiel 38-39 Gog-Magog War: Ezekiel 38:4 notes that “I will turn you around…” That is, Russia will reverse its traditionally hostile position toward Israel and the Jewish people (Russia currently actively supports the enemies of Israel with weaponry, economic aid, and intelligence reports). Before this war, Russia must appear as the friend of Israel, and must coordinate a vast coalition of infantry to march against Israel with the stated purpose of “gaining spoil.”
  • Regarding the Battle of Armageddon: This battle is profiled in the final chapters of the book of Revelation, which assumes that the Antichrist has been in control of world systems for several years, the new Temple has been built and the seven-year Tribulation period is nearly complete.

WHAT ARE THE CORE TAKE-AWAY TRUTHS IN THIS TEACHING?

  • The Rapture can happen at any time. Tell others. Be ready.
  • Many of the prophecies noted in this document can be fulfilled rapidly, or simultaneously. World events can change quickly—current alliances can be broken, and former friends can become fierce enemies overnight. It is not wise to project that it will take months or years for the political landscape to change so specific prophecies can be fulfilled. Believers should teach that latter-day prophecies can be fulfilled in the near future.
  • Psalm 83 prophecies may have been fulfilled, but the Isaiah 17 prophecy regarding the destruction of Damascus and the multiple prophecies regarding the expansion of Israel’s borders are yet future. These conflicts may set the stage for the Antichrist to broker a peace agreement between Israel and her enemies.
  • The prophecy regarding the sense of peace and security that Israel enjoys before the beginning of the Ezekiel 38-39 war may already be fulfilled (if peace and security are to be understood as confidence in their military strength). Still, that aspect of the Ezekiel 38-39 Gog-Magog War prophecy is but one of several components that need to be fulfilled for the Gog-Magog War to unfold as foretold.
  • Believers are to proclaim what prophecy notes will happen in the future – In every battle God stands with Israel, the integrity of the Bible is validated, and the Lord desires that the wonder of it all draws people into a personal relationship with Him through His Son Jesus Christ.

 

For information on how to enter into a relationship with Christ, please see the following resources:

 

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