Revelation Study: Ezekiel's War (Chapter 38-39)

"And I will send fire on Magog and on those who live in security in the coastlands." Ezekiel 39:6

Opening prayer: Father, this is a difficult study of a difficult subject. Help us to understand how this fits into Your plan and Your schedule, we pray.

This is a continuation of our series on the Revelation of Jesus the Messiah. If you haven't already done so, please take a few minutes to read Prophetic Update 2015 to get an understanding of what is happening in world events today.

Some portions of the Prophetic Update are essential to gaining perspective on Ezekiel's War:

In most of the other lessons on this site, we have chosen to simply unfold the Scriptures and develop key principles as we go along. For this lesson, we want to stress these key points in advance and reinforce them as the Scriptures direct:

Let's start this lesson with Ezekiel 38, verses 1-2:

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.

Wait! Who are these guys?

Good question. If you look on a modern map, you won't find any of these countries. God knew, when He gave this prophecy, that countries change names and people tend to move around. Therefore He described these people using names of tribal groups dating back to the immediate Post-Flood period. For perspective, the Bible gives us two major passages to help us interpret these two verses: Genesis 10:2-5 and Ezekiel 27:10-15.

Genesis 10, verses 2-5 says:

The sons of Japheth were: Gomer, and Magog, and Madai, and Javan, and Tubal, and Meshech, and Tiras. 3 And the sons of Gomer: Ashkenaz, and Riphath, and Togarmah. 4 And the sons of Javan: Elishah, and Tarshish, Kittim, and Dodanim. 5 By these were the coastlands of the Gentiles divided in their lands, every one after his tongue, after their families, in their nations.

"Magog" refers to a people known to the Greeks as the Scythians who†settled in Asia Minor, originally in the approximate area of Armenia. Eventually they†came to dominate all of Asia Minor (now Turkey) and spread eastward†as far as†China. The northern portion of Magog†included regions that are presently†in the countries of†Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan.

Note that while portions of Magog included provinces of the former Soviet Union and part of present-day Russia, it would be a severe stretch to say that Magog is Russia (although I believed that theory for several years).

"Tubal and Meshech" have been identified†with the Tubalu and Mushki tribes that settled in Asia Minor (Turkey), who were within the Magog sphere of influence. "Togarmah" settled in the southeastern part of Turkey, near what is now Syria. "Gomer" is known to historians as Gimarrai of north-central Asia Minor.

Please note that all the areas mentioned so far are predominantly Muslim. This will be a predominantly Muslim invasion.†

"Tarshish" settled in seaport areas surrounding the Mediterranean, mostly in western Europe, and became symbolic of Gentile nations a long sea journey west of Israel. Archeological evidence tells us that ships of Tarshish and Phoenicia traded with the North American continent -- before the ships of the Romans destroyed their fleets. As you may remember, the Hebrew prophet Jonah tried to escape by catching a ship to Tarshish. If God hadn't intervened, Jonah might have spent the winter in Miami.

Let's continue reading Ezekiel 38 with verses 3-4:

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.

Verses 3-4 tell us that the Lord is very unhappy with somebody called "Gog." The flavor of the passage tells us that Gog and and his buddies have been engaged in a long-standing pattern of hateful behavior toward Israel and toward the God of Israel. Therefore the God of Israel will give these folks exactly what they want -- an opportunity to invade and destroy Israel.

Note that Gog be the driving force behind this conflict. He will lead the people of Magog, Meshech and Tubal out to battle.

But who is Gog? Ask three Bible expositors and you'll get four answers. The Lord addresses him as a person who operates as head (Hebrew word Rosh) of Meshech and Tubal. Here are three of the most-likely candidates for Gog:

By the way, don't be misled by the archaic names for weapons described in verse 4: horses and horsemen, armor, bucklers, shields and swords. God is giving the prophet a word picture of a heavily armed group of soldiers. Ezekiel didn't have "tanks" and "missiles" and "rocket launchers" and "airplanes" in his vocabulary. He did have "armor" and "bows" and "arrows" and "swords."

Let's continue in Ezekiel with verses 5-7:

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.

Gog and Magog (Turkey and surrounding Muslim countries) will not be alone in this battle. According to these verses, Persia (Iran) will play a prominent role in this invasion. In addition, a nation called "Ethiopia" (most-likely to be Sudan and Somalia, which occupy a portion of ancient Ethiopia), Libya, Gomer (other Turkish tribes), and "the house of Togarmah of the north quarters" will also participate. Remember these participants. Remember that all these areas are presently Muslim peoples. We'll discuss them again later.

What about Egypt, Iraq and Syria? Won't THEY be involved?

Good observation. That is one of the oddest aspects of this account. Egypt and Syria (Damascus) have been enemies of Israel since the earliest Biblical accounts. In Ezekiel's day, Assyria and Babylon were the two most prominent and powerful oppressors of Israel, and both kingdoms were located in what is now Iraq. So why don't they participate in the invasion?

Egypt was at peace with Israel for decades under President Mubarak. However the Muslim Brotherhood seized control in 2011 and changed Egypt (for awhile) into an enemy of Israel. Not long ago (Summer of 2013), the Egyptian military regained control of the country and is consumed with the internal struggle against the radical Islamists. As long as the Egyptian military retains control, Egypt will be no worse than neutral to Israel. So there is at least a short-term opportunity for this invasion to proceed without Egypt.

The present-day Iraqis are as hateful as ever toward Israel, but Iraq is today (in 2015) consumed with a battle against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Likewise Syria is fighting for its life against ISIS. The struggle against ISIS will eventually be resolved, perhaps by establishing new national borders based on tribal groups and religious factions. Until then, we are in a limited window of time during which Syria and Iraq will not be part of the invasion.

Back to the subject of the invasion...

For additional insight, you should be aware that many of the nations mentioned in Ezekiel 38 are also mentioned in Ezekiel 27, which speaks of the destruction of Tyre (Lebanon). Some portions are particularly relevant to this discussion. Ezekiel 27, verses 10-15 says:

They of Persia and of Lud and of Phut were in thine army, thy men of war: they hanged the shield and helmet in thee; they set forth thy comeliness. 11 The men of Arvad with thine army were upon thy walls round about, and the Gammadims were in thy towers: they hanged their shields upon thy walls round about; they have made thy beauty perfect. 12 Tarshish was thy merchant by reason of the multitude of all kind of riches; with silver, iron, tin, and lead, they traded in thy fairs. 13 Javan, Tubal, and Meshech, they were thy merchants: they traded the persons of men and vessels of brass in thy market. 14 They of the house of Togarmah traded in thy fairs with horses and horsemen and mules. 15 The men of Dedan were thy merchants; many isles were the merchandise of thine hand: they brought thee for a present horns of ivory and ebony.

This passage is an eerie parallel to the destruction of Babylon described in Revelation 17. This raises the possibility that Ezekiel 27 has a parallel application to the ultimate destruction of the harlot religion in Revelation 17-18. I suggest reading Ezekiel chapters 26 and 27 as your homework, to gain greater perspective into the history and traditional alliances of the region.

Let's continue with Ezekiel 38, verses 8 through 12:

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.

These verses are very significant in helping us establish the timing of the invasion:

Verse 13 of Ezekiel 38 gives us some interesting insights:

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?

Sheba and Dedan represent the Arabian countries (Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Kuwait, etc.), who will be standing nervously on the sidelines. The group "merchants of Tarshish" sounds very much like the European Community and the USA (which might be "the young lions thereof"). Note that they are neither participating in the invasion nor helping defend Israel. The Arabian countries, in particular, are aware that Iran has been less-than-subtle in their quest to develop nuclear weapons. In a way, the Arabians will be relieved that this nasty group isn't coming for them, but they know that they're vulnerable.

Now verses 14-17:

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? 15 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: 16 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. 17 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?

Note that God takes this invasion personally. He refers to "My people" in verses 14 and 16. He speaks of "My land" in verse 16. He speaks of "My servants the prophets" in verse 17. It takes a special kind of stupid blindness to attack the kids and land of Almighty God.

This passage also gives us a subtle hint about the timing of this invasion. Note in verse 14 and verse 16 that God speaks of "My people." Please be very clear that "My people" means Israel in this passage. The Christian Church has NOT replaced Israel in the heart and promises of God. The Church of Jesus Christ is a temporary oddity ("a peculiar people") between the first and second comings of Jesus, the Messiah of Israel. By referring to Israel as "My people," the Lord is speaking of the time prophesied in Hosea chapter 1 when Israel is restored to the land and ready to be identified as the people of the Lord.

But why is that important?

Because it implies that this event happens after the initial Rapture of the Christians who are "alive and awake." See Raptures and Resurrections for details about this event. With the Bible-believing Christians gone from the scene, the Jewish people will be without their most-vocal allies. Another thought: If the invasion happens in the very near future, and the United States armed forces are still commanded by a President who was raised Muslim and has bowed to the Saudi king, the invading Muslim armies will think, "Nobody will step up to help Israel!" Like I said, it takes a special kind of stupid blindness to call the God of Israel "Nobody."

In recent years, the United States government has taken an unfortunate policy attitude toward Israel. The present administration refused to support Israel in its plans to destroy Iran's nuclear weapons facilities, and threatened to intercept Israeli fighter jets if they tried such an attack. In fact, this government is willing to sign a treaty with Iran that would essentially guarantee them the ability to develop nuclear weapons without hindrance. More alarmingly, the US government is pressuring Israel to partition itself into two countries and give half of Jerusalem to Muslim control. The obvious implication is that if Israel doesn't destroy itself, the United States will solemnly pronounce Israel to be the obstacle to peace in the Middle East. We have heard news reports that American troops are being positioned at various places in the Middle East. These troops could also be used to invade Israel in response to some future action (or inaction) by Israel. It is apparent that the new administration has already decided to take the side of God's enemies. This attitude might explain a mysterious passage that we'll study later in this lesson.

Note that God is actually planning and permitting this invasion for His glory. In verse 16 it says: "...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." In other words, God will turn this whole event into an opportunity for "the heathen" (your neighbors?) to observe His awesome and miraculous power.

How will His power be displayed? Verses 18-23 tell us how:

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. 19 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; 20 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. 21 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. 22 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. 23 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.

God will display His awesome power and wrath in many ways:

Does this passage teach that there will be a nuclear war?

This passage itself is not conclusive. But this passage definitely tells us that something with the devastating power of nuclear war will be unleased against the invaders. Later passages will tell us more. For now, rest assured that God doesn't need any help from earthly weapons builders to make this happen. He was able to torch Sodom and Gomorrah without a single man-made weapon.

Now let's step back and look at the entire prophetic picture. We know from the prophecies of Daniel that the Last-Days' Dictator first gains fame by helping broker a treaty between Israel and "many." The Last-Days' Dictator will most likely be a "peace maker" arising from the general area previously ruled by the "King of the North." Today, that area is covered by Syria, Iraq and parts of Lebanon, Iran and Israel. That terrible person could originate from any of those countries. It is not likely that he will be a European, unless his genetic ancestors are from the Middle East. Furthermore, the most-likely time for the Last-Days' Dictator to broker or ratify this treaty (between Israel and the surviving remnants of its enemies) would be immediately following the invasion described in Ezekiel 38-39.

At this point, let me offer some observations and speculation:

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