Gog and the Antichrist Revisited
by Douglas Berner
Within the larger issue of contention regarding the identity of the Antichrist, whether he will be eastern or western in origin, or whether he will be a European Gentile, Jewish, or Islamic, it has been claimed by some students of prophecy that the Antichrist is the same person addressed as Gog in the prophecy of Ezekiel 38–39 and that the war of Gog and Magog is the same as the war of Armageddon. It is not my purpose to address the larger issue regarding the origin of the Antichrist, however the narrower issues regarding the relationships between Gog and the Antichrist and Gog and Magog and Armageddon deserve further consideration.
I have previously addressed several aspects of these issues in my book The Silence is Broken! God Hooks Ezekiel’s Gog & Magog, and two articles: Gog, Antichrist, Armageddon, and the Presence of God; and Gog: Are You The One? Both articles are available on my website www.thesilenceisbroken.us.
The Mother of All Battles
It has been proclaimed that the war of Gog and Magog (Ezekiel 38–39) is exactly the same as the war of Armageddon (Revelation 16:12-14; 19:11-21). One argument raised in support of this belief is the claim that there is only one unfulfilled invasion of Israel predicted by Bible prophecy. It is said that there is only one major end-time war and that is the Battle of Armageddon which takes place at the end of the Tribulation at the time of Christ’s second coming. Thus, all of the end-time prophecies which deal with military conflict must teach essentially the same thing by focusing on different aspects of the war of Armageddon. To paraphrase Saddam Hussein, Armageddon must be the “Mother of all Battles.”
While we can rightly consider Armageddon to be the “war to end all wars,” at least until Satan’s final rebellion at the end of the Millennium (Rev 20:7-10) and that will not really develop into a war, is it the next war? Is Armageddon the only major war of the End Times? Do all of the following prophetic passages: Psalm 83; Isaiah 17; 63:1-6; Ezekiel 38–39; Daniel 11:40-45; Joel 2:1-11; Micah 4:11-13; Zechariah 12:1-9; 14:1-15; Matthew 24:6-7; Revelation 6:3-4, 7-8, 12-17; 9:16-19; 13:7; 16:12-14; 19:11-21; along with many others, focus on the same war? The plain and simple answer is – No!
In His prophetic Olivet Discourse Jesus plainly stated that there must be wars and rumors of war, but the end is not yet. “For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in diverse places. All these are the beginning of sorrows” (Mt 24:6-8). The time of the end begins with war. Will it begin with a little military conflict? No. It will be a major conflict and it will be accompanied by famine, pestilence, and earthquakes, all at the same time. This is not the war of Armageddon.
Do we see evidence of this war anywhere else in prophetic scripture? Yes. We see this evidence exactly where we should expect it to be – near the beginning of the opening of the seals of God’s judgments by Jesus Christ in Revelation 6. The breaking of the second seal reveals a symbolic rider on a red horse who is given power by God to take peace from the earth by wielding a great sword. This is clearly symbolism for a great war. The breaking of the third seal reveals the accompanying famine and economic crisis while the fourth seal informs us that one fourth of the population of the earth will be killed during this series of events which make up the beginning of the Day of the Lord. The description of the sixth seal completes the picture with the impact of a global earthquake, the shaking and splitting of the heavens, and the realization by the peoples of the earth that the great day of God and Christ’s wrath has finally come (the Day of the Lord). Is this Armageddon? No. Is this the second coming of Christ to the earth? No. This is not the end of the Tribulation – it is just the beginning!
The Beginning of the End Jesus clearly teaches that the time of the end begins with a major war and it ends with a major war. Both wars are associated with global earthquakes. Are we to believe that God would be completely silent throughout Old Testament scripture regarding the war which will begin the judgments of the Day of the Lord? If not, what type of prophetic passage should we look for?
- This prophecy will be focused on Israel. The message is to and about Israel – not the church.
- The Day of the Lord begins with the end of the Church Age (Age of Grace). This prophecy will be about judgment, not grace. Yet, it will also be about God’s compassion and possessiveness regarding Israel.
- This prophecy will deal with Israel’s relationship to God and to the world. Since Israel, as a people and as a nation, is in rebellion against God (by largely denying God Himself, as well as by rejecting Jesus as God’s Messiah) this prophecy should reflect Israel’s rebellion against God. Israel will be profaning God’s name.
- God has hidden His face from Israel during this Church Age. This prophecy will be about God returning His face to Israel.
- It will be an Old Testament prophecy which predicts a war involving Israel.
- This passage will not characterize Israel as strong, militarily victorious on its own, but desperate for God’s supernatural intervention.
- This prophecy will reveal that God will intervene to save Israel from almost certain destruction.
- This prophecy should reveal God’s supernatural manner of intervention utilizing earthquakes, pestilence, and other natural disasters.
- It would also be consistent for this prophecy to emphasize the realization on the part of Israel and the nations of the world that God has taken a stand and intervened in judgment.
These characteristics sound very much like the war of Armageddon, yet they are criteria for the beginning of the End Times. Since Israel will be profaning God’s holy name at the time, Israel will not yet have accepted Jesus as the Messiah. Therefore, while this prophecy will be about God’s intervention, it will not be about the physical coming of the Messiah.
Can it possibly be that the beginning of the end is really so similar to the end of the end? Absolutely! Why do some scholars confuse the description of the events of the breaking of the sixth seal in the book of Revelation with the second coming of Christ? This is no coincidence or accident of prophecy. God has, for His own reasons, designed a prophetic plan where the beginning of the End Times mimics the end of the End Times. The Day of the Lord will begin suddenly with catastrophe on a global scale and the Tribulation will end with an even greater catastrophic finale at the time of Armageddon and the second coming of Christ. Where the sixth seal reveals a global earthquake and disasters impacting each and every person on earth (it should be noted there are exactly seven categories of people identified in Revelation 6:15), the earthquake that is part of the seventh bowl judgment will be the greatest earthquake ever to impact the earth throughout the history of man (Revelation 16:18).
What Old Testament prophecy could possibly meet all of these criteria? There is one and only one such passage. That prophecy is the war of Gog and Magog described in Ezekiel 38–39. Therefore, it should be no surprise that there are many similarities between Gog and Magog and Armageddon.
While some authors have gone to great lengths to note and list the similarities to demonstrate that these are the same war, we should be very careful and realize that similarity does not necessarily make for sameness. It is not the similarities which are critical to understand in determining between these wars – it is the differences! In spite of the many similarities, there are several dynamic differences.
Differences Between Gog and Antichrist
The differences between Gog and Antichrist and Gog and Magog and Armageddon become manifest when one closely examines the following issues: character, ambition, empowerment, economic, geographic, and security.
Character and Ambition:
Israel has been attacked by an alliance of multiple nations several times since its reemergence as a nation in 1948, and none of these wars qualified a Middle Eastern leader to be the Antichrist. Saddam Hussein’s ambition and ego to become the modern Nebuchadnezzar in Iraq did not qualify him to be the Antichrist. The Iranian President Mahmoud Amadinejad’s rants and ravings for the destruction of Israel do not qualify him to be the Antichrist. The desire to be a world dictator is not enough. The desire to destroy Israel is not enough. Being against the God of Israel, or against Jesus as the Son of God and the Messiah is not enough. Being a primary character named in an end-time prophecy is not enough. To be eligible for consideration as the Antichrist an end-time leader must accomplish several very specific objectives.
The Antichrist will rise to power after ten kings are in place on the world stage. He will conquer other world leaders (at least three) (Daniel 7:8, 24). The Antichrist will become a world dictator to whom other kings will submit their power (Revelation 17:12, 17). The Antichrist will enter into a seven-year covenant with Israel and then he will break that covenant after 3 ½ years and betray Israel. The Antichrist will present himself as God and demand to be worshipped (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4; Revelation 13:8, 12-15). The Antichrist’s ego will know no bounds. The Antichrist will speak great things and blaspheme against God (Daniel 7:20; Revelation 13:5-6).
Can we make any of the same statements about Gog? No. Gog may have the ambition to become a global dictator, but we have no evidence that he has anything close to that kind of power. Gog will be the overall leader of an alliance of nations that will invade Israel. However, Ezekiel presents no evidence that other kings submit their power or kingdoms to Gog. It is not said that Gog is actually ruling the nations which are allied to him and which will accompany him in the invasion of Israel. Nor is there any indication that Gog has any religious ambition. Gog does not declare himself to be God, nor is he described as blaspheming the name of God. Gog will be against the God of Israel in that his invasion will be a denial that God will or can protect Israel.
God is against Gog. The evil plan for the invasion is enough reason for God to indict Gog. But, to lay on Gog the religious ambitions of the Antichrist would be to make an assumption that is clearly not warranted. The character test fails the necessary requirements for identifying Gog as the Antichrist.
The Antichrist will be supernaturally empowered to have dominion over the earth for 3 ½ years (Daniel 7:25; Revelation 13:5, 7-8). Revelation 13:7 clearly states that the Antichrist will have power over all nations, including Israel. The Antichrist will be supernaturally empowered by Satan, but his authority will also be sanctioned by God. God will not only allow the reign of the Antichrist, He will sanction it for 3 ½ years. Satan will endow the Antichrist and False Prophet with the power to perform miracles (Revelation 13:12-15) to deceive the peoples of the world. The Antichrist will have the power to kill God’s two supernatural witnesses at the end of their 3 ½ year ministry (Revelation 11:7). The Antichrist will have supernatural power and authority over the kings of the earth to the extent that by demonic power all of the kings of the earth are summoned to do battle at the time of Armageddon (Revelation 16:13-16).
Study the prophecy of Ezekiel 38 and ask yourself whether Gog, as an end-time leader of an alliance of nations invading Israel, has any of these supernatural powers or any authority sanctioned by God. Is there any evidence that Gog has or had any supernatural power? No. Is there any evidence that Gog has or had any sanctioned authority over the nations from God? No. Is there any evidence that Gog has had any power or authority over the Jewish Temple, Jerusalem, or Israel prior to his invasion? No. Gog is commanded to prepare and be a guard over the armies of his alliance to ensure that they are ready for the invasion and that is it. Gog does not have 3 ½ years of sanctioned global power prior to his invasion and it is very likely that his period of preparation will last much longer than 3 ½ years. Gog will be led into the invasion to his own destruction for God’s own purposes. Gog fails the empowerment test to be qualified for the role of the Antichrist.
The Antichrist through the False Prophet will attempt to control the economy of the entire world (Revelation 13:16-17). “And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.” It has been emphasized that the Antichrist will be involved in the plunder and spoil of several nations including Israel. The passages of Isaiah 10:5-7 and Daniel 11:24 have been applied by some to the Antichrist as evidence of this activity. Certainly the passages of Daniel 11:43 and Zechariah 14:1-2 do provide evidence of the spoiling and plundering of Egypt and Israel. It is further emphasized that after the Antichrist is successful in conquering and seizing much plunder, he will divide lands (Daniel 11:39) and distribute loot among his followers.
This activity has been compared to Gog because part of Gog’s motivation to invade Israel is to take a spoil, to capture wealth (Ezekiel 38:12-13). However, that is where the similarity ends. Ezekiel never characterizes Gog as being in control or attempting to control the world’s economy or to enslave the people of the entire world. Gog is in control of a regional alliance, nothing more.
Gog never gets to fully capture his intended spoil from Israel. At the very time that Gog invades Israel, God reacts in fury to destroy the invading forces (Ezekiel 38:18-19). What little plunder that the Gog and Magog forces do seize is soon lost. Instead, Gog’s dead armies are plundered by Israel (Ezekiel 39:9-10). God does not send Gog to trample, but to be trampled. Gog is not an instrument of God’s judgment, but and instrument for God’s intervention. Gog never gets the chance to conquer Israel, even for a short time, or to divide lands, or to distribute spoil and plunder among his armies. Gog will not pass through Israel during his invasion to enter and conquer Egypt and gain control of Egyptian treasures as does the Antichrist (Daniel 11:43). Gog and his forces are wiped out by God in short order. Gog fails the economic test.
Geographic: The Antichrist, while in league with Satan and the False Prophet, will have supernatural power over all of the kings of the earth (Revelation 16:13-16). After his rise to power, the ten kings of the earth will submit the power of their kingdoms to him (Revelation 17:17). The war of Armageddon will be characterized by all of the nations of the world gathering to do battle in the land of Israel. The kings are not named, their nations are not identified, their territories are not described. The focus at the time of Armageddon is on the totality of the world being gathered to war.
Most scholars who differentiate between Gog and Magog and Armageddon make the point that Gog represents a large but limited alliance of nations as opposed to the gathering of all nations which is characterized by Zechariah 14:2 and Revelation 16:14. Gog will be the overall leader of an alliance of several named nations: Magog, Meshech, and Tubal which are grouped together and related, followed by Persia, Ethiopia, Libya, Gomer, and Togarmah, accompanied by some unidentified peoples.
It has been claimed by advocates of the Magog is Armageddon camp that these unidentified peoples represent all of the rest of the unnamed nations of the world. It is pointed out that the Hebrew word עם “am” which the KJV translates as “people” carries the meaning of nations. Therefore, Gog must be leading all of the nations of the world against Israel.
Who are the unidentified people? “Gomer, and all his bands; the house of Togarmah of the north quarters, and all his bands: and many people with thee. …. 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” (Ezekiel 38:6, 9).
Why did the translators of the KJV use the word “people” instead of nations? Because the primary meaning of the word “am” is that of people in the context of some kind of unit, as a family group such as a tribe, clan, troop, or band. Can it mean nation? Yes. Does it carry the meaning of nations as in all of the nations of the world based upon the context of this prophecy? It is very unlikely.
Ultimately, since they are unidentified we cannot know who they will be exactly. However, we can observe the context and perspective that God has used to placed them in this prophecy. God focuses on Gog of the land of Magog, chief prince of Meshech and Tubal (or, prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal). He then identifies three nations: Persia (Iran), Ethiopia, and Libya. Finally, God mentions Gomer and the house of Togarmah and their bands.
What is the context by which the alliance is identified? Is it by geography – from greater geographical area to smaller areas? Is it by importance – from greater importance in the alliance to lesser importance? It is unlikely that the listing is random. Both Gomer and Togarmah are mentioned in the context of having subgroups (bands). These groups are probably spread out geographically and not concentrated in one single location. In both verses, six and nine, the additional “many people” are simply tacked on after the “bands.” Within the context of Ezekiel 38 this placement indicates that these “people” have a position of lesser importance. Does this sound like all of the nations of the world?
The vast majority of this alliance, based upon the identified nations, has a common denominator – Islam. This is an Islamic alliance which comes to invade and wipe out the nation of Israel. Within the context of modern Islam there are subgroups which are established and which wage war, primarily by terrorism, but which do not officially have nation status. Hamas, Fatah, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, al Qaeda, and the Muslim Brotherhood are but a few of these groups. It is possible that God is pointing his finger at groups such as these as participating in this invasion. It also makes sense that nations like Iran who strongly provide support for Islamic terrorist proxy groups would be assisted by these groups when the sponsoring nations finally decide to invade Israel.
The Old Testament describes several limited alliances against Israel. One alliance is described in Psalm 83. This alliance is composed of peoples whose territory is in the midst or immediately adjacent to the land of Israel. Ezekiel 38–39 is an alliance which does not name any of the immediate neighbors of Israel, but describes a circle of enemies which lies outside the neighboring nations. Other Old Testament scriptures describe all of the nations of the world coming against Israel as does Zechariah 14. The New Testament does not identify limited alliances against Israel. The focus of the book of Revelation is on all of the world and all of the nations being gathered against Israel. The very fact that a limited alliance is named and described in the Old Testament serves as a differentiation between that alliance and Armageddon.
Geographically the invasion of Gog and Magog reveals a ring of nations coming at Israel from all directions, with the primary thrust from the far north, not from all over the world. The invasion will come suddenly, unexpectedly, without a massing of nations and armies near Megiddo before marching on towards Jerusalem. Ezekiel strongly portrays Gog and Magog as a large but limited alliance, not one that is global. Gog fails the geographic test required for the Antichrist and Armageddon.
This characteristic is not a focus directly on Gog, or on Antichrist, but on Israel. Ezekiel specifically states that at the time of Gog’s invasion Israel will be “at rest” and dwelling safely (Ezekiel 38:8, 11, 14). It must be realized that this is not true and complete safety or security as Israel will not have that until after the second coming of Christ and the war of Armageddon has been terminated. However, Ezekiel clearly points out Israel’s frame of mind at the time of the invasion. Israel will be dwelling under a false sense of security. The people of Israel will be dwelling in the land of Israel and will not actively be at war. The invasion will catch them by surprise.
How is this requirement possible at the time of Armageddon? Some proponents of the Magog is Armageddon view argue that Israel will be under a sense of security because of the covenant of peace that they have signed with the Antichrist and that fulfills this requirement. It is true that some scholars interpret Ezekiel’s description of Israel to mean that Israel is dwelling under the protection of the Antichrist based upon the seven-year covenant of peace that has been agreed upon. However, that is an assumption as this covenant is nowhere to be found in the prophecy of Ezekiel 38–39. Even if that were the case, the false sense of security based upon the covenant with the Antichrist will be dashed at the time of his betrayal and breaking of the covenant at the middle of the Tribulation. There will be no security or even a false sense of security for the people of Israel during the second half of the Tribulation. Many scholars refer to that time as the “Great Tribulation” or the “Time of Jacob’s Trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7).
Israel will not be dwelling safely or securely in any sense of the terms during the 3 ½ years that the Antichrist is supernaturally empowered – especially during the time that the war of Armageddon begins. Israel’s relationship to the Antichrist based upon the seven-year covenant of peace cannot fulfill this condition mandated by Ezekiel 38. The invasion of Gog and Magog must take place prior to the point in time that the Antichrist betrays Israel at the midpoint of the Tribulation.
The invasion of Israel by Gog and Magog will come suddenly, unexpectedly, and will catch Israel by surprise. The war of Armageddon will not come suddenly, unexpectedly, catching Israel by surprise. The Antichrist’s betrayal may catch Israel by surprise, but Gog and Magog cannot be the Antichrist’s betrayal of Israel at the midpoint because that is when the Antichrist comes into his full empowerment which lasts for the next 3 ½ years. Gog and his forces will be destroyed almost immediately by God. The Antichrist is not destroyed at or near the midpoint, otherwise Armageddon would never take place. Armageddon does not begin at the midpoint. Armageddon does not and cannot take place until the end of the Tribulation, otherwise it will be an invasion and war that would last for full 3 ½ years. That is clearly not the situation Ezekiel describes. The Antichrist and Armageddon fail the security test required for Israel at the time of Gog and Magog.
The Face of God
In Ezekiel 38:20 God strongly proclaims that “all the men that are upon the face of the earth, shall shake at my presence” as a result of God’s supernatural intervention by a global earthquake. It has been interpreted that this intervening presence of God is none other than the physical second coming of Christ at the time of Armageddon. The Hebrew word “panim” used in Ezekiel 38:20 for the presence of God has been compared to the Greek word “parousia” for the presence or coming of Christ as in 2 Thessalonians 2:8. Does God intend for us to understand that His intervening presence in Ezekiel 38:20 is through the physical return of His Son, Jesus, as the Messiah to the surface of the earth?
Strong’s informs us that the Hebrew word “panim” carries the meaning of “the face (as the part that turns).” In connection to God, this is symbolically the face of God. This word is directly derived from another Hebrew word which means to turn, to turn oneself, or to turn one’s face. This is also a different Hebrew word than the one that is used for God’s face in Ezekiel 38:18. The one in 38:18 focuses on the face in the context of the nostrils. The use of “panim” in 38:20 reveals that by intervening to protect Israel from this invasion God is turning His face back toward Israel. Ezekiel also uses “panim” in reference to God’s face in verses 39:23, 24, and 29.
Why is this significant? The symbolism of God turning or hiding His face is used extensively throughout the Old Testament. When God warned Moses what would happen when Israel broke God’s covenant, God stated He would hide his face from Israel. “Then my anger shall be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them, and I will hide my face from them, and they shall be devoured, and many evils and troubles shall befall them; so that they will say in that day, Are not these evils come upon us, because our God is not among us?” (Deuteronomy 31:17). This is the equivalent of God turning His face away from Israel. See: Deuteronomy 31:18; 32:20; Job 13:24; 34:29; Psalm 27:9; 30:7; 44:24; Isaiah 8:17; 54:8; 59:2; 64:7; Jeremiah 33:5; and Micah 3:4.
Israel rebelled against God and God did turn His face away from Israel. God turned His face toward the Church and His face will remain focused on the Church until the end of the Age of Grace. When will God return His face back towards Israel? How will God turn His face? Will it be at the second coming of Christ? God returns His face to Israel at the time of the invasion of Gog and Magog when He intervenes on their behalf. This will not be the second coming of Christ because Israel will not have yet accepted Jesus as the Messiah. Why will God not wait until the second coming to return His face? Because when He removes the Church from the earth at the rapture He will refocus His prophetic attention on Israel. The rapture is a pretribulational event. God’s face will be turned towards Israel throughout the Day of the Lord when He brings His judgments to bear upon the nations of the earth.
God turns His face in Ezekiel 38:20 at the time He is shaking the earth by a global earthquake which will impact every human being. We see this identical scenario in Revelation 6:12-17 with the opening of the sixth seal. The people of the world attempt to hide themselves from God. “And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb:” (Revelation 6:16). Note that they are trying to hide from the face of God sitting on His throne. This is the wrath of God and Jesus, but it is not yet the physical second coming of Jesus. Compare this with Isaiah chapter 2. This is not Armageddon. We do not have prophecy which describes all of the people hiding underground at the time of Armageddon. This is the point when the Day of the Lord begins, not ends. The face of God turned back towards Israel is not the return of Christ to the surface of the earth.
God’s Purpose for Gog and Magog
What possible purpose could the great similarity between Gog and Magog and Armageddon serve? What purpose could God have for beginning the time of the end with a great war centered on Israel and accompanied by natural disaster on a global scale?
- God’s intervention serves as a great awakening for Israel to return to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Israel, as a nation, will now be ready to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. Israel still has to be hammered by God to force it to the point of accepting Jesus as Messiah. That is why the Tribulation and the time of Jacob’s trouble come after the invasion of Gog and Magog.
- Gog and Magog’s defeat at the beginning of the Day of the Lord serves as a false fulfillment of Armageddon so that Israel and the nations of the world can believe that all of God’s wrath is finished.
- Israel betrayed God by refusing to accept Jesus as the Messiah. God is setting Israel up to accept the wrong Messiah and to be betrayed by that leader. God’s process of turning His face back towards Israel will force Israel to look for a Messiah. How will Israel know the right Messiah? A common joke between Judaism and Christianity is that when the Messiah comes the Jews will ask him if it is his first trip to Israel, or his second? If it were only that simple. Not until Israel is betrayed by the leaders who they do accept on their own will the Jews, as a national body of people be ready to come to terms with God’s true Messiah. Until Israel is ready for Jesus, Jesus will not come.
- God sets Islam for a great awakening to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and to Jesus as the Son of God and Messiah. It is probable that the largest body of people on earth that is ripe for a conversion to Jesus is the mass of followers of Islam. How and when will that conversion take place? If Islam is destined to be ascendant, victorious over the west and Israel until the end of the Tribulation, the subjugation of the Muslim peoples to Allah and their submission to the enslavement of Islam will only increase. Several significant Islamic victories would only cement their false beliefs to an intractable position from which any mass conversion would not be possible before the second coming of Christ. However, God’s supernatural intervention by decisively defeating the Islamic invasion of Gog and Magog against Israel at the beginning of the Day of the Lord would serve as that catalyst.
- Through His supernatural and global intervention, God drives a stake through the heart of atheism. The battle now is God vs. Satan.
What about the Messianic language that is used in Ezekiel 39:21-29? The argument is commonly made that the closing verses of the prophecy of Gog and Magog describe conditions which will only be true during the Messianic Kingdom or Millennium which begins after Armageddon and the second coming of Christ. This observation is true and it raises a valid question. However, God does not look at time in the manner that we do.
There is an established principle in prophecy referred to as “prophetic telescoping.” God uses time lapses in His prophetic language quite frequently. Within the context of a verse, or between consecutive verses, without any acknowledgement of a break in the text, there is a lapse of time, sometimes short, sometimes very long – hundreds to thousands of years. The timing and accomplishments of a suffering Messiah can become confused with the timing and accomplishments of a victorious Messiah. The events of the end of an age can blend with the events of the beginning of that age. The giving of God’s covenant promises can leap to the fulfillment of the promises, without noting the intervening lapse of time.
The classic example of prophetic telescoping is the passage of Isaiah 61:1-2a vs. 61:2b-3 which was demonstrated by Jesus and recorded in Luke 4:18-21. Jesus distinguished between the acceptable year of the LORD and the day of vengeance of our God. Two adjacent statements which are only separated by a comma in the text are separated by the length of time between the first and second comings of Christ. See: Psalm 110:1 vs. 110:2; Isaiah 9:6a vs. 9:6b-7; Isaiah 11:1-2 vs. 11:3-4; Isaiah 40:4 vs. 40:4-5; and Daniel 9:26 vs. 9:27. There are many other examples in scripture of time lapses.
While the passage from Ezekiel 39:21-29 is primarily pointed at fulfillment during the Messianic Kingdom, God does not state that these conditions will be fully and immediately established upon the destruction of Gog and Magog. The requirement for the full implementation of these conditions rests upon Israel’s acceptance of Jesus as the Messiah. Will Israel be polluting the holy name of God at the time of Armageddon and the second coming of Christ? Will Jesus return because Israel is polluting God’s name? Or, will Israel be past that form of rebellion against God and be ready to accept God’s true Messiah? Jesus will not return until Israel repents of its national rebellion against God (Jeremiah 3:13; Hosea 5:15; 14:1-2; Matthew 23:37-39). If you read Isaiah 53:3-9 really closely and place yourself in the mindset of a repentant Israel, you can see that this important passage is a national confession on the part of Israel repenting of its rejection and treatment of God’s Messiah. Jesus will then come and forgive Israel’s national iniquity (Jeremiah 31:34; 33:8; 50:20; Lamentations 4:22; Daniel 9:24).
How does this apply to Israel at the time of Gog and Magog in Ezekiel 38–39? Ezekiel 39:7 makes it clear that Israel will be polluting God’s holy name at the time of Gog’s invasion and destruction. Israel will not have repented of its national iniquity, nor will it be ready to repent. This spiritual condition on the part of Israel of still being in rebellion against God at the time of Gog’s invasion completely eliminates Gog and Magog from being the war of Armageddon and the second coming of Christ.
When we understand that there is a clear scriptural basis for the teaching of more than one major war during the time of the end, then many of the assumptions for making Gog and Magog the same war as Armageddon are simply nullified. There are several major similarities between Gog and the Antichrist and Gog and Magog and Armageddon. But, similarity, however great, alone does not prove sameness. There must not be any irreconcilable differences between the two sides of the equation before an equal sign can be placed between them. It must be emphasized that a single dynamic difference kills the association of sameness in identity. In both cases, Gog and the Antichrist, and Gog and Magog and Armageddon, there are a number of irreconcilable differences which make this association of sameness in identity impossible. God is one! But, Gog and the Antichrist are not one. Gog and Magog cannot be Armageddon.