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Daniel and Revelation
Ezekiel 38 (Not 39) Will Unfold;
Psalm 83 Considered
The northern Islamic nations of the middle-east will attack Israel.
An Islamic Antichrist leader will be known to the Muslims as the Mahdi. But is he really Gog, from the land of Magog (Ezekiel 38)? Magog is in modern-day Turkey. He is probably the false prophet of Revelation. He will organize an attack on Israel according to Ezekiel 38. This is probably about six months before the seven-year covenant of Daniel 9. This will not include Egypt, and other Islamic countries of the south because they will not as yet be members of the new Caliphate. Ezekiel 39 is not fulfilled until the end of that "week" of the covenant. Ezekiel 39 is Armageddon.
Joel Richardson's second book is titled, The Mideast Beast. Richardson has three chapters on Ezekiel 38 and 39. He argues that the land of Magog is in Turkey. Richardson has shown that traditional Bible prophecy books tend to show maps with Magog in the region of Russia. But all the scholarly Bible dictionary books show Magog to be in what is modern-day Turkey. So Gog comes from Turkey, or perhaps Syria. Turkey is much more likely. Richardson also points to Ezekiel 38:17, speaking about Gog, which says:
Ezekiel 38:17 ESV "Thus says the Lord GOD: Are you he of whom I spoke in former days by my servants the prophets of Israel, who in those days prophesied for years that I would bring you against them?
Some hold that Gog is not a great tribulation antichrist, and that Islam is destroyed, or at least made small, in this battle before the great tribulation antichrist comes to power. This is because of a traditional belief that the antichrist comes from a revived Roman empire, and that the ten nations (ten horns) are in Europe. With the land of Magog being north of Israel, and not in Europe, they believe that Gog is another person that's not mentioned elsewhere in Scripture. But this verse (above) clearly states that Gog is the same evil leader that is prophesied throughout Scripture, especially in Old Testament Scripture prior to Ezekiel.
These traditional futurists (dispensationalists) assume that Ezekiel 38 and Ezekiel 39 are talking about the same battle. The traditional view is that this one battle, of both Ezekiel 38 and 39, is on or before the great tribulation. But I take the position that Ezekiel 38 and 39 are two separate battles. There are some very strong arguments for Ezekiel 39 being the battle of Armageddon at the end of the tribulation. But since I hold that Ezekiel 39 is a separate battle, I don't agree that those arguments automatically reflect back onto Ezekiel 38. We will look at Ezekiel 39 separately in the chapter 11 titled, "Ezekiel 39 - Armageddon."
The point here is that since at least Ezekiel 39 must be Armageddon, then Gog must be the antichrist. This argument holds true even if Ezekiel 38 is considered to be a separate battle. Both Ezekiel 38 and 39 begin with statements to prophesy against Gog. Ezekiel 38 (ESV) begins with, "Son of man, set your face toward Gog, of the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him." Ezekiel 39 begins with, "And you, son of man, prophesy against Gog and say, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I am against you, O Gog, chief prince of Meshech and Tubal." Both are prophecies against Gog. Thus, reading these two separate prophecies as two separate battles, occurring at two separate times, does not diminish the argument that Gog must be the antichrist. The means antichrist must come from Magog, which is Turkey.
Are Ezekiel 38 and 39 really two separate prophecies? If so, are they talking about two separate battles? Ezekiel 38 ends with the following:
Ezekiel 38:23 I will magnify myself, and sanctify myself, and I will make myself known in the eyes of many nations; and they shall know that I am Yahweh.
This verse sounds like a wrap-up of a vision or prophecy. Then, the first verse of chapter 39 starts out with what seems like the start of a new vision or prophecy. In Ezekiel 38, the attack on Israel is prevented by an earthquake, and by the enemy being made to turn against each other (verses 38:19-21). In Ezekiel 39, fire is sent on Magog (39:6). Assuming that Ezekiel 39 is Armageddon, the armies will be destroyed by Jesus himself as he returns to the Mount of Olives.
Ezekiel 38 describes Israel as feeling secure, as a nation without walls, gates, or bars.
Ezekiel 38:11-12 and you shall say, I will go up to the land of unwalled villages; I will go to those who are at rest , who dwell securely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having neither bars nor gates; (12) to take the spoil and to take the prey; to turn your hand against the waste places that are now inhabited, and against the people who are gathered out of the nations, who have gotten livestock and goods, who dwell in the middle of the earth.
Does this describe Israel today? Some will point out there are many walls and check-points in Israel. But we must interpret this verse in the same way as Ezekiel's audience would have understood. In ancient times, walls around cities had the purpose of protecting the city from invading armies. Is that the purpose of the walls and check-points in Israel today? Today, walls and check-points do very little to protect a nation from an invading army. The walls and check-points are a protection against terrorists. There is a higher chance of being killed by a car accident than by a terrorist in Israel.
Still, most people argue that today Israel does not dwell securely and in safety. It is reasoned that Israel could be attacked as they have been attacked many times since they became a nation in 1948. But as I pointed out in chapter 1 of this book, Israel is in no danger of being "pushed into the sea" as long as they have nuclear weapons. The last time they had any real danger of being "wiped off the map" was in the Yom Kippur War of 1973. That was about forty years ago. After the 1973 war, probably because of Israel's nukes, peace treaties were signed and Israel has not been attacked by a multi-nation coalition.
Israel has had problems with terrorists, and with low-tech missiles being launched from Gaza and Hezbollah. And today the missiles are getting more accurate and have better range. But Israel has anti-missile defenses. The surrounding nations very much want to destroy Israel. But as long as Israel has nuclear weapons, and as long as Israel's enemies such as Iran do not have significant nuclear weapons, there is no real danger of Israel being destroyed. Israel dwells in safety. But, as I've outlined in chapter 1, this will probably change some time after Damascus is destroyed. The world will force Israel to give up their nukes through tough sanctions. And that will set the stage for Ezekiel 38 to unfold.
There is a theory about Psalm 83 made popular by Bill Salus. In his book Israelestine, Salus argues that Psalm 83 prophesies a coalition of Islamic nations which will attack Israel prior to Ezekiel 38. Salus has two major arguments for his position. First, he says Israel does not dwell securely in the land. Salus argues that a victory in the "Psalm 83 War" will allow Israel to expand her boundaries and thus allow for more security. Thus, they would dwell securely at the time of Ezekiel 38. As I have pointed out, Israel already dwells safely because of their nuclear capabilities.
Secondly, Salus argues the goal or purpose in attacking Israel differs between Ezekiel 38 and Psalm 83. In Ezekiel 38, the nations plunder Israel. In Psalm 83, the nations want to take possession of the land of Israel, so that Israel is no longer a nation. I do not see these goals as being at all mutually exclusive. The nations that surround Israel would not be seeking to expand their borders. They would simply want to destroy Israel and take plunder. But terrorists organizations will probably also be represented in this attack. They want a "one state solution" with Israel being eliminated. The charter of Hama is to completely eliminate Israel as a nation, not recognizing Israel's right to exist. Palestine has already been recognized as a non-voting nation in the United Nations. The terrorist organizations want to take the land and "destroy them as a nation, that the name of Israel may be remembered no more" (Psalm 83:4).
In his book, The Mideast Beast, Joel Richardson has a chapter about problems with Psalm 83 being a separate war. Richardson lists six major problems with this view. Richardson quotes Marvin Tate in saying, “Ps 83 is generally accepted as a national lament, manifesting several characteristics of this form.” Richardson also quotes Dr. Thomas Ice and Mark Hitchcock as having the same view.
I agree with Richardson. But at the same time, I think Psalm 83 does reflect on the battle of Ezekiel 38 (not 39). Salus points out that the nations named in Psalm 83 seem to be in an "inner circle" whereas the nations of Ezekiel 38 are an "outer circle." Richardson counters by saying that Assyria and the Ishmaelites really refer to a much broader area than Salus claims. I'm sure this is true, but at the same time I think Salus has a point. Psalm 83 does seem to be speaking about nations closer in than those of Ezekiel 38.
The difference would go back to that difference in purpose, as pointed out by Salus. Ezekiel 38 says the nations will plunder Israel. Psalm 83 says the nations want to "destroy them as a nation, that the name of Israel may be remembered no more" (Psalm 83:4). So I think Psalm 83 is more representative of the radical Islam terrorist organizations and their desire for a Palestinian state, with Israel being "wiped off the map." Ezekiel 38, on the other hand, speaks of the actual nations who "devise an evil scheme" to attack Israel (Ezekiel 38:10). But until Israel's nukes are removed, there is not much chance of that happening. So that "evil scheme" probably includes the destruction of Damascus.
The people of Israel put their confidence in their own military, and to some degree in the West. The people of Israel, for the most part, put their trust in the military and the nukes, and not in God for their defense. So Israel really is a nation that feels secure in comparison to the attack of Ezekiel 38 that is coming. In that attack, God himself literally steps in to defend Israel. Compare this to Ezekiel 39, where Israel really is made secure by God.
Ezekiel 39:26 They shall bear their shame, and all their trespasses by which they have trespassed against me, when they shall dwell securely in their land, and none shall make them afraid;
In both Ezekiel 38 and Ezekiel 39, God comes to the rescue and defends Israel directly. The military of Israel is not used to defend Israel. As it turns out, God's defense of Israel in Ezekiel 38 is very similar to the sixth seal of Revelation.
Ezekiel 38:18-20 It shall happen in that day, when Gog shall come against the land of Israel, says the Lord Yahweh, that my wrath shall come up into my nostrils. (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 fish of the sea, and the birds of the sky, and the animals of the field, and all creeping things who creep on the earth, and all the men who are on the surface 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.
Revelation 6:12-17 I saw when he opened the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake. The sun became black as sackcloth made of hair, and the whole moon became as blood. (13) The stars of the sky fell to the earth, like a fig tree dropping its unripe figs when it is shaken by a great wind. (14) The sky was removed like a scroll when it is rolled up. Every mountain and island were moved out of their places. (15) The kings of the earth, the princes , the commanding officers, the rich, the strong, and every slave and free person, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains. (16) They told the mountains and the rocks, "Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, (17) for the great day of his wrath has come; and who is able to stand?"
Notice that Ezekiel 38:20 speaks of the Lord's "presence." God shows up and the world is terrified. Ezekiel 38:18 says, "My wrath shall come up into my nostrils." In the sixth seal of Revelation (quoted above), the world is terrified saying "hide us ...from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of his wrath has come; and who is able to stand?"
At this point many will argue that the very presence of Christ and his wrath are after the great tribulation. Richardson points to this verse in saying Ezekiel 38-39 is about Armageddon. As Richardson points out, the Hebrew word 'paneh,' in Ezekiel 38:20, suggests the very physical presence of Christ. The word is used in the same way in Genesis 3:8, where Adam and Eve hid themselves from the very presence of the Lord. It's also used in the same way in Genesis 4:16 where Cain went out from the very presence of the Lord. For more information, read what Joel Richardson writes in a blog on his website, dated September 10, 2012, titled "The Battle of Gog of Magog & the Return of Jesus". ( http://archives.joelstrumpet.com/?p=4042 )
According to this text, the Lord Himself says that throughout the earth, both people and animals will “quake at [His] presence.” The word used for presence here is the Hebrew word paneh. Paneh is a reference to the actual face of someone or something. When God says that the people of the earth will quake at His paneh, He is saying that they will be terrified because of His actual physical presence, on the ground, in the land of Israel (see also: Zechariah 14:2-5, Isaiah 29:2-8, Revelation 16:16-20).
Concerning the word paneh, The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary says, “The presence (face) of Jehovah is Jehovah in his own personal presence.” The New International Encyclopedia of Bible Words says, “In the OT, being in God’s or another’s presence is indicated by a preposition (l) prefixed to the Hebrew word panim (‘face’). The thought is to be ‘before the face of the person.” Paneh is used throughout the Old Testament to refer to the actual presence of God. Jacob, for instance, after wrestling with the Angel of the Lord, referred to seeing God face-to-face:
“So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, ‘For I have seen God face [paneh] to face [paneh], and yet my life has been delivered’” —Genesis 32:30
It is also interesting to note that in place of the Hebrew paneh, the Septuagint used the Greek word prosopon. Prosopon is one of two words commonly used in the New Testament to refer to actual presence. The other word is parousia, which is commonly associated with the Second Coming. To convey actual presence, between parousia and prosopon, prosopon is the more powerful term. While parousia most often implies coming, prosopon implies actual face-to-face presence. As Jesus is coming on the clouds, this is His parousia, but once He has actually arrived, then the word prosopon is used.
An excellent example of the New Testament usage of prosopon is a scene where the righteous are actually looking upon the face of God in the eternal city:
“No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face [prosopon], and his name will be on their foreheads” —Revelation 22:4
Ezekiel’s description of people quaking in fear of God’s face reveals that at the conclusion of the Battle of Gog and Magog, Jesus the Messiah, God incarnate, is physically present on the earth, in the land of Israel.
Richardson has made a great point in helping me prove that Ezekiel 38:20 is speaking about the literal and physical presence of Christ. But I believe it's talking about the literal and physical appearing of the Christ before the week of the covenant. I'm not talking about a pre-tribulation rapture. It's the appearance of the New Jerusalem. Bottom line is that I believe Ezekiel 38 is before the week of the covenant, while Ezekiel 39 is Armageddon, after the week of the covenant.
This is because Christ and the antichrist both come at the same time. And, as we will see later in this article, the New Jerusalem appears before the week of the covenant. The week of the covenant is after the full seventy weeks have been completed. Christ literally and physically returns, but most of the Church is not ready. Most of the Church will still have sinful habits. Seventy weeks are given for us to stop sinning. Then, the Messiah comes.
Daniel 9:24 Seventy weeks are decreed on your people and on your holy city, to finish disobedience, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy.
But when the seventy weeks are over, and the Messiah comes, most of the Church is still saying that the above verse is impossible to accomplish. Most of the Church is still saying that it's impossible to stop disobedience, and that it's impossible to stop sinning. But we can overcome all our sinful habits. For more information, read my booklet titled, Christian Perfection by Grace and Works. It can be read online, on my website. Or it can be purchased from Amazon.
Christ returns and puts a stop to the attack on Israel in Ezekiel 38. But he finds that most of the Church is not ready to reign with Christ over the nations. Only a very few will be ready. And they will get spiritual bodies before the great tribulation and will see Christ face-to-face (Revelation 14:1-5.) But the "many" are not ready. So Christ confirms a "covenant with many" for one more week (Daniel 9:27). This is an additional week after the completion of the seventy. He allows the Islamic antichrist (the false prophet) to reign for seven years. In other words, only a few will have found the narrow gate of holiness when Christ appears. But Christ expects to have a have a Bride consisting of a countless number, from every nation, tribe, people, and language (Revelation 7:9). They must go through the great tribulation (Revelation 7:13-14), which is the great persecution, in order to become ready for the wedding banquet (Revelation 19:7). This is at the time of Armageddon which is after at the end of the seven years.
There is one other aspect of Ezekiel 38:18-20 (quoted above) which must
be considered. The verse says that "the mountains shall be thrown down, and
the steep places shall fall, and every wall shall fall to the ground." Richardson
believes this must happen after the abomination of desolation because those in Judah
are told to flee to the mountains when they see the abomination of desolation. Read
what Joel Richardson writes in a blog on his website, dated September 18, 2012, titled
"Gog of Magog and the Great Earthquake".
( http://archives.joelstrumpet.com/?p=4078 )
Among the many events that conclude the Battle of Gog and Magog, one major event is “a great earthquake” in the land of Israel. The earthquake will be so great that all creatures and mankind “who are on the face of the earth” will tremble in fear. ... Many seem to miss the fact that this earthquake will result in the mountains of Israel being “thrown down”. Beyond this, “every wall will fall to the ground”.
But here is where the popular view runs into yet another insurmountable problem. For as we have already seen, the great earthquake of Ezekiel’s oracle results in all of the mountains in Israel being thrown down. But if this is the case, then how can it be that in the middle of the tribulation, Jesus warns the inhabitants of Jerusalem and Judea to flee to the mountains. ...
How can Jesus tell people to flee to mountains which, according to the popular view, no longer even exist? If Ezekiel’s prophecy is to have happened a few, or even several years prior, resulting in the mountains of Israel all falling down, how can Jesus still be speaking of near-by mountains, and telling his people to flee to them? For students of the Scriptures who take the words of the Bible literally, there are really only two options; either Ezekiel’s earthquake comes sometime after the middle of the tribulation, or Jesus didn’t know what He was talking about. I’m going with Ezekiel’s earthquake taking place at the conclusion of the tribulation.
But as much as this causes an insurmountable mountain of a problem for the popular view which tries to cast Gog and Antichrist as two different characters, there is yet another powerful passage in the Book of Revelation which speaks of the final conclusion of the Great Tribulation. Once again, there is the gathering of the gentiles, there is a great earthquake which results in the cities of the earth being destroyed, as well as the mountains being removed.
At this point, Richardson quotes Revelation 16:16-20.
Revelation 16:16-20 ESV And they assembled them at the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon. (17) The seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple, from the throne, saying, "It is done!" (18) And there were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, and a great earthquake such as there had never been since man was on the earth, so great was that earthquake. (19) The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell, and God remembered Babylon the great, to make her drain the cup of the wine of the fury of his wrath. (20) And every island fled away , and no mountains were to be found.
The birth pains of the woman are described as earthquakes (Matthew 24:7-8). The woman giving birth is the resurrection. And this is the mother of all earthquakes. But do the islands really get up and run away? Or does this sound like Isaiah-style poetry? Revelation, more than any other book in the Bible, makes heavy allusions to Old Testament Scripture. We must be care careful to recognize these allusions, and to go back to that Scripture and see how it was used. The meaning of the Old Testament Scripture must be brought back into Revelation in order to interpret the symbolism or figurative speech given in Revelation. I think Ezekiel was doing the same thing. A prophet tends to use terminology from prior books of prophecy.
Consider this passage in Isaiah. Notice that this is an end-times passage when Israel's sins are pardoned. Also notice that John the Baptist quoted this verse in identifying himself as being a forerunner to the coming Messiah (Matthew 3:3). Christ is coming. So the poet cries out to make straight the highway for our God. Figuratively speaking, the valleys are lifted up and the mountains are made low in order to make the path for the Messiah in the desert be flat and straight. But this is figurative. It's Isaiah-style poetry. The mountains are not literally removed. Just a few verses down, those rejoicing are told to go "up to a high mountain."
Isaiah 40:1-9 ESV Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. (2) Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the LORD's hand double for all her sins. (3) A voice cries: "In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. (4) Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level , and the rough places a plain. (5) And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken." (6) A voice says, "Cry!" And I said, "What shall I cry?" All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. (7) The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the LORD blows on it; surely the people are grass. (8) The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever. (9) Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good news; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good news; lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah, "Behold your God!"
I do believe there will be a great earthquake when the New Jerusalem appears and the armies are stopped from attacking Israel. But I don't see the purpose behind every mountain and island being literally removed. They do not literally get up and run away. I believe these are simply symbols, or figures of speech, about making a path ready for the coming of the Messiah. The great earthquake, however, is literal. The great earthquake is part of what makes every man so fearful. And I think the same thing happens again at the end of the great tribulation. In Matthew 24, at the time after the tribulation, we read:
Matthew 24:29-30 ESV " Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. (30) Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
I think the New Jerusalem appears again after the great tribulation. This time everyone in the world knows it's Christ and that he is returning. So they "mourn" instead of being terrified. Of course they know judgment is coming. So they would be fearful. But this is the second time the New Jerusalem appears. Their emotion is characterized more as "mourning" than as being terrified. They see the sign of the Son of Man appear in the heaven. This sign would be the New Jerusalem.
Matthew 24 talks about the great tribulation and the appearing of Christ after the great tribulation. Luke 21, on the other hand, seems to talk more about the time of the Gentiles leading up to the great tribulation. In Matthew's account, the people of the world "mourn." In Luke's account, the people of the world are terrified. Luke also talks about the roaring of the sea and the waves, which reminds us of Ezekiel 38:18-20 (quoted above) where even the fish of the sea are shaken by the literal and physical presence of the Lord. So I think Luke's account is more about the appearing of the New Jerusalem at the start of the week of the covenant, and Matthew's account is about the re-appearance of the New Jerusalem after the week of the covenant at the time of the resurrection.
Luke 21:24-28 ESV They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive among all nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled . (25) "And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, (26) people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world . For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. (27) And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. (28) Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."
The last two verses of Ezekiel 38 serve to wrap up this vision that starts before the seven-year reign of the Islamic antichrist. These last two verses remind us of judgments that happen against the kingdom of the beast during those seven years.
Ezekiel 38:22-23 NIV I will execute judgment upon him with plague and bloodshed; I will pour down torrents of rain, hailstones and burning sulfuron him and on his troops and on the many nations with him. (23) And so I will show my greatness and my holiness, and I will make myself known in the sight of many nations. Then they will know that I am the LORD.'
Revelation 8:7 NIV The first angel sounded his trumpet, and there came hail and fire mixed with blood, and it was hurled down upon the earth. A third of the earth was burned up, a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up.
Revelation 9:17 NIV The horses and riders I saw in my vision looked like this: Their breastplates were fiery red, dark blue, and yellow as sulfur. The heads of the horses resembled the heads of lions, and out of their mouths came fire, smoke and sulfur.
Revelation 11:6 NIV These men have power to shut up the sky so that it will not rain during the time they are prophesying; and they have power to turn the waters into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they want.