17 “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? 18 But on that day, the day that Gog shall come against the land of Israel, declares the Lord God, my wrath will be roused in my anger. 19 For in my jealousy and in my blazing wrath I declare, On that day there shall be a great earthquake in the land of Israel. 20 The fish of the sea and the birds of the heavens and the beasts of the field and all creeping things that creep on the ground, and all the people who are on the face of the earth, shall quake at my presence. And the mountains shall be thrown down, and the cliffs shall fall, and every wall shall tumble to the ground. 21 I will summon a sword against Gog on all my mountains, declares the Lord God. Every man’s sword will be against his brother. 22 With pestilence and bloodshed I will enter into judgment with him, and I will rain upon him and his hordes and the many peoples who are with him torrential rains and hailstones, fire and sulfur. 23 So I will show my greatness and my holiness and make myself known in the eyes of many nations. Then they will know that I am the Lord.” – Ezekiel 38:17-23 ESV
Far too often, we read the Old Testament as if it was simply a record of ancient history. We tend to look at books like Ezekiel as prophetic only in the sense that they contain detailed descriptions of what God was going to do against Israel and her enemies, and that He has already done. We view them as past tense, filled with old news about already fulfilled events that have little impact on us today, except for any insights they may provide regarding God’s character.
But in Ezekiel 38 we are given a prophecy that has yet to be fulfilled. This enigmatic passage describes a situation in which Israel finds itself back in the land of promise, experiencing God’s rich blessings, and prospering in an atmosphere of peace and abundance. God says that in that day, which has yet to happen, a mighty nation will rise up with thoughts of plunder and plans to take advantage of the seemingly defenseless people of God.
“On that day when my people Israel are living securely, you will take notice and come from your place, from the remote parts of the north, you and many peoples with you, all of them riding on horses, a great company and a vast army. You will advance against my people Israel like a cloud covering the earth.” – Ezekiel 38:14-16 NET
They will rise up against Israel but are totally unaware that God is about to use them as a visual lesson of His holiness and wrath. God then describes a scene filled with cataclysmic, end-of-the-world-like supernatural disasters.
“I will punish you and your armies with disease and bloodshed; I will send torrential rain, hailstones, fire, and burning sulfur!” – Ezekiel 38:22 NLT
It is a vivid description of God’s final judgment on all those who oppose Him and His people here on this earth. And He makes it clear that this devastating, lopsided victory has a purpose.
“In this way, I will show my greatness and holiness, and I will make myself known to all the nations of the world. Then they will know that I am the Lord.” – Ezekiel 38:23 NLT
But when will all this take place? When will this event finally be fulfilled? There have been many views proposed over the years, but the one that seems to make the most sense is based on the book of Revelation. In it, the apostle John describes a final battle that will take place at the end of Christ’s millennial reign on earth. For a period of 1,000 years, Christ will rule as the righteous King of kings and Lord of lords over all the nations of the earth. He will mete out perfect justice and administer righteousness from the throne of David for all the citizens of earth. And, according to John’s vision, at the beginning of Christ’s earthly rule, Satan will be imprisoned and prevented from using his powers to influence the nations of the world.
The angel threw him into the bottomless pit, which he then shut and locked so Satan could not deceive the nations anymore until the thousand years were finished. Afterward he must be released for a little while. – Revelation 20:3 NLT
Imagine a period of 1,000 years without the presence of the enemy whose soul “purpose is to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10 NLT). The great deceiver will be out of commission all during those days and the people on earth will experience what it is like to live under the godly rule of a sinless and perfectly righteous leader. Yet, John describes what happens when Satan is released from his imprisonment at the end of Christ’s 1,000-year reign.
Now when the thousand years are finished, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to bring them together for the battle. They are as numerous as the grains of sand in the sea. They went upon the broad plain of the earth and encircled the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and devoured them completely. And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet are too, and they will be tormented there day and night forever and ever. – Revelation 20:7-10 NET
Christ will have returned as the conquering King and set up His kingdom in Jerusalem, sitting on the throne of David. He will have fulfilled God’s promise to give David a descendant who would sit on his throne and rule in righteousness forever – for a period of 1,000 years. At the end of that time, Satan will be released and wage one last war against God. He will deceive the nations and cause them to rise up against God in an attempt to remove Christ from the throne. This vast army will attack Israel, but fail miserably. God will defeat them once and for all, making Himself known to all the nations of the world through His infinite, unmatchable power. When the dust settles from this last epic battle, everyone will know that He alone is God. Case closed.
In the message God gave to Ezekiel, He addressed Gog directly, asking this future world leader, “Are you the one I was talking about long ago, when I announced through Israel’s prophets that in the future I would bring you against my people?” (Ezekiel 38:17 NLT). This rhetorical question is meant to remind Ezekiel and his audience that all history is the fulfillment of God’s sovereign will. His Word is filled with messages that pronounce future events well in advance of their actual occurrence. The rise and fall of Gog will not be left to chance or be a byproduct of blind fate. God has ordained it and declared its eventual inevitability. It is all part of His divine redemptive plan.
The truth is, there have been many “Gogs” in the world. Over the centuries, countless rulers have shown up on the historical timeline who have exhibited Gog-like characteristics. They have all shared a common trait: their disdain for God and their hatred for His chosen people. But the events described in this chapter foretell a future world leader who will rise up against a recently revitalized Israel living in perfect peace and tranquility within the borders of the promised land. This “Gog” will dare to come against the people of God in a vain attempt to wipe them off the face of the earth. But he will fail.
“…this is what the Sovereign Lord says: When Gog invades the land of Israel, my fury will boil over! In my jealousy and blazing anger, I promise a mighty shaking in the land of Israel on that day.” – Ezekiel 38:18-19 NLT
The book of Ezekiel is not ancient history. It is a glimpse into the eternal plan of the Sovereign God of the universe. His plan is not yet complete. His work is not yet done. But that day is coming because His Son will one day return, and the certainty of that coming event assures us that the victory is certain.
God is not a man, so he does not lie. He is not human, so he does not change his mind. Has he ever spoken and failed to act? Has he ever promised and not carried it through? – Numbers 23:19 NLT
He has declared His intentions and He will carry them out. This assurance of God’s sovereign will was meant to encourage Ezekiel and his fellow exiles. They had no reason to worry about the future because God has all things under control. The Babylonians, Assyrians, Egyptians, Moabites, Edomites, Ammonites, and even the nations of Meshech and Tubal would prove no match for God Almighty. Satan himself will eventually discover the painful truth regarding God’s unequaled greatness and holiness.
“I will show my greatness and holiness, and I will make myself known to all the nations of the world. Then they will know that I am the Lord.” – Ezekiel 38:23 NLT
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.