Ezekiel — Lesson 21
Ezekiel 38 & 39
1. God's Call to Arms. 38:1-9.
1. The identity of Gog. 38:1-3.
1. The identity of Gog is uncertain.
1. The name appears only here and in 1 Chron. 5:4 in the O.T., where it identifies one of the sons of Reuben; in the N.T. it appears only in Rev. 20:8.
2. The associated name, Magog, appears in the table of nations in Gen. 10:2 with Gomer, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech, and Tiras, all sons of Japheth; it also appears in Rev. 20:8.
2. Many suggestions have been made for the identity of Gog: 1) Gugu or Gyges, a ruthless leader of Lydia; 2) Gagu, a ruler of the land of Sakhi, an area north of Assyria; 3) an unidentified ruler whose name is from a Sumerian loan word, gug, which means "darkness"; 4) an official title for a ruler comparable to pharaoh or king; 5) and a general term for any enemy of God's people.
3. He is called the "chief prince" of Meshech and Tubal.
1. Meshech and Tubal were provinces of Asia Minor in an area associated with the Scythians.
2. The geographical area today includes parts of Iran, Turkey, and southern provinces of Russia.
3. These were the locations of Gog's allies, but still furnish no conclusive evidence of Gog's identity.
2. The announcement of the invasion. 38:4-9.
1. Some of these prophecies referred to a battle in the immediate purview of the prophet, such as the destruction of Jerusalem or Babylon (e.g., Isa. 13:1-22; Jer. 4:5-6:30; Zeph. 1:1-13).
2. Some seem to blend immediate and long-range fulfillment, e.g., Jer. 50 and 51.
3. Ezekiel 38 and 39 is such a prophecy -- it references both present (Ezekiel's day) and some future time.
2. Gog's Evil Scheme. 38:10-13.
1. These verses disclose the plan of the invasion.
1. Vv. 10-11 give further insight into the occasion for the battle.
2. Vv. 4, 16 show that the battle will take place according to the plan and purpose of God.
3. V. 10 explains only the human experience that "thoughts will come into your mind."
4. This is one of several cases in Scripture where several causes that seem to conflict are given for an event that is contrary to the revealed will of God.
1. Pharaoh's refusal to allow Israel to leave Egypt (cp. Exod. 7:3 and 8:15).
2. The crucifixion of Christ (cp. Matt. 26:20-25; John 6:70-71; 10:18; 13:2; 14:27; Acts 2:23).
5. The viewpoint of Scripture is that neither human wickedness nor the powers of darkness can thwart God's purpose.
1. God's sovereign power and infinite wisdom enable him to use even the schemes of the devil and of wicked individuals to achieve his ends.
2. These chapters promise a day when God's people will no longer need walled villages to be secure.
3. In order to demonstrate the greatness of his power and of his faithfulness, and the powerlessness of evil to thwart his plans to bless his redeemed people, God will lure Gog to his doom.
6. Gog will notice that Israel is a land of unwalled and therefore unprotected villages (cf. Zech. 2:4, 8), and he will think that the people are easy prey for a swift, formidable attack.
7. God will allow this attack in order to bring swift and decisive judgment against Gog (v. 16) so that he may once and for all correct the damage his people have done to his name and may proclaim the greatness of his holy character to all the world.
3. Gog's Advance. 38:14-16.
1. Although Gog's intention would be the elimination of Israel for the sake of greed, God would use this desire as an opportunity to confront evil.
2. Gog was not a mindless pawn of Jehovah, but one who imagined personal glory in defeating God.
3. However, the judgment of Gog was an act of God turned to this glory.
4. Divine purpose overrides human motive.
5. The same lesson was given in Habakkuk's message about the Babylonian invasion (Hab. 1:5-11).
4. God's Wrath Against Gog. 38:17-23.
1. These verses reveal the purpose and outcome of the invasion.
2. There are may interpretations of the prophecies of "former days" (v.17).
1. Such prophecies as Isa. 14:24-25; 26:20-21; Jer. 4:5; 6:26; 30:18-24; Joel 3:9-21; Zeph. 1:14-18; 3:8 have all been suggested.
2. The Gog-Magog message is very similar to Zech. 12:3-9; 14:1-8, but these do not come from "former days."
3. Some argue that none of these prophecies fit Ezekiel 38:17.
4. The literal Hebrew is "Are you he of whom the prophets spoke?"
5. It is frequently emended to a statement, "You are he of whom the prophets spoke."
1. This translation assumes an introductory particle which is not in the text.
2. But there is a similarity between Ezek. 38:17 and 2 Sam. 7:5, "Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in?"
3. This expects a negative reply, confirmed by the parallel in 1Chron. 17:4, where it is a statement, "You are not the one."
6. The point of the Lord's question in Ezek. 38:17, then, may be that Gog is not a divinely commissioned agent of judgment like Jeremiah's "foe from the north," (though Gog may have thought so), but strictly an enemy of God and his people to be dealt with in "My zeal and in my blazing wrath" (v. 19).
3. When God allows Gog to come against Israel, several events will take place.
1. The hot blazing wrath of God will be released (v. 18).
2. There will be an earthquake of major force (vv. 19-20).
3. The sword will be summoned against Gog; the attack is a picture of confusion and demoralization in which the army of Gog attacks itself (v. 21).
4. Other signs of divine judgment follow, including rain, hailstones, blood, and burning sulfur that will descend on Gog and the many nations who fight with him (v.22).
4. These obvious signs of a supernatural divine judgment will result in two things.
1. The deliverance of Israel from the invading forces of Gog.
2. The universal recognition of the sovereignty of Jehovah.
5. The Magnitude of Gog's Defeat. 39:1-16.
1. An elaboration upon the fall of Gog and the statement of God's purposes. 39:1-8.
1. Chapter 39 is a continuation and expansion of details concerning the destruction of Gog.
1. The details given in chapter 39 are more vivid and numerous, and they reiterate the same purposes presented in chapter 38.
2. Verses 1-8 restate the divine initiative in the invasions and elaborate upon the fall of Gog and God's purposes.
3. The parallel nature of the two chapters is suggested by the repetition in vv. 1-2 from 38:2-4.
2. Gog came from the mountains of the "far north," a designation associated with Meshech and Tubal.
3. God promised that the weapons of Gog would be taken from him (v. 3).
4. He would lose his power and fall on the mountains of Israel (v. 4).
5. The defeat will be so awesome that bodies of the soldiers will become food for the birds of prey and the wild animals of the land (v. 4).
6. Gog will be destroyed, and destruction will come on his homeland and surrounding coast lands so that they too will know that Jehovah is God (v. 6).
7. Recognition of of the holiness of God's name and character (v. 7) is an echo of 36:20-23 that mentioned Israel's profaning the name of Jehovah (see also 20:39; 39:25; 43:7ff.).
8. The certainty of these events is confirmed -- "It is coming and it shall be done" (v. 8).
2. The magnitude of Gog's defeat and the disposal of Gog's army. 39:9-16.
1. Gog's weapons will supply Israel with fuel for seven years, and Israel will plunder those who came to plunder it. (vv. 9-10).
2. Gog's defeat will be such that a valley will be required to bury the dead; the name will be changed to Hamon Gog, meaning "hordes of Gog."
3. It will take seven months to bury them all (vv. 12-15).
4. The name of a city in the valley will be named Hamonah, Hebrew for "multitude," a reference to the scope of the destruction (v. 16).
6. The Feast of Gog and the Glory of the Lord. 39:17-24.
1. Vv. 17-20 develop the "birds of prey" theme from v. 4.
1. God speaks through Ezekiel to the birds and animals inviting them to a sacrificial meal at which Gog will be the only item on the menu (vv. 17-20).
2. The idea of the Lord's sacrifice as a divine judgment is also found in Isa. 34:6-17; Jer. 46:10; Zeph. 1:7-18; Rev. 19:17-21).
2. All the nations of the world will see and learn as all the pretense of human glory is extinguished before the pure and ineffable glory of the Holy God of Israel (vv. 21-24).
1. No longer will the accusation be heard that Israel's God had abandoned them in unfaithfulness or proved unable to defend them against the nations and their gods.
2. It will be clear to all that it was Israel's sin and unfaithfulness that led to their exile, that their troubles had been recompense for their uncleanness and their offenses.
7. The Epitaph of Gog's defeat. 39:25-29.
1. These verses are similar to the concluding verses of the preceding section (vv. 21-24).
2. Ezekiel lists seven purposes that God would achieve by ending the exile.
1. God would initiate a new era in relationship with Israel (v. 25).
2. God had demonstrated the discipline of love by chastening his people (Pro. 3:11-12; Heb. 12:5-8); He would show the compassion of love by restoring their former place (v. 25).
3. God would be zealous for his holy name name's sake; He would reverse the profaning of his name (36:20-23) and promote the sanctification of his name among the heathen (36:23; v. 25).
4. Israel would forget their shame and unfaithfulness in that their time of disgrace would be past (36:30-31; v. 26).
5. God would demonstrate his holiness through regathering Israel from the countries of their enemies and reestablishing them in their land (v. 27).
6. Israel would know that Jehovah is their God, for he would leave none in exile but return everyone to the land (v. 28).
7. God would pour out his spirit on the house of Israel as he promised (36:27; Joel 2:29), a promise associated with the Messianic age (v. 29).
8. Questions and Application.
1. Who is Gog?
1. We have already considered the source of the name.
2. The real issue is whether it represents a literal or figurative person.
1. None of the sources of the name were still alive at the time of Ezekiel; thus its use would seem to be figurative.
2. What does it represent?
1. Apocalyptic writing by its nature has symbols that have meaning to its intended readers while being hidden from its unintended readers; put another way, persecution has a striking influence on the art of writing.
2. Unless here, Ezekiel's book is striking for the absence of reference to a judgment on Babylon.
3. If Ezekiel, a captive, had wanted to write about Babylon, would he have named it openly, or written what might be called subversive in opaque style?
4. However, Babylon never had an army as large as Gog's, nor was it ultimately defeated in the manner described by Ezekiel.
5. Even if it did apply to Babylon to some extent, its meaning certainly was not exhausted there.
2. Russia (Rosh), Moscow (Meshech) and Tobolsk (Tubal).
1. Some premillennial commentators place these events in the "end times" which they define as related to eschatology rather than the Christian dispensation, and to a literal battle between Israel and some modern nation.
2. While Russia, Moscow, and Tobolsk were the most popular before the fall of the Iron Curtain, Germany, Iran, and Iraq received honorable mention.
3. Iraq may come to the fore given the present war against terrorism.
1. Some might have chosen Afghanistan when it defeated Russia, but recent events belie the suggestion.
2. Certainly Afghanistan's weapons, though still modern, are more similar to horses (38:4, 15), arrows, bows, swords, spears, bucklers shields, etc. (38:4; 39:3), than to those that they faced.
3. Commentators who espouse the premillennial view struggle with interpreting this literally as they urge with the battle itself.
1. One just gave up and took the description as figurative terms representing up-to-date (state-of-the-art?) armaments.
2. Another tried to stay with the literal interpretation of the passage and suggested that perhaps the energy crisis would lead the Russians and their allies to go to these kinds of weapons.
4. The truth is that whatever evil nation(s) exist at the time commentator is writing (and, of course, oppose the nation of the commentator) usually receive the nomination.
3. Rabbinic writers identify Gog and Magog as the final enemy who will attack Israel in the messianic age.
4. Gog in Ezekiel 38 and Revelation 20.
1. The setting in Ezekiel is the restoration of the kingdom to Israel.
1. Jews might take little comfort from that; there was Egypt, then the Philistines, then Assyria, and now Babylon.
2. Who is next; what guarantee do we have of the future?
2. To convince the Jews that under the Messiah their glory will be secure, Ezekiel uses a symbolic battle with the fictitious Gog of the land of Magog to show that they will be able to defeat any enemy with the Messiah on their side.
3. There, as in Revelation 20, Gog and Magog represent anybody and yet nobody in particular; note the similarities between the battle in Ezekiel and Revelation.
1. The army is called from the four points of the compass with Gog as their leader.
2. The defeat of Gog and his army is total and complete.
3. God appears on the scene after the vindication of God's people.
4. The size of Gog's army is huge.
5. The defeat takes place without God's people having to do anything.
4. The symbol in Ezekiel and Revelation.
1. God's people have just been saved from a terrible oppressor.
2. A huge army gathers from all over the world to make war against them.
3. God defeats that army without his people having to lift even a finger.
5. God's message.
1. I have already defended and vindicated you in the present crisis and I will do so again anytime and anywhere the need arises no matter who rises against you.
2. This is a beautiful message for the church today.
3. The church today has developed an inferiority complex (some urge such a complex as an excuse for change urging reliance on the arm of flesh instead of the almighty arm of God).
4. If ever the church should have felt an inferiority complex, if ever it should have felt inferior and powerless, it was during the Roman persecution.
5. Recall and remember Eph. 3:20-21.
2. What does this prophecy predict? (Discussed above, but a few additional comments on the premillennial theories.)
1. Last week it was made clear that the church was not an afterthought, that it was and is in fact the eternal kingdom in view in Ezekiel's and all other O.T. prophecy related to a future kingdom.
2. Christ equated the two. Matt. 16:13-20.
3. Christ is now reigning, he is not coming to reign. 1 Cor. 15:25.
4. When Christ returns, he will deliver up the kingdom, not establish one. 1 Cor. 15:24.
3. When is the prophecy fulfilled? (Discussed above, but a few additional comments on the purported premillennial fulfillment.)
1. There is disagreement over where the battle fits into the premillennial scheme.
1. Definition of premillennial terms.
1. Different views of the millennium.
1. The return of Christ will be preceded by certain signs, including wars, famines, earthquakes, the preaching of the gospel to all nations, a great apostasy, the appearance of Antichrist, and the great tribulation.
2. These events culminate in the second coming, which will result is a period of peace and righteousness when Christ and his saints control the world.
3. This rule is established suddenly through supernatural methods rather than gradually over a long period of time by means of the conversion of individuals.
4. The Jews will figure prominently in the future age because they will be converted in large numbers and will again have a prominent place in God's work.
5. Nature will have the curse removed from it, and even the desert will produce abundant crops.
6. Christ will restrain evil during the age by the use of authoritarian power.
7. Despite the idyllic conditions of this golden age, there is a final rebellion of wicked people against Christ and his saints.
8. This exposure of evil is crushed by God, the non-Christian dead are resurrected, the last judgment conducted, and the eternal states of heaven and hell established.
9. Many premillennialists have taught that during the 1000 years dead or martyred believers will be resurrected with glorified bodies to intermingle with the other inhabitants of the earth.
1. The group emphasizes the present aspects of God's kingdom, which will reach fruition in the future.
2. They believe that the millennium will come through Christian preaching and teaching.
3. Such activity will result in a more godly, peaceful and prosperous world.
4. The new age will not be essentially different from the present, and it will come about as more people are converted to Christ.
5. Evil will not be totally eliminated during the millennium, but it will be reduced to a minimum as the moral and spiritual influence of Christians is increased.
6. During the new age the church will assume greater importance, and many economic, social, and educational problems will be solved.
7. This period is not necessarily limited to 1000 years because the number can be used symbolically.
8. The millennium closes with the second coming Christ, the resurrection of the dead, and the last judgment.
1. Amillennialists teach that the Bible does not predict a period of the rule of Christ on earth before the last judgment.
2. According to this view there will be a continuous development of good and evil in the world until the second coming of Christ, when the dead will be raised and the judgment conducted.
3. They believe that the kingdom of God is now present in the world as the victorious Christ rules his church through the Word and the Spirit.
4. They feel that the future, glorious and perfect kingdom refers to the new earth and life in heaven.
5. Thus, Rev. 20 is a description of the souls of dead believers reigning with Christ in heaven.
2. Rapture -- used to refer to the church's being united with Christ at his second coming.
1. Pretribulationists teach that the church will be removed before this seven year period and the revelation of the Antichrist.
2. Midtribulationists contend that the church will be raptured during the tribulation after the Antichrist's rise to power but before the severe judgments that prepare the way for Christ's return to establish his rule on earth.
3. Post-tribulationists hold that the church will continue to exist in the world throughout the entire tribulation and will be removed at the end of the period when Christ returns in power.
3. Tribulation -- Millennialists use the term to refer to the suffering of the church at the end of the world just before the coming of Christ.
1. Adherents of the major millennial views place the great tribulation at different points in relation to the millennium.
2. Post millennialists regard it as a brief, indefinite period of time at the end of the millennium, usually identifying it with the revolt of God and Magog of Rev. 20:8-9.
3. Both postmillennialists and premillennialists view history as moving toward the Christianization of the world by the church and a future millennium of undetermined length on earth culminating in the great tribulation and final return of Christ. (Note: While they assure us that Christ will establish his kingdom, what assurance is there that God will be able to accomplish at Christ's second coming what he could not accomplish at Christ's first coming? If the church was a "stop gap" measure until God could accomplish his original purpose of establishing a kingdom on the earth, can not the same failure occur at the second coming? If not, why not?)
4. In contrast, amillennialists consider the millennium to be a purely spiritual reality from the first advent to the second, a period lasting already 2,000 years and to culminate in the great tribulation -- a somewhat less optimistic view of history and the progress of the gospel witness.
5. To premillennialists the millennium is a future, literal 1000 years on earth, and the great tribulation a chaotic period toward which history is even now moving, a decline, that is, to be terminated by the return of Christ before the millennium.
6. One group, which described itself as "historic" premillennialists, understands the great tribulation to be a brief but undetermined period of trouble.
7. Another group, dispensational premillennialists, connects it with the 70th week of Daniel 9:27, a period of seven years whose latter half pertains strictly to the tribulation.
2. Some place it before the tribulation either just prior to or at the time of the rapture of the church.
3. Some place it in the middle of the tribulation and is associated with Rev. 14:14-20 and Dan. 11:40-41.
4. Some place it at the end of the tribulation and equate it with the battle of Rev. 19:11-21.
5. Some place it during a transitional period that is between the end of the tribulation and the beginning of the millennium to destroy the weapons of Babylon and cleanse the land prior to the advent of the millennium.
6. Some place it at the end of the millennium and equate it with Rev. 20:7-8.
7. A final view combines the third and fifth views and considers that the battle will occur at the end of the tribulation (Rev. 19:17-21), but it will be held in pause for one thousand years, after which it will resume and be concluded as the battle of Rev. 20:7-8.
2. Since the scripture knows nothing of a tribulation, a rapture, or a millennial period, one can easily place it anywhere he wishes -- an imagination with a fantasy.
4. Where does the battle occur? (Discussed above)
5. Why do these events occur? (Discussed above.)
2. Application -- This great section of hope and restoration beginning in 33:1 presents three significant themes that are crystalized in chapters 38 and 39.
1. God will triumph in the end of things.
1. Whenever individuals set themselves against God, they always fail.
2. He may grant the temporary illusion of success, but ultimately judgment will come.
3. In the end God will be the victor who will establish his name, his glory, and his people at the end of human history. Rom. 8:31.
2. God offers salvation to individuals.
1. He offers salvation for those who will approach him in faith, repentance, and obedience.
2. He will provide a new heart and a new spirit.
3. This offer is an ever-present possibility, which he offers to the human predicament of sin.
4. This offer will last as long as people are lost and human history continues.
3. Even the evil of those who oppose him will ultimately bring glory to God.
1. Whenever the judgment of God comes upon ungodliness and unrighteousness, his holiness and righteousness are established (39:7).
2. Phil. 2:9-11.
3. Long ago Habakkuk wrestled with the question of why God would use the wicked Babylonians as an instrument of judgment on Israel; he discovered that even the wicked will bring glory to God whether by receiving the life-transforming gift of a new heart and new spirit or by receiving judgment to establish his holiness, righteousness, and name (Hab. 1:1 - 2:20).
God's Plan of Salvation
You must hear the gospel and then understand and recognize that you are lost without Jesus Christ no matter who you are and no matter what your background is. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Before you can be saved, you must understand that you are lost and that the only way to be saved is by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:8) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
You must believe and have faith in God because “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) But neither belief alone nor faith alone is sufficient to save. (James 2:19; James 2:24; Matthew 7:21)
You must repent of your sins. (Acts 3:19) But repentance alone is not enough. The so-called “Sinner’s Prayer” that you hear so much about today from denominational preachers does not appear anywhere in the Bible. Indeed, nowhere in the Bible was anyone ever told to pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” to be saved. By contrast, there are numerous examples showing that prayer alone does not save. Saul, for example, prayed following his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:11), but Saul was still in his sins when Ananias met him three days later (Acts 22:16). Cornelius prayed to God always, and yet there was something else he needed to do to be saved (Acts 10:2, 6, 33, 48). If prayer alone did not save Saul or Cornelius, prayer alone will not save you. You must obey the gospel. (2 Thess. 1:8)
You must confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Romans 10:9-10) Note that you do NOT need to make Jesus “Lord of your life.” Why? Because Jesus is already Lord of your life whether or not you have obeyed his gospel. Indeed, we obey him, not to make him Lord, but because he already is Lord. (Acts 2:36) Also, no one in the Bible was ever told to just “accept Jesus as your personal savior.” We must confess that Jesus is the Son of God, but, as with faith and repentance, confession alone does not save. (Matthew 7:21)
Having believed, repented, and confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, you must be baptized for the remission of your sins. (Acts 2:38) It is at this point (and not before) that your sins are forgiven. (Acts 22:16) It is impossible to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ without teaching the absolute necessity of baptism for salvation. (Acts 8:35-36; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3:21) Anyone who responds to the question in Acts 2:37 with an answer that contradicts Acts 2:38 is NOT proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ!
Once you are saved, God adds you to his church and writes your name in the Book of Life. (Acts 2:47; Philippians 4:3) To continue in God’s grace, you must continue to serve God faithfully until death. Unless they remain faithful, those who are in God’s grace will fall from grace, and those whose names are in the Book of Life will have their names blotted out of that book. (Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:5; Galatians 5:4)