“It’s the fulfillment of prophecy right before our eyes!”
That was the very excited comment of someone on social media regarding the news February 24 that Russian President Vladimir Putin had launched the invasion of Ukraine. She had in mind the popular interpretation of Ezekiel’s prophecy about Gog of the land of Magog in “the north parts”—that this is Russia and its leader, who spearheads a coalition of other nations and swoops down on Israel intent on its utter destruction, resulting in their own utter destruction by God.
I doubt that this will be the result of Russia’s present aggression, and I doubt that this is the right interpretation of Ezekiel Chapters 38 and 39. Here are verses 14 to 16 of Chapter 38 in the King James Version:
Therefore, son of man, prophesy and say unto Gog, Thus saith the Lord GOD; In that day when my people of Israel dwelleth safely, shalt thou not know it?
And thou shalt come from thy place out of the north parts, thou, and many people with thee, all of them riding upon horses, a great company, and a mighty army:
And thou shalt come up against my people of Israel, as a cloud to cover the land; it shall be in the latter days, and I will bring thee against my land, that the heathen may know me, when I shall be sanctified in thee, O Gog, before their eyes.
In verse 8 of that chapter we find that this prophecy is to take place in “the latter years.” This no doubt accounts for the expectation among those who have “end-time” things mapped out that the fulfillment of this prophecy is imminent. A quick search revealed dozens of internet sites proclaiming that Gog and Magog speak cryptically of Russia, giving various permutations and combinations as to who the other nations are.
What I did not find was a single site that included in the interpretation the New Testament reference to God and Magog—Revelation 20:7-10. I did find one site that mentioned this passage, but it did not include an interpretation. It’s possible there may be such sites; I didn’t do an exhaustive search.
But is it not very short sighted to explain Old Testament prophecy while ignoring further revelation in the New Testament?
Vision with greater light
Here is a rule that I’ve written into the flyleaf of my Bible:
All Old Testament Scripture must be viewed and interpreted in the light of the new covenant of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Surely we agree that this is so, we who have come to God and are joined to Him by Jesus Christ in new covenant relationship. This means the shining forth of the True Light, the reality who cast all the shadows of the law, revealing the intent of all Old Testament types and all its prophecies. If you stand in doubt of this, simply go through your New Testament and peruse every place where an Old Testament passage is quoted, and discover the kind of light the apostles of the new covenant were seeing by.
This rule accords with something theologian B.B. Warfield wrote:
The Old Testament may be likened to a chamber richly furnished but dimly lighted; the introduction of light brings into it nothing which was not in it before; but it brings out into clearer view much of what is in it but was only dimly or even not at all perceived before.
Amen. With this in mind along with the rule I mentioned above, let’s read the New Testament passage:
And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison,
And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea.
And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.
And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever. Rev 20: 7-10 KJV
It may be well to note right here the first six verses of Chapter 20. This does not take place till after the thousand year reign of Christ and His kingdom of priests. Personally I’m not convinced that the “thousand years” is to be interpreted literally; I think it is a symbolic number, as many if not all the numbers in Revelation are.
But let’s look further at verses 7 to 10. This was written by the Spirit-inspired new covenant apostle John. Now, what has he, or rather, the Holy Spirit, done? Has He overlooked a lot of detail included in the Ezekiel passage? Or has He distilled it to its essence? Let me put it this way. Is He not shining brighter light on something hitherto dimly lighted?
Two things are of note.
1. The forces involved in this aggression are “the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth.” John sums them up as “Gog and Magog.” That’s how it reads—“…the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog. In fact New Testament Greek scholar A.T. Robertson (Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament) points out that this is implicit in the inflection of the original Greek:
Gog and Magog (ton Gōg kai Magōg). Accusative in explanatory apposition with ta ethnē (the nations).
What Robertson means by the “accusative in explanatory apposition” is that “Gog and Magog” explains what is meant by “the nations.” That is new covenant light shining upon an Old Testament passage of Scripture. There is no thought here of Russia being the instigator or perpetrator of this rampage. Gog and Magog are “the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth… the number of whom is as the sand of the sea.” Note that. This means that if Russia were Gog (and I don’t accept that this is correct interpretation) then the nations in other quarters of the earth would include, well, you name it. The United States, for one. The United Kingdom. Germany. Aligned with Russia. All the nations are gathered together for this battle. (However, I don’t think that “nations” as we read of them in the Bible are geopolitical entities, but rather people groups. Goyim is the Hebrew word, meaning Gentiles, ethnos the Greek.)
2. And what is the objective of these deceived hosts? With whom are they intent upon doing battle?
And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city…
What is the “camp of the saints?” We can be sure that the new covenant apostle is speaking of new covenant saints—those, whether Jew or Gentile, who are set apart unto God in Christ Jesus. The Greek word for camp is used of a military force or fortress. The camp of the saints, then, is one with their beloved city; they are armed and ready to defend her to the death.
And what city is “the beloved city”? Of course this city is Jerusalem. But which Jerusalem? The only Jerusalem we read of in the Revelation is the new Jerusalem (3:12, 21:2), the holy Jerusalem (21:10). John calls her “the beloved city.” He is not waxing sentimental here; he is alluding to an Old Testament passage, as he does hundreds of times in the Revelation. This—the beloved city—is surely one of them, bringing Psalm 87 to mind. Here it is from the English Standard Version, which I think in two or three places expresses the meaning more clearly than the King James:
On the holy mount stands the city he founded;
the LORD loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwelling places of Jacob.
Glorious things of you are spoken, O city of God. Selah.
Among those who know me I mention Rahab and Babylon; behold, Philistia and Tyre, with Cush— “This one was born there,” they say.
And of Zion it shall be said, “This one and that one were born in her”; for the Most High himself will establish her.
The LORD records as he registers the peoples, “This one was born there.” Selah.
Singers and dancers alike say, “All my springs are in you.”
Psalm 87 ESV
Is this psalm speaking of the earthly Jerusalem? But mention is made of Rahab (Egypt) and Babylon, Philistia and Tyre and Cush among them that say, “This one was born there.” As the Lord registers the peoples of the earth, He makes note of that. “This one was born there.” “This one and that one…” So surely this is prophetic of the city of God, the beloved city, that is home to redeemed Jews and Gentiles who are one in Christ Jesus regardless of where they reside on the earth. It is this Jerusalem, the “Jerusalem which is above,” that Paul proclaims “is the mother of us all,” that is, of all who are “born of the Spirit” (Gal 4:26,29).
So, according to new covenant revelation it’s not really earth-bound Israel that an unleashed Satan is out to destroy with the help of Gog and Magog, the deceived of “the nations in the four quarters of the earth.” It is “the camp of the saints, and the beloved city.” It is one last-ditch all-out onslaught aimed at annihilating the people of God—those who, whether Jew or Gentile, are in covenant relationship with Him by Jesus Christ.
And fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.
Such is the love of God for His beloved city the church in which all men and women are one in Christ, with birth certificates proving their new birth in her. Whether from Rahab or Babylon, or Russia or Ukraine, or China or Canada or Palestine or Israel or wherever… this one, and that one, are walking in love together, dancing and singing together, “All my springs are in you.”