Ezekiel 38-39 present one of the most challenging prophecies in the Bible. It has stirred a bewildering number of odd interpretations. Want to enter the fray with me?
Ezekiel’s prophecy focuses on a cryptic character named, “Gog of the land of Magog.” Ma-who? Ma-goo? Who is this mysterious Gog of Magog? Augustine thought Gog was the Goths. Luther thought Gog was the Turks. Today, some people think Russia is Gog.
I think Ezekiel 38:17 holds the key: “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: ‘Are you [Gog] not the one I spoke of in former days by my servants the prophets of Israel? At that time, they prophesied for years that I would bring you against them.’” The problem is there is no direct prophecy about Gog mentioned in the Old Testament outside of these chapters in Ezekiel! The name Gog appears only one other time, but it is in a genealogy, not in a prophecy (1 Chron 5:4).
The prophets do, however, repeatedly warn about the enemy from “the north.” According to the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, “The north, then, becomes a harbinger of evil. In various mythologies it is the seat of demons … the place for the meeting of the assembly of the gods.” In other words, “the north” is code for the “seat of demons,” a spiritual war room of sorts—with a devil of a ringleader. Isaiah confirms this. “I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north,” touts the ruler of darkness, “I will make myself like the Most High” (Isa 14:13). “The north” is Satan’s situation room where evil schemes are devised (Ezek 38:10).
The mysterious “Gog of Magog” refers, not to Satan, but to an evil alliance of demonic hordes and many peoples. “You (Gog) will be like a cloud covering the land, you and all your hordes, and many peoples with you” (Ezek 38:9). This unholy coalition will attack God’s people living securely in their land, at peace with their neighbors, without walls and gates (38:11–12).
Thankfully, the apostle John clarifies Ezekiel’s Gog prophecy. He saw Satan being released from prison and deceiving the nations (Rev 20:7-8). What does Satan want to deceive the nations into doing? He wants to deceive them into organizing a global campaign to wipe out God’s people from the face of the earth (called “Armageddon”). Satan’s final, climatic assault requires boots-on-the-ground, that is, he needs “the nations that are from the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle” (Rev 20:8). The devil simply hoodwinks the “Gog” nations to embrace his foolish war plan.
“But fire came down from heaven and consumed them” all (Rev 20:9-10). The dark alliance will be totally decimated by the power of Christ (cf. Ezek 38:19-22). It’s finally game over. “The north” is toast. “I will vindicate my holiness,” God says, “I will show my greatness and my holiness … Then they will know that I am the Lord” (Ezek 38:16, 23). Justice will prevail. The Good-Shepherd King will complete what he started and ultimately eradicate evil from the earth (2 Pet 3:10-12).