Premillennialists try to connect the “Gog and Magog” invasion of Revelation 20:7-8 with the “Gog and Magog” battle in Ezekiel Chapters 38 and 39. It is clear that the battle in Rev. 20 (if a literal battle) occurs after the “millennium”. However, making the battle in Ezekiel 38 and 39 occur at this time introduces some major difficulties for “literalists”.
A common myth surrounding this battle is that it describes a future invasion of Israel by Russia. However, the guesswork involved in such exegesis becomes obvious under any objective examination. Just read any premillennial commentary on Ezekiel 38 and 39 from 1950 to 1990. One common identification of Gog and Magog occurs, the Soviet Union. The collapse of this “great red enemy from the north” in 1991 saw premillennialists scrambling to revise their interpretation (something that they seem to have to do every ten years or so). According to most commentaries since then, Gog and Magog are now “Russia and the Arab Confederacy”.
So where do they get Russia from in this prophecy? David Chilton, citing Ralph Woodrow, explains:
“…the expression Gog and Magog does not, and never did, refer to Russia. That has been entirely made up from whole cloth, and simply repeated so many times that many have assumed it to be true. Ostensible reasons for this interpretation are based on a peculiar reading of Ezekiel 38:3, which speaks of “Gog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal.” The word chief is, in the Hebrew, rosh; some have therefore translated the text as “Gog, the prince of Rosh.” Rosh sounds something like Russia; therefore Gog is the prince (or premier) of Russia. Unfortunately for this ingenious interpretation, rosh simply means “head” or “chief”, and is used over 600 times in the Old Testament — never meaning “Russia.”
Those who hold that “Gog” (a name supposedly derived from Soviet Georgia, since they both start with a “G”!) is the Soviet Premier generally make the further claim that “Meshech” is really Moscow, “Tubal” is Tobolsk, and “Gomer” (of Ezek. 38:6) is Germany. This is doubtful. ‘Moscow’ comes from the Muscovites and is a Finnish name. Moscow was first mentioned in ancient documents in 1147 A.D., when it was a small village. Some think Tubal means Tobolsk, but this is only a similarity in sound. Tobolsk was founded in 1587 A.D. Some think Gomer [Ezek. 38:6] means Germany. It is true the words ‘Gomer’ and ‘Germany’ both begin with a ‘G.’ So does guess-work.”
The fact that premillennialists rely on such a sloppy handling of Scripture only scratches the surface of their dilemma. Both Nate and Hampton must abandon their “literal” interpretative methods to push this war into the future. Hampton writes that “Israel will use these spoils (of the Gog and Magog war) as an energy source and that it will last for 7 years”.
Actually, that is not what the text says. Ezekiel 39:9-10 tells us that Israel will burn Gog’s wooden war weapons, “shields and bucklers, bow and arrows, clubs and spears”. Not to mention the fact that ALL of Gog’s soldiers are on horseback (Ezekiel 38:4), and that one of the reasons that Gog invades Israel is “to seize spoil and carry off plunder…livestock and goods” (Ezekiel 38:12-13).
According to Ezekiel, there will be a return to the “weak and beggarly elements” of the Jewish sacrificial system after the Gog and Magog battle. This will include circumcision “in heart and flesh” (Ezekiel 44:7-9), use of ancient Jewish currency (Ezekiel 45:10-16), as well as “burnt offerings, grain offerings, and drink offerings, at the feasts, the new moons, and the Sabbaths, all the appointed feasts of the house of Israel… sin offerings, grain offerings, burnt offerings, and peace offerings” (Ezekiel 45:17). In an attempt to explain these sacrifices without debasing Christ’s “once for all” sacrifice, Nathan Busenitz explains:
“Citing Fruchtenbaum on the millennial sacrifices:
What will be the purpose of these sacrifices in light of Christ’s death? To begin with, one must remember that the Mosaic sacrificial system did not remove sins (Hebrews 10:4), but only covered them (the meaning of atonement in Hebrew). It served as a physical and visual picture of what the Messiah would do (Isaiah 53:10–12). The Bible commands the Church to keep the Lord’s Supper as a physical and visual picture of Christ’s work on the cross. In the Millennial Kingdom God will provide for Israel a physical and visual picture of Messiah’s accomplishment on the cross. For Israel, however, it will be a sacrificial system instead of communion with bread and wine. The purpose of the sacrificial system in the kingdom will be the same as the purpose of communion: in remembrance of me.”
Once again, this flies contrary to the explanation given in the Scriptures themselves. Ezekiel clearly tells us that the purpose of these sacrifices and offerings is “to make atonement on behalf of the house of Israel.” (Ezekiel 45:17). Nothing is said here about a “memorial sacrifice”. (Why will we need a memorial if Christ is physically sitting on His throne in Jerusalem?)
Obviously, all of these events occurred before New Testament times. Ezekiel’s war saw it fulfillment in the 2nd Century BC, when the Scythians were defeated by Judas Maccabeaus. (See Jay Rogers Article)
So what of the battle after the Millennium? We can see the John consistently refers to Old Testament imagery in writing His Apocalypse. We see the “tree of life, which is in the paradise of God” (Rev. 2:7), "Balaam" (Rev. 2:14), "Jezebel" (Rev. 2:20), etc. Gog and Magog are no different.