Revelation 20: Four Views of Gog and Magog


Revelation 20: Four Views of Gog and Magog

Adam Maarschalk: April 5, 2010

Scripture texts for this study: Ezekiel 38-39; Revelation 20:7-10

Gog and Magog are referenced together twice in Scripture by name, first in Ezekial 38-39 and very briefly in Revelation 20. A third related passage is Revelation 19:17-18, where Gog and Magog are not mentioned by name but the language there appears to be borrowed from Ezekiel’s prophecy. How are Gog and Magog to be identified? The battle prophesied in Ezekiel, in particular, has merited much speculation among prophecy pundits. I would like to discuss four different interpretations for the references to Gog and Magog by both Ezekiel and John (Rev. 20). The following are some questions/factors to consider as we do so:

  1. Does John (in Rev. 19 or Rev. 20) refer to the same historical event as Ezekiel does, or is the battle described by Ezekiel merely a precedent for the battles John is describing?
  2. Is the book of Ezekiel written in a chronological manner, so that the chapters which come before this battle description (e.g. chapters 36-37) and those which follow it (chapters 40-48) suggest the timing of this battle’s occurrence?
  3. The battle described in Rev. 20:7-10 takes place “when the thousand years are ended,” i.e. at the end of the Millennium. One’s eschatological system, therefore, is a large factor in determining when this battle takes place. For Futurists and premillennialists, it will take place 1000 years after the future Second Coming of Christ. For amillennialists and for postmillennialists, it will take place sometime in the future, but before the Second Coming of Christ, since we are in the Millennium now. For full-preterists (those who believe in the past fulfillment of all Bible prophecy), it took place in or just before 70 AD.

The four interpretations we will consider[1] are these:

[A] The position of partial-preterists David Lowman and Gary DeMar that Ezekiel’s prophecy was fulfilled in Esther’s day. For this position, the battles of Ezekiel 38-39 and Revelation 20 are not one and the same.

[B] Partial-preterist Kenneth Gentry’s position that Ezekiel 38-39 was likely fulfilled in the second century BC, and its imagery is used by John to foreshadow the events of Revelation 19:11-21 and Revelation 20:8-10. For this position, the battles of Ezekiel 38-39 and Revelation 20 are not one and the same (nor are the battles of Rev. 19 and Rev. 20).

[C] The popular Futurist/premillennial position, which says that Ezekiel prophesied of a Russian-led attack on national Israel which is very soon to take place, and that John prophesied of an attack on the literal city of Jerusalem at the end of a future 1000-year Millennium. For this position, the battles of Ezekiel 38-39 and Revelation 20 are not one and the same.

[D] Full-preterist Kurt Simmon’s position that Ezekiel 38-39 was a prophecy concerning Rome’s invasion of Jerusalem in 70 AD, as was John’s prophecy in Revelation 20. Clearly, then, for this position, the battles of Ezekiel 38-39 and Revelation 20 ARE indeed one and the same.

After each position is presented, I will offer some pros and cons as I see them (i.e. as I see them at this time; these are not easy texts to interpret, and my views on this subject are not necessarily set in stone). For clarity, my pros and cons will be listed in red and green font, respectively. Feedback is welcome in the comments section.

[A] David Lowman and Gary DeMar: Ezekiel 38-39 Was Fulfilled in Esther’s Day

1. David Lowman’s View

David Lowman is a Presbyterian pastor, and a partial-preterist (one who sees a past fulfillment in many, but not all, Bible prophecies). In the first post in a brief 4-part series on this subject, David Lowman notes that many “prophecy experts…have over the years…promoted the idea that the names used for [Gog, Magog, and their allies] are related to current nations that will supposedly lead a multi-national conglomerate of nations preparing to attack Israel. Those names are Rosh, Meshech and Tubal.” In this thinking, Rosh is supposed to be Russia, Meshech to be Moscow, and Tubal to be Tobolsk. Lowman says that only the NASB (New American Standard Bible) uses the translation “Rosh” in the first place (having been translated by dispensationalists), but even futurists like Charles Ryrie disagree with this translation. He adds,

The term “Rosh” in Hebrew means “chief” or “leader” [and] is a Hebrew word. “Russia” comes from the 11th century Scandanavian word “Rus” and has no relation in root and etemology to the word “rosh.” It’s beyond a stretch of all credulity [to link the two]… “Meshach” and “Tubal” were actual city/nations before the time of Christ and were part of the larger Persian Empire. These words come from the Asiatic words “Mushka” and “Tabal” and they are both literal locations located in modern day Turkey and, again, have NO relation to the nation of Russia in any way. This is such poor exegesis and now many modern Dispensationalist have abandoned these claims, though the more popular prophecy experts still promote it.

In David Lowman’s second post, he makes the point that Ezekiel described a style of warfare that is very much ancient, and that the weapons he mentioned were made out of wood and thus able to be burned (Ezek. 38:4-5; 39:9). Many believe that Russia’s identity is confirmed because these armies were to come from the north (Ezek. 38:6, 15; 39:2), but Lowman notes that other significant invasions of Israel in the Old Testament were also from the north: [1] Babylon (Jeremiah 1:14, 4:6, 6:10, 10:22), Persia (Isaiah 41:25, Jer. 50:41), and Assyria (Zephaniah 2:13). Lowman then adds:

The truth of the matter is that nearly all attacks against Israel came from the north directionally speaking. The easiest way to travel to attack Israel would be from the North. As noted all the great enemies of Israel were from the East or West but their attacks all came from the North. This is also true in several instances in Ezekiel. There are several mentions of nation from the North attaching even though the nation of origin came from the East or West… The closest nation from a northern proximity to ever attack Israel would have been Rome, from across the Mediterranean Sea.

In Lowman’s third post, he agrees with Kenneth Gentry (as we will see) that the battle of Revelation 20, with its reference to Gog and Magog (verse 8), is only an allusion to the battle described in Ezekiel 38-39, but is not a reference to the same historical event.

In Lowman’s fourth post, he notes that many believe that “this event was fulfilled during the time of the Macabbean Revolt [during the second century BC]. This view argues that the enemy in question is Antiochus Epiphanies which would fit the Persian expectation and the worldwide expanse of the Persian empire at that time.” This doesn’t really fit, though, he says, because the Macabbean Revolt involved throwing off the rule of an occupying force after several years, while the attack in Ezekiel describes divine intervention at the time of an invasion.

Instead, Lowman submits that the fulfillment of Ezekiel 38-39 “is found during the time of Esther and involves the Israelite victory over Haman’s “schemes” and complete victory of the outmatched Israel forces.” In the second part of this section, Gary DeMar will expand on the idea that Ezekiel 38-39 was fulfilled in Esther’s day.

2. Gary DeMar’s View—Similar to That of David Lowman’s:

At the outset of Gary DeMar’s article, I would like to include a small disclaimer that I personally appreciate some of DeMar’s works more than others. I have read/skimmed excerpts from his books “Last Days Madness” and “Why the End of the World is Not in Your Future,” and appreciated what I read. In short, I have appreciated his articulation of the preterist viewpoint which I also share. However, I’m not on the same page when it comes to the Postmillennial position of his ministry, American Vision, as well as some of the political rants of AV which seem to follow in the vein of World Net Daily, a publication which I respect just about as much as I respect The National Enquirer. Having said that, DeMar’s article on Gog and Magog is quite thought-provoking:

…If the battle described in Ezekiel 38–39 does not refer to modern-day nations that will attack Israel, then when and where in biblical history did this conflict take place? Instead of looking to the distant future or finding fulfillment in a historical setting outside the Bible where we are dependent on unreliable secular sources, James B. Jordan believes that “it is in [the book of] Esther that we see a conspiracy to plunder the Jews, which backfires with the result that the Jews plundered their enemies. This event is then ceremonially sealed with the institution of the annual Feast of Purim.” Jordan continues by establishing the context for Ezekiel 38 and 39:

Ezekiel describes the attack of Gog, Prince of Magog, and his confederates. Ezekiel states that people from all over the world attack God’s people, who are pictured dwelling at peace in the land. God’s people will completely defeat them, however, and the spoils will be immense. The result is that all nations will see the victory, and “the house of Israel will know that I am the Lord their God from that day onward” (Ezek. 39:21–23). . . . Chronologically this all fits very nicely. The events of Esther took place during the reign of Darius, after the initial rebuilding of the Temple under Joshua [the High Priest] and Zerubbabel and shortly before rebuilding of the walls by Nehemiah. . . . Thus, the interpretive hypothesis I am suggesting (until someone shoots it down) is this: Ezekiel 34–37 describes the first return of the exiles under Zerubbabel, and implies the initial rebuilding of the physical Temple. Ezekiel 38–39 describes the attack of Gog (Haman) and his confederates against the Jews. Finally, Ezekiel 40–48 describes in figurative language the situation as a result of the work of Nehemiah.

Ezekiel 38:5–6 tells us that Israel’s enemies come from “Persia, Cush, and . . . from the remote parts of the north,” all within the boundaries of the Persian Empire of Esther’s day. From Esther we learn that the Persian Empire “extended from India to Cush, 127 provinces” in all (Esther 8:9). Ethiopia (Cush) and Persia are listed in Esther 1:1 and 3 and are also found in Ezekiel 38:5. The other nations were in the geographical boundaries “from India to Ethiopia” in the “127 provinces” over which Ahasueras ruled (Esther 1:1). “In other words, the explicit idea that the Jews were attacked by people from all the provinces of Persia is in both passages,” and the nations listed by Ezekiel were part of the Persian empire of the prophet’s day. The parallels are unmistakable. Even Ezekiel’s statement that the fulfillment of the prophecy takes place in a time when there are “unwalled villages” (Ezek. 38:11) is not an indication of a distant future fulfillment as Grant Jeffrey attempts to argue:

It is interesting to note that during the lifetime of Ezekiel and up until 1900, virtually all of the villages and cities in the Middle East had walls for defense. Ezekiel had never seen a village or city without defensive walls. Yet, in our day, Israel is a “land of unwalled villages” for the simple reason that modern techniques of warfare (bombs and missiles) make city walls irrelevant for defense. This is one more indication that his prophecy refers to our modern generation.

* * * * *

Ezekiel’s reference to “dwell safely” and “without walls . . . neither bars nor gates” refers precisely to Israel’s current military situation, where she is dwelling safely because of her strong armed defense and where her cities and villages have no walls or defensive bars. The prophet had never seen a city without walls, so he was astonished when he saw, in a vision, Israel dwelling in the future without walls. Ezekiel lived in a time when every city in the world used huge walls for military defense.

In Esther we learn that there were Jews who were living peacefully in “unwalled towns” (KJV) (9:19) when Haman conspired against them. Israel’s antagonists in Ezekiel are said to “go up against the land of unwalled villages” (Ezek. 38:11). The Hebrew word perazah is used in Esther 9:19 and Ezekiel 38:11. This fits the conditions of Esther’s day. Jeffrey is mistaken in his assertion that “Ezekiel had never seen a village or city without defensive walls.” They seemed to be quite common outside the main cities. Moreover, his contention that Israel is currently “dwelling safely because of her strong armed defense” is patently untrue. Since 2006, the Israeli government has built more than 435 miles of walls in Israel.

The chief antagonist of the Jews in Esther is Haman, “the son of Hammedatha the Agagite” (Esther 3:1, 10; 8:3, 5; 9:24). An Agagite is a descendant of Amalek, one of the persistent enemies of the people of God. In Numbers 24:20 we read, “Amalek was the first of the nations, but his end shall be destruction.” The phrase “first of the nations” takes us back to the early chapters of Genesis where we find “Gomer,” “Magog,” “Tubal,” and “Meshech,” and their father Japheth (Gen. 10:2), the main antagonist nations that figure prominently in Ezekiel 38 and 39. Amalek was probably a descendant of Japheth (Gen. 10:2). Haman and his ten sons are the last Amalekites who appear in the Bible. In Numbers 24:7, the Septuagint (LXX) translates “Agag” as “Gog.” “One late manuscript to Esther 3:1 and 9:24 refers to Haman as a ‘Gogite.’” Agag and Gog are very similar in their Hebrew spelling and meaning. Agagite means “I will overtop,” while Gog means “mountain.” In his technical commentary on Esther, Lewis Bayles Paton writes:

The only Agag  mentioned in the OT is the king of Amalek [Num. 24:7; 1 Sam. 15:9]. . . . [A]ll Jewish, and many Christian comm[entators] think that Haman is meant to be a descendant of this Agag. This view is probably correct, because Mordecai, his rival, is a descendant of Saul ben Kish, who overthrew Agag [1 Sam. 17:8–16], and is specially cursed in the law [Deut. 25:17]. It is, therefore, probably the author’s intention to represent Haman as descended from this race that was characterized by an ancient and unquenchable hatred of Israel (cf. 3:10, “the enemy of the Jews”).

A cursive Hebrew manuscript identifies Haman as “a Gogite.” Paul Haupt sees a relationship between Haman’s descriptions as an Agagite and “the Gogite.”

There is another link between Haman the Agagite in Esther and Gog in Ezekiel 38–39. “According to Ezekiel 39:11 and 15, the place where the army of Gog is buried will be known as the Valley of Hamon-Gog, and according to verse 16, the nearby city will become known as Hamonah.”[12] The word hamon in Ezekiel “is spelled in Hebrew almost exactly like the name Haman. . . . In Hebrew, both words have the same ‘triliteral root’ (hmn). Only the vowels are different.”

Haman is the “prince-in-chief” of a multi-national force that he gathers from the 127 provinces with the initial permission of king Ahasuerus to wipe out his mortal enemy—the Jews (Ex. 17:8–16; Num. 24:7; 1 Sam. 15:8; 1 Chron. 4:42–43; Deut. 25:17–19). Consider these words: “King Ahasuerus promoted Haman, the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, and advanced him and established his authority over all the princes who were with him” (Esther 3:1). Having “authority over all the princes who were with him” makes him the “chief prince.” In Esther 3:12 we read how Haman is described as the leader of the satraps, governors, and princes… (More here).

A few of the parallels between the accounts in Esther and Ezekiel 38-39, which Gary DeMar didn’t mention but David Lowman does, are as follows:

  • Ezra and Nehemiah both mention the large amounts of silver and gold that the Jews brought back from exile. These are the same items we are told the approaching armies were attacking to plunder.
  • The battle with Haman’s armies takes place after Israel is returned to the land—during Darius’ reign. Ezekiel prophesied until just a few short decades before this time.
  • Esther and Ezekiel’s enemies from the north both contain Persia and Ethiopia.
  • In a very short battle [in Esther] the Israelites destroy Haman’s army killing nearly 100,000 despite being greatly out-manned.
  • In fact, both passages state that the Jews were attacked by all of Persia’s provinces.

PROS: [1] Lowman makes a good point that Ezekiel went to great lengths to describe ancient warfare (“horses and horsemen…full armor…buckler and shield, wielding swords…shields and helmet…bow and arrows, clubs and spears” [Ezek. 38:4-5; 39:9]). Unless context clearly dictates otherwise, it would be a huge stretch to make this a description of modern warfare.

[2] I appreciated DeMar’s effort in noting the context of the chapters surrounding Ezekiel 38-39 (i.e. the first return of the exiles from Babylon under Zerubbabel), thus legitimizing his statement that it’s plausible for this text to be applied to Esther’s day if the other data fits.

[3] DeMar argues well for parallel boundaries between the Persian Empire in Esther’s day and Gog/Magog and her allies in Ezekiel’s vision.

[4] In Ezekiel’s vision, the Jews were living in unwalled towns. DeMar notes that this was also the case in Esther’s day, which makes sense since they were part of the Persian Empire at that time, an empire known for its benevolence and for taking good care of its subjects.

[5] The Agag-Gog connection is very intriguing, where Haman (the enemy of Esther) is shown to be an “Agagite” and even a “Gogite” in some manuscripts. That the invaders in Ezekiel’s vision would be buried in the Valley of Hamon-Gog only adds to the intrigue.

[6] The five parallels between the accounts in Esther and Ezekiel are all credible, making this interpretation a very legitimate possibility.

CONS: [1] There is no Biblical record explicitly stating that what took place in Esther’s day was first prophesied by Ezekiel. The connections, though fascinating, are implicit rather than explicit.

[2] There are details recorded in Ezekiel’s vision that are not recorded in Esther’s account, which can be seen primarily in Esther 9.

[B] Kenneth Gentry: Ezekiel 38-39 is Historically Distinct from Rev. 19 and 20

Kenneth Gentry is an ordained Presbyterian minister and author who, like Gary DeMar and David Lowman, is a partial-preterist. On page 160 of his newest book titled “Navigating the Book of Revelation: Special Studies on Important Issues, Gentry notes several parallels between the structure of Ezekiel and how John organizes the book of Revelation. Among these structural parallels, he says, is the correlation between Ezekiel 38-39 and Revelation 19-20.[2] Gentry’s main contribution here, though, will be his explanation that Revelation 19 and 20 simply draw on Ezekiel 38-39, but are not the same event. In other words, John, in both Revelation 19 and 20, only alludes to the prophecy given by Ezekiel (future to Ezekiel, but past to John) as a harbinger of what is to come in his own future.

Aside from this explanation, I haven’t been able to find Gentry’s precise position on the interpretation of Ezekiel 38-39. At “The Forerunner” website where many of his products are sold I did find an article written in 1990 by his ministry associate, Jay Rogers, titled “Is the Soviet Union Gog and Magog?” In this article, Jay Rogers proposes that Ezekiel’s prophecy concerned the Scythian invaders of the 2nd century BC:

Others have understood this vision as a prophecy which was fulfilled in the 2nd century B.C. at the defeat of the Assyrian invaders of Palestine by Judas Maccabeus… Ezekiel 38-39 should be understood in the context of its apocalyptic literary style; this is a highly visionary passage depicting an earthly struggle of Ezekiel’s time which is only a smaller reflection of a spiritual conflict between the forces of heaven and hell. Historically, the nations mentioned in this passage, Magog, Meshech, Tubal, Gomer and Beth-togarmah, were a barbarous people known as the Scythians. These were a nomadic people who had moved from central Asia to southern Russia. Just about the same time that Ezekiel was born, the Scythians terrorized southwest Asia and the Middle East.

Whether this is Kenneth Gentry’s personal position at this time, I don’t know. The closest admission I could find from Gentry on his own view of Ezekiel’s prophecy is this statement:

[Greg] Beale (980) allows the possibility that Eze. 38–39 could point to second century BC events (Antiochus Epiphanes) that serve as “typological patterns” for what will “happen at the end of history” (cf. Bøe 373). Riddlebarger recognizes that “Divine judgments in history are, so to speak, rehearsals of the last judgment.” That is precisely my understanding of John’s use of Ezekiel to refer to AD 70: for AD 70 is a distant adumbration of the end of history which will come at the Second Advent.

These thoughts from Gentry, as well as what follows, can be found in a publication written by Kenneth Gentry titled “Recapitulation v Progress.” This is a primer for a full-length, verse-by-verse commentary on the book of Revelation which Gentry is currently working on. This particular publication is #13 among his Revelation Commentary Updates so far, and these excerpts are from pages 2-9 of that publication.

What follows is a summary of Gentry’s view that Ezekiel’s prophecy is merely drawn upon by John to signify the events of Revelation 19-20. In our introduction to Revelation 20 we noted that Gentry’s partial-preterist views cause him to agree with the premillennial position that Revelation 20:7-10 does not cover the same historical ground as Revelation 19:11-21 either. The reason that this is important to note is because both of these passages in Revelation allude to Ezekiel 38-39. His (rare) agreement with premillennialists on this point comes, though, “with quite different results,” as he explains:

I hold that Christ’s coming from heaven to wage war in Revelation 19:11ff represents His judgment coming on Israel in AD 70. As such it reflects the theme of the book found in 1:7, where he comes against those tribes who pierced him (the Jews). Consequently, 20:1ff presents the consequence of Christ’s judgment of Israel, Christianity’s first major enemy: the binding of Satan, the vindication of the martyrs, and the spiritual rule of believers with Christ in the present age.

Here Gentry makes the following statements regarding the non-explicit references to Gog and Magog in Revelation 19 and the explicit mention of Gog and Magog in Revelation 20:

R. Fowler White notes [that Revelation] 19:17–18 is “virtually a verbatim quotation” of Ezekiel 39:17–20 (1989: 326), and [Revelation] 20:7–10 specifically mentions “Gog and Magog” (Ezekiel 38:2; 39:1, 6), showing God destroying them with fire from heaven (cp. Rev 20:7–10; Eze 38:22; 39:6). Clearly then, John bases both “the Armageddon revolt (19:17–21) and the Gog-Magog revolt (20:7–10) on the same prophetic passage” (1989: 327)… [Both Revelation 19:19–21 and Revelation 20:7–10] allude to the same OT eschatological battle prophecy (Ezekiel 38–39).

Gentry notes that there are those who draw from these facts the premise that the events of Revelation 19:19-21 and Revelation 20:7-10 must therefore refer to the same historical event. This is most common among amillennialists who also hold to the Historicist (rather than futurist or preterist) position. However, he adds:

Though “significant correspondence” of a “highly peculiar” nature exists between Rev. 19 and Ezekiel 39, problems confront this interpretation: First, similarity does not entail identity. Simply because John patterns both the battles of Rev. 19 and Rev. 20 on Eze. 38–39 does not mean they are the same battle. Similar language is used because similar fundamental realities prevail: God is catastrophically judging oppressive enemies of His people.

Many scholars see AD 70 as a microcosm of the final judgment. Consequently, we may expect the same imagery to apply to both AD 70 and the end. For instance, of those first century events, Bloesch states: “The catastrophe that befell the Jewish people in A.D. 70 is a sign of the final judgment.” Morris agrees: “…[We see that there is] a theological unity between the two judgments, and that some of what Jesus says [in the Olivet Discourse] could apply equally well to both.” Second, as Bøe notes, John often makes double use of Ezekiel’s images (Bøe, 275). The imagery from Ezekiel’s scroll vision in Eze. 2:8–33 applies both to Rev 5:1 and 10:8–11; Ezekiel’s measuring imagery in Eze 40–48 appears in quite distinct passages in Rev 11:1–2 and 21:10–27 (Bøe 371).

…If John had wanted us to understand recapitulation [the repetition of the same events] rather than sequence in this passage [Revelation 20], John “did us no favor” by: (a) recasting the beast and false prophet (19:20) as Gog and Magog (20:8); (b) inserting a thousand year period between the two battles (20:2–5); (c) representing the period of Christian history from the first century to the end as “a short time” (12:12) and as “a thousand years” (20:2–6)… (d) offering no hint that Satan is bound before Rev 19:11ff while emphasizing his being bound before Rev 20:7ff; and (e) telling us that Satan will be thrown into the lake of fire where the beast and false prophet already are (20:10).

…[The judgment of] AD 70 (in Rev. 19:11–21) anticipates the final eschatological battle (Rev. 20:8–10)… It even seems that the NT emphasizes AD 70 more frequently — probably because it was looming in the near future, directly relevant to first century Christians, and of catastrophic significance in re-orienting their thinking regarding the flow of redemptive history… Indeed, it seems that the NT knows of only two great battles remaining in redemptive history: AD 70 which closes the old covenant era (and inaugurates the new covenant) and the Second Advent which closes the new covenant era (and history). Jesus certainly seems to link AD 70 and the Second Advent in his large Olivet Discourse… In addition, John limits Revelation’s prophecies to the near term (1:1, 3; 22:6, 10), which suggests a strong emphasis on AD 70.

Having made his case that Revelation 19:11-21 and Revelation 20:8-10 are separate and distinct events, Gentry then makes his case for why Ezekiel 38-39 is also not one and the same with Revelation 20:

Ezekiel 38–39 does not fit either the imagery of Rev 20:7–10 or its consummational setting… We see this in that:

(1) In Ezekiel God is on the offensive and gathers Gog (38:1–4; 39:1–2), whereas in Revelation Satan takes the offensive and gathers “Gog” (20:7–10).

(2) In Ezekiel Gog is motivated by plunder (Eze 38:12–13), whereas in Rev. 20:8 he is moved by Satan’s deception without regard to plunder.

(3) Ezekiel speaks of an actual battle wherein God causes men to fight one another with swords (38:21), which is a common motif description for confused historical battle (Judges 7:22; 1 Samuel 14:20; Haggai 2:2; Zech. 14:13). This is a common way of showing God providentially and indirectly (rather than miraculously and directly) punishing men in history (e.g., Isaiah 10:5; 13:17). But Rev. 20:7–10 seems to present a purely final-eschatological judgment, involving direct divine destruction by fire (20:9b), with no mention of human implements of war involved.

(4) Ezekiel speaks of Israel becoming faithful at that time because of that battle (39:22–24), whereas Rev. 20 has God’s people already ruling and reigning (20:4) and living in obedience in the “beloved city” (20:9b) at the time of this final judgment…

(6) Ezekiel emphasizes certain events occurring after the battle, including burning the weapons for seven years (39:9), burying the dead (39:12–16), and other nations witnessing God’s triumph and Israel’s faithfulness “from that day onward” (39:21–24). These clearly show history continuing after the battle. But Revelation presents the climactic end-time wrath of God (20:9c), which is followed by the final judgment and the end of history (20:11–15).

PROS: [1] While Gentry says very little about how Ezekiel 38-39 may have been fulfilled, he provides plenty of well-thought-out reasons for why this passage is to be seen as historically distinct from Revelation 19 and Revelation 20. To add to his reasons already given, I offer these as well: [a] Those being attacked in Ezekiel 38-39 dwell in the cities of Israel (Ezek. 39:9) with livestock, goods (38:13), and are dependent on wood from the forests (39:10). Those who are attacked in Revelation 20:7-10 are identified as “the camp of the saints and the beloved city,” a clear parallel to “the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem…the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven” (Hebrews 12:22-23; i.e. the Church). [b] In Ezekiel, Israel’s attackers come from “the uttermost parts of the north” (Ezek. 38:6), while in Revelation Gog and Magog comes from “the four corners of the earth” (Rev. 20:8).

[2] The first-century historian Josephus, as will be noted in the futurist section below, affirmed that the Scythian peoples of his day could trace their descent from Magog.

CONS: Kenneth Gentry, at least here in this material, doesn’t offer much of an explanation for how Ezekiel 38-39 may have been fulfilled by events in the second century BC. This does nothing, however, to take away from his well-argued premise that this prophecy is historically distinct from the prophecies of Revelation 19 and 20.

[C] The Futurist Position: Ezekiel 38-39 is Not Yet Fulfilled (and neither is Revelation 19 or 20)

In this section, we will only deal with the futurist position on Ezekiel 38-39, and not on Revelation 19 and 20 (it’s a given that the majority of futurists see Revelation 19 as taking place in the future prior to Christ’s Second Coming, and Revelation 20 taking place 1000 years later at the end of the Millennium. When it comes to discussions on Gog and Magog, futurist authors have had a great deal to say regarding Ezekiel 38-39. The highly resourceful Preterist Archive has preserved several quotes from well-known futurist authors on this subject. For example, Hal Lindsey had this to say:

“When the Russians invade the Middle East with amphibious and mechanized land forces, they will make a ‘blitzkreig’ type of offensive through the area… The current build-up of Russian ships in the Mediterranean serves as another significant sign of the possible nearness of Armageddon” (The Late Great Planet Earth, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1970,  p. 145-146)

“Dr. Cummings, writing in 1864, said, “This king of the North I conceive to be the autocrat of Russia.. that Russia occupies a place, and a very momentous place, in the prophetic word has been admitted by almost all expositors.” (ibid., p. 52)

(Hal Lindsey changing tune after [the] fall of Russia) “But world domination — as Ezekiel makes clear — was never in the script for Russia!” (italics in original, Cited in Pate and Haines, p. 138)

Patti and Paul Lalonde made this sweeping statement in 1992:

“Bible scholars agree that ‘Gog’ also described as ‘prince of Rosh,’ is the leader of what is modern day Russia.” (In the Edge of Time: The Final Countdown Has Begun)

And Tim Lahaye made these remarks, also in 1992:

“Etymology is the study of linguistic changes and the history of words.  We will investigate the etymology of the names of nations.  As we will see, “Magog” is an ancient name for the nation now known as Russia.  “Gog” merely means “the chief prince of Magog,” or more literally, the chief prince of Meschech and Tubal (38:2-3; 39:1).

The name “Moscow” derives from the tribal name “Meshech,” and “Tobolsk, the name of the principal state, from “Tubal.” The noun “Gog” is from the original tribal name “Magog,” which gradually became “Rosh,” then “Russ,” and today is known as “Russia.” (“Will God Destroy Russia, in Storming Towards Armageddon: Essays in Apocalypse, ed. Wm. James (Green Forest, AR: New Leaf Press, 1992), p. 260-261)

“Russia is unquestionably the nation identified in the prophecies of Ezekiel 38 and 39.” (“Will God Destroy Russia, in Storming Towards Armageddon: Essays in Apocalypse, ed. Wm. James (Green Forest, AR: New Leaf Press, 1992), p. 259)

Dispensationalist futurist Thomas Ice notes that “Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins in their best-selling novel Left Behind, place this invasion of Israel right before the rapture of the church.” Ice adds: “The strength of this position is that it accounts for the burning of the weapons of war for seven years as mentioned in Ezekiel 39:9. However, Tim LaHaye has told me personally that even though they represented a pre-rapture position on Ezekiel 38 and 39 in their novel, he tends to place it after the rapture but before the tribulation.” Ice then accounts for several other variations within the futurist (mostly dispensationalist) camp regarding the placement of Ezekiel’s vision:

The next view, which is the one I hold at this time, is that it will happen after the rapture but before the tribulation. It will be during the interval of days, weeks, months or years between the rapture and the start of the seven-year tribulation. This view also accounts for the seven years of Ezekiel 39:9. I have always thought that one of the strengths of this view is the way in which it could set the stage for the Biblical scenario of the tribulation. If the tribulation is closely preceded by a failed regional invasion of Israel, in other words Russia and her Muslim allies, then this would remove much of the Russian and Muslim influence currently in the world today and allow a Euro-centric orientation to arise. So the tribulation is preceded by a failed regional attack on Israel and this is why the tribulation ends with all the peoples of the world attacking Israel at Armageddon. It could also set the stage for the rebuilding of the Temple as a result of Islamic humiliation.

Perhaps the most widely held view put forth within dispensational literature is that this invasion will take place around the middle of the seven-year tribulation. This view often identifies Ezekiel 38 and 39 with an invasion of the king of the north in Daniel 11:40. Another major argument is based upon the statement that Israel will be “living securely, all of them” (Ezek. 38:8), which is the result of the false peace brought by the anti-Christ in the first half of the tribulation. This view has a lot in its favor.

A significant number of Bible teachers believe that the Gog and Magog event is synonymous with what the Book of Revelation calls the Campaign of Armageddon (Rev. 16:16). Since Armageddon is a huge invasion of Israel around the time of the second coming and the invasion of Israel described in Ezekiel 38 and 39 is said to be in “the latter years” (Ezek. 38:8) and “in the last days” (Ezek. 38:16), then they must be the same event. A similar, but slightly different view is that the invasion occurs after the second coming of Christ, during the interlude between the tribulation and the start of the millennium. The main argument for this view is that Israel would be dwelling in peace (Ezek. 38:8).

The last major view is that the battle of Ezekiel 38 and 39 will occur at the end of the millennium. The basis for this view is significant since Revelation 20:7–9 speaks of a conflict at the end of the millennium when Satan is released. Verse 8 says, “(Satan) will come out to deceive the nations which are in the four corner of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together for the war . . .” The strength of this view is obvious, Gog and Magog are specifically mentioned in the text.

In Part 2 of this same study, Thomas Ice speculates on the identity of Gog and Magog:

“The name Gog means ‘high, supreme, a height, or a high mountain.’”  The only references to the Gog of Ezekiel’s prophecy appear in the passage itself and there is virtually no information about Gog outside the Bible in history. However, when Gog leads his invasion of Israel he is said to come “from the remote parts of the north” (Ezek. 38:6). Louis Bauman tells us that “L. Sale-Harrison says in his booklet, The Coming Great Northern Confederacy: ‘It is interesting to note that the very word ‘Caucasus’ means ‘Gog’s Fort.’ ‘Gog’ and ‘Chasan’ (Fort) are two Oriental words from which it is derived.’”  So there does appear to be a faint reference to Gog in the general area of Russia that Gog is likely to be from.

Who then is Gog? Bauman says, “Without doubt, Russia will furnish the man—not the Antichrist—who will head up that which is known to most Bible students as ‘the great northeastern confederacy’ of nations and lead it to its doom upon the hills of Israel’s land.” …Hal Lindsey tells us, “Gog is the symbolic name of the nation’s leader and Magog is his land. He is also the prince of the ancient people who were called Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal.”  Arnold Fruchtenbaum informs us: “Who Gog will be can only be determined at the time of the invasion, for ‘Gog’ is not a proper name but a title for the rule of Magog, just as the terms ‘pharaoh,’ ‘kaiser,’ and ‘czar’ were titles for rulers and not proper names.”

…The fact that Magog is used in the table of nations (Genesis 10)  provides a basis for tracing the movement of one of the earliest post-flood descendants of Noah. It appears that Ezekiel is using the names of peoples, primarily from the table of nations, and where they lived at the time of the giving of this prophecy in the sixth century B.C. Therefore, if we are able to find out where these people and places were in the sixth century B.C. then we will be able to trace figure out who would be their modern antecedents today. I believe we will be able to accomplish this task and be able to know who will be involved in this battle if it were to come to pass in our own day.

It is probably fair to say that most scholars and experts would trace Magog’s descendants to the ancient people that we know as the Scythians. Chuck Missler notes that a wide collection of ancient historians “identified Magog with the Scythians and southern Russia in the 7th century B.C.”15 These ancients include: Hesiod, Josephus, Philo, and Herodotus. Josephus lived in the first century A.D. and said, “Magog founded the Magogians, thus named after him but who by the Greeks are called Scythians.”

Who are the Scythians? Edwin Yamauchi tells us that the Scythians were divided into two groups, a narrow and broad grouping. “In the narrow sense, the Scythians were the tribes who lived in the area which Herodotus designated as Scythia (i.e., the territory north of the Black Sea),” notes Yamauchi. “In the broad sense the word Scythian can designate some of the many other tribes in the vast steppes of Russia, stretching from the Ukraine in the west to the region of Siberia in the east.”

I haven’t read further in Ice’s narrative, not in any real detail anyway, but the reader can get the idea where he is going from here, in painstakingly attempting to trace through more than 2000 years of history who are the modern descendants of the Scythians. To continue reading, though, by all means see Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10 (which only brings the reader up to Ezekiel 38:6!), and all the other parts that I lost the energy to link to.

PROS: Aside from identifying these speculations as bad exegesis (critical interpretation), it’s difficult to prove them wrong because they are always said to be just ahead in God’s prophetic calendar [I suppose this is part pro / part con]. Thus, it might be said, who can say that these things won’t play out in the way that futurists say that they will?

CONS: [1] This interpretation, ironically, highly allegorizes the references to ancient warfare (“horses and horsemen…full armor…buckler and shield, wielding swords…shields and helmet…bow and arrows, clubs and spears” [Ezek. 38:4-5; 39:9]). This is ironic because futurists and dispensationalists tend to pride themselves on holding to a literal interpretation of Scripture far more often than those who hold alternative viewpoints.

[2] This interpretation virtually ignores the fact that Ezekiel’s prophecies were, in the primary sense, contemporary to his day and concerned the period in which the Israelites were to return from exile in Babylon under Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah.

[3] This interpretation makes the modern, political nation of Israel the recipients of God’s special blessing, promises, and protection in this present age. However, the promises were made to Abraham and his singular offspring, Christ (Galatians 3:16), and Abraham’s true offspring (the heirs according to promise) are only those who belong to Christ (Gal. 3:29).

[4] This prophecy must take place when the nation of Israel, according to this view, is dwelling securely (Ezek. 38:8) in “the land of unwalled villages” (verse 11). This is not even close to the situation in Israel today. Many dispensationalists, though (e.g. Lahaye), say this must be the situation prior to a future 7-year Tribulation period, because the weapons of Israel’s attackers will be burned for seven years (Ezek. 39:9), AFTER seven months of burying their attackers (Ezek. 39:12). Yet, dispensationalists say that peace will be secured for national Israel when “the Antichrist” makes a covenant with that nation at the very beginning of the Tribulation (an idea which I believe to be a severe misapplication of Daniel 9:27), only to break it 3.5 years later.

In this scenario, the 7-month burial period would mean that Israel will be dwelling in security more than half a year prior to the alleged future covenant established by “the Antichrist.” Why would such security exist for months before “the Antichrist” comes along to establish it?

[5] There is much more which could be addressed concerning the various futurist viewpoints noted by Thomas Ice above, but I’d rather not take up  more space in doing so. Perhaps I will do so later in the comments section. For the record, though, I personally happen to believe that the Great Tribulation (Matthew 24:21; Revelation 7:14) was fulfilled during the Roman-Jewish War leading up to Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 AD, a subject which has been addressed at length elsewhere on this blog.

[D] Kurt Simmons: Ezekiel 38-39, Revelation 19, and Revelation 20 Were All Fulfilled in 70 AD

Kurt M. Simmons is a full-preterist who believes that “Gog and Magog [as mentioned in Revelation 20:8] was a symbol employed for the persecution under Nero and the Jews.” In other words, for Simmons, the battle described in this passage brought an end to the Millennium just before 70 AD, thus making the Millennium last for only 40 years (beginning around 30 AD and ending around 70 AD). This idea was discussed more fully in Part 2 of our Minority Views on the Millennium. Simmons’ viewpoint is the only one discussed so far which sees Revelation 20:7-10 as not merely alluding to Ezekiel 38-39, but being one and the same event described in both texts.

By way of background information on Ezekiel 38-39, Simmons says,

The three major themes of the OT prophets were 1) the coming judgment upon Israel and Judah in which they would be carried into captivity; 2) the restoration of the nation to the land; and 3) the kingdom of the Messiah. Although separated by several hundred years, prophecies about the return of the captivity and the nation’s political restoration were often woven together with prophecies about the kingdom of the Messiah and the spiritual restoration of man in Christ. In fact, the gathering together and return of the captivity under Zerubbabel became a type of the Messiah, who would gather together [true] Israel and lead them unto spiritual Zion and the heavenly Jerusalem.

Simmons then cites Hosea 1:11, 3:4-5 and Amos 9:8-14 as two examples of prophecy having a more immediate sense as well as ultimately a fuller sense. Moving on to the book of Ezekiel, Simmons remarks:

The imagery of Gog and Magog in Revelation is adapted from Ezekiel. Like other prophets, Ezekiel wrote about the coming captivity, the restoration to the land, and the coming kingdom of the Messiah. The first half of Ezekiel addresses the coming captivity and is laden with prophecies of wrath and lamentation; the latter half is devoted to the themes of national restoration and the coming of Christ. Ezekiel’s most graphic portrayal of the return of the captivity is set out in his prophecy of the “valley of dry bones” (Ezek. 37:1-17): The nation was in captivity; the ten northern tribes carried away by the Assyrians; Judah carried away to Babylon. The temple was burned, the city lay in ruins. Ezekiel likened the nation unto a defeated army, whose bleached bones lay scattered across a vast plain. The question for the Jews of the captivity was did the nation have a future? The answer was, Yes!

…The prophecy of the dry bones [Ezekiel 37:11-12] would be fulfilled in the restoration of Israel to its land. Cyrus would allow the city to be rebuilt and the captives to return home. This happened in the great migrations under Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah. But Ezekiel’s prophecy didn’t stop with the return of the captivity; like other OT prophets it looked beyond the return of the captivity unto the spiritual restoration of man in Christ.

Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side…and David my servant shall be king over them. Ezek. 37:21, 24; emphasis added.

Like Hosea’s prophecy of “David their king,” David here is a symbol for Christ and speaks to the restoration of the Davidic throne that had been usurped by Nebuchadnezzar and the Gentile powers. However, Christ would not sit upon the throne of David on earth or the terrestrial Jerusalem, but in the heavenly Jerusalem above. Peter made this abundantly clear in the very first gospel sermon after Christ’s resurrection [Acts 2:29-34]… Premillennial hopes of Christ seated upon David throne upon earth are empty and vain; they embody the very hope that led the Jews to crucify Christ; for they looked for a national liberator, not a Savior who would deliver from the bondage of sin and death. When, therefore, Ezekiel and the prophets speak of David ruling over his people, we understand that they spoke of Christ and the church. The church is the restored Israel and kingdom of Messianic prophecy.

Ezekiel’s prophecies of the valley of dry bones and “David my servant” occur in Ezekiel thirty-seven; the prophecy of Gog and Magog occurs in chapters thirty-eight and thirty-nine. Thus, restored Israel (the church) under “David” is the historical and chronological context of the prophecy about Gog and Magog.

The Eschatological Battle of Gog & Magog

Ezekiel describes the great battle of the end time in terms of a pagan hoard that invades the land of Israel; a host so numerous that they ascend like a storm and a cloud to cover the land [Ezekiel 38:1-8]. Several points need to be made at this juncture. First, Gog has set himself as the enemy of God and his people and there is an historical account that the Lord wants to settle. When he says that “after many days thou shalt be visited,” the prophet indicates that God has abstained from vengeance for many years, but that Gog’s day would come. Gog’s war against restored Israel was divinely permitted or ordained, and would provide occasion for judgment and vengeance against the people symbolized by Gog. Second, the invasion of Gog would occur in the latter times. This phrase speaks to the closing years of the world economy marked by the reign of sin and death. This places Gog’s attack upon restored Israel in the period immediately preceding the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, for the end of the mosaic age coincided with the end of the world order that obtained from the time of mankind’s fall. Third, the description of Gog’s territory mirrors that of the Roman empire. Ethiopia and Libya were Rome’s south-western boundary, Persia beyond the Euphrates unto the Caspian sea was its eastern-most boundary, and the “north quarters” coasting long the Black sea and the Danube unto theBritish isles were its northern-most holdings. Evidence that Ezekiel’s description of Gog’s territory answers to that of Rome is provided by Agrippa II’s famous speech attempting to dissuade the Jews from war with Rome, recorded by Josephus:

For all Euphrates is not a sufficient boundary for them on the east side, nor the Danube on the north, and for their southern limit, Libya has been searched over by them, as far as countries uninhabited, as is Cadiz their limit on the west.” Josephus, Wars, II, xvi, 4, Whiston ed.

Having established the time of Gog’s attack and the extent of his territory, it remains only to show whom he attacked. Ezekiel describes the objects of Gog’s invasion as those “brought forth out of the nations;” viz., restored Israel under “David,” which is to say, the church. But if Gog’s territory answers to the Roman empire, and the time of his attack upon the church preceded the destruction of Jerusalem, then what historical event must the prophet have in mind? That’s right, the great spiritual battle that overtook the church in the first century. The battle of Gog and Magog is a symbol of the eschatological persecution of the saints by Nero and the Jews. This conclusion is corroborated by John’s Revelation.

For the sake of brevity, I’ll skip much of what Simmons says regarding Revelation 11-12, the on and off persecution of the Church between Christ’s ascension and Nero’s reign, his speculation regarding Claudius Caesar being the angel of Revelation 20:1, etc. It can be seen by following the link to this article, but quite honestly I find some of the details in this section to be noteworthy, and others to be rather odd. Simmons then moves in on his conclusion by saying this:

“Satan” is a generic term signifying an adversary. The character which here in verse seven is called “satan” in verse two is called the “dragon.” In other words, the adversary in this case was world civil power embodied in Rome, Nero, and the Jews. In Rome, the beast was identified with Nero, who was its driving power (Rev. 13:1-10); in Asia and other parts of the empire, the Jews, at the behest of their leaders in Jerusalem, were the driving force. John portrays this by a harlot, riding the beast in a surfeit of blood and gore. (Rev. 17:3-6) In Palestine, the persecution was driven by the “false prophet,” the religious leaders of the Jews who bade them to make an inquisition against the church like unto the beast’s. (Rev. 13:11-18) The dragon and beast make war against the church by surrounding the “camp of the saints” (the church). But fire comes down from God out of heaven and consumes Gog and his host, and the dragon, beast, and false prophet are cast into the lake of fire. (Rev. 19:20, 21; 20:9, 10) The harlot is also consumed. (Rev. 18) An angel calls to the birds of heaven to come and devour the carcasses of the slain. (Rev. 19:17, 18; cf. Ezek. 39:17) Following the world-wide devastations of the last days, God renews the earth, in which the church reigns supreme with Christ. (Rev. 21, 22)

Conclusion

The battle of Gog and Magog was a symbol for the eschatological battle of the last days; the persecution under Nero and the Jews.

PROS: [1] I appreciated Simmons’ development of the chapters surrounding Ezekiel 38-39, as he rightfully (I believe) pointed out that Ezekiel 37 was a prophecy (at least in the primary sense) of Israel’s return to its land and subsequent restoration under Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah. I was also intrigued by his discussion of the double fulfillment of certain prophetic passages, i.e. having both an immediate sense and an ultimate sense.

[2] Simmons points out that Ezek. 38:8 speaks of this attack taking place in “the latter years,” which he defines as the end of the Mosaic age marked by the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Being that Ezekiel and Daniel were near contemporaries, it’s interesting that Daniel was told that his visions would see fulfillment at “the time of the end” (Daniel 12:4, 9; cf. Dan. 8:17, 26). The phrase(s) used in Daniel are a bit stronger, but it’s possible that “the latter years” could be a synonym for the “the time of the end.” Some of what Daniel prophesies is thought to have taken place, though, during the 2nd century BC and earlier (e.g. the events of Daniel 8:20-22, Dan. 11:1-19), and not as late as the period leading up to 70 AD.

CONS: [1] Simmons pointed out that Ezekiel 37 (the prophecy of the dry bones) is the immediate context of the battle of Ezekiel 38. Since, in the ultimate sense, the end of Ezekiel 37 foreshadowed “restored Israel (the church) under ‘David,’” he then concludes that Ezekiel 38 must speak of an attack on the Church. Why, though, can’t the immediate sense of Ezekiel 37 (the return of the Israelites to the land of Israel in the 5th century BC) also be the context by which we see the battle of Ezekiel 38? If this is allowed, then Ezekiel 38-39 could very well speak of events in Esther’s day as Gary DeMar and David Lowman have proposed (or, one might say, events in the second century BC as Gentry seems to propose).

[2] The armies in Ezekiel 38 are described in great detail as being arrayed in ancient armor and bearing ancient weapons. It seems to be a very large stretch to equate this type of battle imagery with persecution of the saints. Elsewhere in Scripture, and even in a book like Revelation filled with apocalyptic language, the idea of persecution appears to be presented in a much more straightforward manner. This imagery of armor and weapons is also completely absent from Revelation 20:7-10, although, granted, it could be said that space doesn’t allow for it there.

[3] One goal of the invaders in Ezekiel 38 is to sieze silver, gold, livestock, and goods (Ezek. 38:13). This doesn’t seem to be a goal at all in the attack recorded in Revelation 20.

[4] If Ezekiel 38-39 speaks of the events of 70 AD, in what sense did the church burn the wooden weapons of their persecutors at that time for seven years (Ezek. 39:9-10)?

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Having now presented and analyzed each of these four positions, I will now list in descending order how I see these positions in terms of Biblical accuracy and plausibility. At the top of my list is the position I agree with the most, and at the bottom is the position I agree with the least:

#1: David Lowman and Gary DeMar’s position that Ezekiel 38-39 was fulfilled in Esther’s day, Revelation 19 in 70 AD, and Revelation 20:7-10 remains unfulfilled.

#2: Kenneth Gentry’s position that Ezekiel 38-39 was likely fulfilled in the second century BC through the Scythian peoples, Revelation 19 in 70 AD, and Revelation 20:7-10 remains unfulfilled.

#3: Kurt Simmon’s position that Ezekiel 38-39, Revelation 19, and Revelation 20 were all fulfilled in 70 AD.

#4: The futurist position (or one of them anyway) which sees Ezekiel 38-39 as yet to be fulfilled with a Russian/Iranian led invasion upon modern Israel, Revelation 19 awaiting fulfillment at Christ’s future Second Coming, and Revelation 20 as awaiting fulfillment at the end of a future 1000-year Millennium period.

What would your list look like, and why? Do you have an alternative view on these matters which hasn’t been given attention here?

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In the next post, we will examine a discussion of the two ages spoken of frequently in the New Testament. This post will serve as a transition into our study of Revelation 21.

All of our Revelation chapter-by-chapter studies, and any other posts related to the book of Revelation, can be found here.

All of our studies on Revelation 20 and the Millennium can be found here.


[1] Another viewpoint which could have been considered is the viewpoint of amillennialist and Historicist Kim Riddlebarger. I have greatly appreciated and learned from quite a few of his writings, but chose not to include his viewpoint in the main body of this article as I am quite limited in my understanding of Historicism. I also noted that he declared Ezekiel’s vision of Gog and Magog to be a prophecy of “the Assyrian invasion of Israel from the north.” I’m puzzled by this idea, as the Syrian invasion took place in 722 BC and Ezekiel ministered in the time period before and after Babylon’s invasion of Judah and Jerusalem in 586 BC. Riddlebarger sees Ezekiel’s vision as “typological of the end-times war upon the entire people of God as witnessed by John in his vision.”

Another amillennialist article also postulates that Ezekiel predicted the Syrian invasion. Though I’m not in agreement with a number of things in this article, the author (Nollie) does provide an interesting comparison chart for the three passages where Gog and Magog is either mentioned directly or clearly alluded to:

Revelation 19:11-21 Ezekiel 38-39 Revelation 20:7-10
Gog & Magog (38:2; 39:1, 6) Gog & Magog (8)
“to gather them for the battle” (ton polemon) in v. 19 (cf. 16:14, 15a) “to gather them for the battle” (ton polemon) in v. 8
birds feast on defeated humans (“kings” “captains” “mighty men” “horses and their riders”) (17-18) animals and birds feast on defeated humans (“mighty men” “princes” “horses” “charioteers” “warriors”) (39:4, 17-20)
fiery judgment on nations, beast, and false prophet (20) fiery judgment on Gog & Magog (38:22; 39:6) fiery judgment on Gog and Magog and Satan (9-10)
total cosmic destruction by earthquake, hail, rain, and fire (38:19-22) total cosmic destruction (11)
total destruction of wicked (19-21) total destruction of the wicked (9-10)

[2] Duncan McKenzie provides an even more comprehensive analysis of the parallels between Ezekiel and Revelation, here and here.

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Revelation 20: Amillennial Viewpoint (Part 2)


Revelation 20: Amillennial Viewpoint (Part 2)

 

Adam: January 27, 2010

Scripture text for this study: Revelation 20:1-15

In the previous post, following an introduction, we examined the first four verses of Revelation 20 from an amillennialist viewpoint. In doing so, we noted that the majority of amillennialists see “the millennium” as taking place right now (between Christ’s ascension and His Second Coming), but primarily in heaven for those who are in the intermediate state. In the previous post, we dealt extensively with the question of how–and to what extent–Satan is presently bound. In this post we will examine the remaining 11 verses of Revelation 20:

Verse 5: Having read of those who come to life and reign with Christ for a thousand years, we now read: “The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection.” Here, Sam Storms briefly describes the most common premillennial view of the resurrections mentioned in this passage:

The “coming to life” in 20:4b is a physical, bodily resurrection of believers that occurs at the second coming of Christ before the millennium. The “coming to life” in 20:5a is also a physical, bodily resurrection, but of unbelievers after the millennium. Therefore, the bodily resurrection of all mankind comes in two stages separated by a thousand years.

Jason Robertson notes that “the first resurrection” has historically been defined by amillennialists in various ways:

  • Believed by Amillennialists to either be referring to the renewal of life that occurs at conversion or to the transfer of the believer’s soul from earth to heaven at death.
  • Amillennialists like Augustine and Calvin interpreted this to be referring to regeneration, and that the regenerated are now living and reigning with Christ in His spiritual kingdom which He inaugurated at His first advent.
  • Other Amillennialists like Hendriksen, [Greg] Beale, [B.B.] Warfield, and [Meredith] Kline believed that “first resurrection” refers to the believers’ death and translation to heaven, who are now reigning with Christ.
  • On either of these views then, the “first resurrection” phrase refers to a spiritual resurrection not a physical one, and it occurs before—not after—the second advent. The kingdom is now, is spiritual, and is the progressive fulfillment of the Great Commission.

Acts 24:15 says that “there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust.” Does this text leave room for two separate resurrections of the righteous and the unrighteous, separated by 1000 years (or any amount of time), as premillennialism sees in Revelation 20? Steve Gregg (p. 470) answers this question by concluding that Revelation 20 is not, in fact, speaking of two physical resurrections:

The Scriptures elsewhere teach that there will be only one physical resurrection at the end of time, which will include the righteous and the unrighteous (cf. John 5:28-29; Acts 24:14-15; compare “the last day” in John 6:39, 40, 44, 54, and 12:48). We find this resurrection of bodies from their graves at the end of the Millennium (v. 13). It follows that there can be no other physical resurrection than that mentioned at the end of the chapter and that the “first resurrection” mentioned in verses 5 and 6 must therefore be a spiritual one. Such a Christian’s experience of regeneration is frequently spoken of in terms of a spiritual rising from death to life (cf. John 5:24; 11:34-35; Eph. 2:5-6; Col. 2:13; 3:1; Rom. 6:4-5, 13). It is further justified by the fact of its juxtaposition with the second death (v. 6). There are two deaths: one physical, and one nonphysical (v. 14). That one resurrection should be spiritual and the other physical conforms to the dichotomy of the passage with reference to the two deaths.

Kenneth Gentry agrees with this assessment, and makes this comparison with John’s discussion of the resurrection in his gospel account (pp. 85-86):[1]

This first resurrection is—salvation. Note how John, the author of Revelation, earlier recorded Christ’s instruction in which he parallels spiritual resurrection unto present salvation and physical resurrection unto eternal destiny: “I tell you the truth, whoever hears My Word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live [first resurrection]. …Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear His voice and come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned [second resurrection] (John 5:24-29, italics added). In fact, because of Christ’s physical resurrection, we are spiritually resurrected (Rom. 6:4-14; Eph. 2:5-6; Col. 3:1).

 

Verse 6: In this verse, we read these words, “Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power…” This same promise was given to the first-century believers living in Smyrna: “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life… The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death” (Rev. 2:10-11). James Robertson again draws a comparison with what Jesus said in John 5:

The “second death,” which is everlasting punishment, is said to “have no power over them.” Obviously not, if they are saved and/or in Heaven. John quotes Jesus as saying in John 11:25-26, “25Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.”

In short, the first resurrection is salvation for the believer, which the unbeliever does not experience. The second resurrection is physical, the one and only physical resurrection spoken of in Scripture. Whoever experiences the first (spiritual) resurrection has nothing to fear with regard to the second (physical) resurrection, at which time judgment will occur. Prior to that time, they will reign for “a thousand years.” As Martin Luther famously wrote in the margin of his Bible, “Born once – die twice; born twice – die once.” Well-known amillennialist Meredith Kline speaks on these matters at length, and in a very academic manner, here.

[At this point, it might be good to point out that premillennialism seems to exclude a certain group of people from experiencing any physical resurrection at all. This system teaches that there will be unconverted people who will enter into a physical kingdom (the Millennium) without glorified bodies, and that some of these will experience a conversion during that time. Premillennialism proposes that there will be two physical resurrections, separated by a period of 1000 years, for two different groups of people: the saved (first) and the lost (later). When do the newly converted “millennium saints” then experience a physical resurrection?]

Kenneth Gentry has this to say on the believer’s present status in God’s kingdom (pp. 84-85):

[God’s] kingdom does not await some future, visible coming (Luke 17:20-21; Col. 1:13). Consequently, Christ claimed to be king while on earth (John 12:12-15; 18:36-37), and God enthroned Him as King following His resurrection and ascension (Acts 2:30-36). Since His resurrection Christ has “all authority in heaven and on earth” (Matt. 28:18), for He is at the right hand of God, ruling over His kingdom (Mark 16:19; Luke 22:69; Acts 2:33; 5:31; 7:55-56; Rom. 8:34; 14:11; Eph. 1:20-23; Col. 1:18; 3:1; Heb. 1:3, 13; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2; I Peter 3:22; Rev. 17:14; 19:16). As a result, first-century Christians proclaimed Him King (Matt. 2:2; Acts 17:7; Rev. 1:5), and new converts entered His kingdom (John 3:3; Col. 1:12-13; I Thess. 2:12).

The other reality involves our present rule with Him in His kingdom. John tells the seven churches of the first century that Christ “has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve His God and Father” (Rev. 1:6). This present priestly kingship is exactly what Revelation 20 relates of the millennial kingdom: “They will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years” (20:6).

Paul mentions our present rule as well: “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:6; cf. 1:3; Col. 3:1-4). Whatever surprised responses might arise against this viewpoint, the fact remains: The Bible teaches we are presently “seated with Him.”

 

C. Satanic Rebellion Crushed (Rev. 20:7-10)

Verses 7-10: When we were told in verse 3 that Satan was bound and sealed for a thousand years, we were also told that he would be released after that “for a little while.” Now we are given these details: “And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea. And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and consumed them, and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.”

Numerous questions come to my mind when examining this passage. In what sense does Satan “deceive the nations” at this time? Is it in the same way as he did prior to being bound? Does “earth” here refer only to Israel/Palestine, as it has so many times in Revelation? Or does it refer this time to the entire globe, especially because of the phrase “the four corners of the earth”? Does the mention of Gog and Magog here mean that this vision and Ezekiel’s vision are one and the same, or does it only indicate similarities between this battle and that one (i.e. Ezekiel’s, having taken place in the past)? Does this army literally march across land, converging on one location, or is this symbolic of a movement against one specific people (i.e. followers of Christ; thus, speaking of persecution)?

Every indication in Revelation thus far is that “the beloved city” in verse 9 must be the New Jerusalem (i.e. the Church—Heb. 12:22-24; Gal. 4:24-27), and not earthly Jerusalem. After all, Jerusalem in John’s day was designated by the names “Sodom” and “Egypt” (Rev. 11:8), and a strong case has been made that it also bore names like “the great prostitute” (Rev. 17:1) and “Babylon the great” (Rev. 14:8, 16:19, and 18:2). Nothing in Revelation since chapter 11 has occurred to suggest that natural Jerusalem is now (in chapter 20) deserving of the title “beloved city”; in fact, the opposite is true.

We will designate a separate post for a more thorough discussion of Ezekiel’s vision of Gog and Magog, as well as implications for the fact that John mentions these two entities here in this text. That post will be titled “Revelation 20: Two Views of Gog and Magog” (it can be located in the Revelation 20 Introduction and Outline post once it’s up). Suffice it to say, though, that many amillennialists see verse 9 as speaking of Christ’s Second Coming, articulated in terms of “fire [coming] down from heaven and [consuming] them.” For most partial-preterists, this is the only mention of Christ’s Second Coming, as Rev. 1:7 and Rev. 19:11-16 speak of Christ’s judgment upon Jerusalem in 70 AD.

Kenneth Gentry says of this passage, “In Revelation 20:7-15 we witness the Second Coming and final judgment. But since this is so distant from John’s day, he only quickly mentions them” (Four Views, p. 86). Mark Copeland likewise comments,

If any section of Revelation pertains to the time just prior to the Lord’s final coming, I believe it is this one.  The description is brief, for the book was written for the benefit of Christians in Asia Minor about things to shortly come to pass (cf. 1:1-4; 22:6, 10).  These Christians would not experience this last attempt of Satan.  But to assure them (and us!) that Satan would ultimately be defeated, we have the description found in these few verses (7-10).

David Chilton makes a similar statement:

(The Book of Revelation) is about the destruction of Israel and Christ’s victory over His enemies in the establishment of the New Covenant Temple.  In fact, as we shall see, the word coming as used in the Book of Revelation never refers to the Second Coming.  Revelation prophesies the judgment of God on apostate Israel; and while it does briefly point to events beyond its immediate concerns, that is done merely as a “wrap-up,” to show that the ungodly will never prevail against Christ’s Kingdom. But the main focus of Revelation is upon events which were soon to take place.”  (David Chilton, Days of Vengeance, p. 43)

Steve Gregg goes into more detail on these four verses (pp. 472, 474, 476):

We had been forewarned in verse 3 that when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison [v. 7]. In that place we were assured that his freedom would be short-lived, though here we learn that his brief liberty is occupied in the same kind of mischief—but on a more intensive scale—as that in which he was engaged prior to being bound. This speaks of a brief period of indeterminate duration at the end of the Christian era, during which Satan will be permitted to resist the church on a global scale…

The truth having never since the time of Christ been successfully resisted, Satan’s release to deceive the nations [v. 8] would seem to constitute the ultimate setback for the church, as the majority of the world devolves to a paganistic state comparable to that which prevailed before the First Coming of Christ.

The mention of Gog and Magog [v. 8] seems a direct identification with the battle prophesied in Ezekiel 38 and 39, thus placing the time of this battle at the end of the Millennium (the church age), rather than before the Millennium, where most premillenarians locate Ezekiel’s battle.[2]

The whole world having turned hostile to Christ and the church, all nations will endeavor to battle against the camp of the saints (v. 9). This may be warfare of a spiritual sort, but since such battle against the church meant persecution in Revelation 11:7 and 13:7, it is likely that persecution of the church on a grand scale is what is in view here as well. The beloved city (v. 9) is the New Jerusalem described more fully in chapter 21, which is an image of the church (cf. 21:9-10; Heb. 12:22ff.).

The career of this rebel force and their diabolical leader comes to a final end with the Second Coming of Christ, here depicted with the words fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them (v. 9). The Second Coming of Christ will be “in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel” (2 Thess. 1:8). It is the “day of the Lord…in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up” (2 Pet. 3:10). This coming of the Lord with its attendant burning up of the earth clearly could not have occurred at the beginning of the Millennium since, in such a case, there would be no venue for the playing out of the earthly drama in this chapter.

At the coming of Christ in fiery judgment, the devil (v. 10) is not going to be temporarily chained but, rather, he is to be cast into the lake of fire… The lake of fire, you will recall, is where the beast and the false prophet are (v. 10; cf. 19:20). This statement presents a slight problem for amillennialism in that it presupposes an earlier judgment upon the Beast and the False Prophet, whereas this view considers both Revelation 19:20 (the judgment of the beast) and Revelation 20:10 (the judgment of the devil) both to be describing the same event, namely, the Second Coming of Christ.

In an attempt to remove the difficulty, R. Fowler White proposes that “20:10 need only imply that at the Second Coming the devil is cast into the lake of fire shortly after the beast and the false prophet are cast there.”

As already mentioned, preterism removes the difficulty in another way, by not seeing Revelation 19 as speaking at all of Christ’s Second Coming, but rather His non-physical coming in judgment upon Jerusalem/Israel in 70 AD, which we have already proposed. When Historicism is coupled together with amillennialism, this difficulty exists.[3] However, when preterism is coupled together with amillennialism, there is no such quandary. I also wrote about this in the “Revelation 20: Introduction and Outline” post, under the section “Preliminary Thoughts on Revelation 20.”

On another note, both II Thess. 1:8 and II Peter 3:10-13 are taken by some partial-preterists (and full preterists, of course) to refer to the events which took place in 70 AD, rather than to a future Second Coming. This is especially plausible if “the earth and the works that are done on it” (II Pet. 3:10) is a reference to Israel/Palestine just as it very often is in the book of Revelation. (We will come to the expression “new heavens and a new earth” (I Pet. 3:13) in our study of Revelation 21 and will discuss this in length at that time. A key question to keep in mind for now is this: Does this expression denote [A] the New Covenant body of Christ [B] a literal new heaven and new earth in the eternal state, or [C] both in a now-but-not-yet sense?)

Sam Storms’ take on this passage is this (keep in mind that he is a historicist, and not a preterist):

At the end of the age there will emerge an intensified form of tribulation and apostasy as well as a personal antichrist (the AM, however, does not identify this period of tribulation with Daniel’s 70th Week, as does the Dispensational Premillennialist, nor does he define its purpose as having anything to do with the restoration of national theocratic Israel. It should be noted, however, that some AMs do believe in a mass salvation of ethnic Israel at the end of the age). Christ’s return at the close of this period will synchronize with the general resurrection and general judgment of all men, believers and unbelievers alike, to be followed immediately by the eternal state (i.e., the new heavens and the new earth). In other words, here is the major point of difference between the AM and Premillennialist: the former denies whereas the latter affirms an earthly, visible rule of Christ for 1,000 years between His second coming and the final resurrection, judgment, and introduction of the eternal state.

To the subject of this judgment we now turn.

D. The Great White Throne Judgment (Rev. 20:11-15)

Verses 11-12: Steve Gregg, in his commentary on these verses (p. 478, 480), takes note of a couple of reasons why amillennialists believe the Second Coming must occur at this time, at the end of the thousand years rather than at the beginning (as premillennialism supposes):

The judgment of the great white throne (v. 11) is not a special judgment to be distinguished from other judgments of the close of the age (e.g. a separate bema judgment of the believers only, some thousand years earlier), but simply a description of the only ultimate judgment at the coming of Christ, involving believers and unbelievers (cf. Matt. 25:31; Rom. 2:5-10; Rev. 11:18). The “great white throne” is thus not a technical label to distinguish this event from others like it, but merely a statement of the color of the throne (white), suggesting purity, upon which God, or Christ, is seen seated at the last day (John 12:48).

The glory of the Lord at this point is such that the earth and the heaven fled away (v. 11) from before His face. This in itself indicates that the Second Coming did not occur a thousand years earlier. Why would not the glory of the returning Christ have brought about this flight of the natural world into nonexistence at that earlier time? It can hardly be thought that His glory at His coming will be less intense than it would be a thousand years later. Since the coming of the Lord is in fact the end of the natural universe (2 Pet. 3:10-13), we read that there was found no place for them (v. 11), making way for a new heaven and a new earth to occupy the place left vacant by their dismissal (21:1).

The fact that John saw the dead (v. 12) arise and come before God to be judged proves that it is at this point, and not a thousand years earlier, that the Second Coming is seen. The judgment is everywhere associated with Christ’s Second Coming in Scripture (cf. Matt. 25:19, 31; II Thess. 1:8ff; II Tim. 4:1). [See also I Cor. 15:23.]

Q: In verse 12 we read that “books” were opened, as well as “the book of life.” Does this seem to indicate that only the wicked are judged at this judgment, or also the righteous? In his commentary on verse 12, Steve Gregg says,

The presence of the Book of Life seems to imply the presence of the righteous, whose names are to be found there, while we are also told explicitly that John also saw there those who were not found written in the Book of Life (vs. 15). This judgment, then, wherein the dead were judged according to their works (v. 12), includes believers as well as unbelievers, despite the clear teaching of Scripture that salvation is not attained through works (cf. Eph. 2:8-9; Tit. 3:5). It is all equally clear teaching of Scripture that a Christian is known by his works as surely as is an unsaved man (Jas. 2:15-18; Tit. 1:16; 2:14). Therefore Christians who are saved by grace through faith will be proven to be so as the result of an examination of their works (Matt. 16:27, 25:31ff; I Pet. 1:17).

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This concludes our verse-by-verse study of Revelation 20 from an amillennial viewpoint. In the next post (Part 3) we will take a look at two very interesting articles: [1] “Why the Early Church Finally Rejected Premillennialism” by Dr. Charles E. Hill, and [2] “A Return to Types and Shadows in the Millennial Age?” by Kim Riddlebarger.

In Part 4 (of our “Revelation 20: Amillennial Viewpoint” series) we will look at two more articles: [1] “Problems with Premillennialism” by Sam Storms, and [2] “Dispensationalism Today, Yesterday, and Forever” by Grover Gunn (posted by PJ Miller and also by Job of “Heal the Land” (under the lengthy but fitting title “Premillennial Dispensationalism Effectively Claims that the New Covenant Has Not Yet Arrived, Which Means We Are Still Under the Old”).

All of our Revelation chapter-by-chapter studies, and any other posts related to the book of Revelation, can be found here.


[1] As noted before, Kenneth Gentry’s viewpoint on this passage has changed. His new viewpoint is articulated in a two-part series titled “Revelation 20: Minority Views on the Millennium.” This and all posts on Revelation 20 can be located in our Revelation 20 Introduction and Outline.

[2] It’s also perhaps reasonable to consider that Ezekiel’s battle of Gog and Magog may have already taken place in history prior to this Satan-led battle, and that the former battle is simply referenced because of similarities in this latter case. Perhaps not, though. An entire post has now been devoted to the subject of Gog and Magog, titled “Revelation 20: Four Views on Gog and Magog.”

[3] According to Sam Storms, most Amillennialists view the book of Revelation as spanning the entire time period from Christ’s first coming until His Second Coming in the future, but consisting of seven sections running parallel to each other: (1) chapters 1-3; (2) chapters 4-7; (3) chapters 8-11; (4) chapters 12-14; (5) chapters 15-16; (6) chapters 17-19; (7) chapters 20-22. This is the Historicist view, and of course preterists do not see the book of Revelation quite this way. While the first six parallels may be true, partial-preterists see the bulk of Revelation as having been fulfilled in the 70 AD judgment of God upon faithless Israel. The Millennium does more or less chronologically follow chapters 1-19 for partial-preterists, except that the Millennium does not begin in 70 AD but at the cross. There is an overlapping of the ages for one generation, as the Old Covenant age was only brought to a complete end until the temple and Jerusalem were destroyed in 70 AD, even though the New Covenant age was established when Christ went to the cross some 40 years earlier. This brief overlapping of the ages will be discussed at length in a two-part series titled “A Discussion of Two Ages.”

Revelation Chapter 20: Introduction and Outline


Revelation Chapter 20: Introduction and Outline

Adam Maarschalk: February 7, 2010

This post will serve as an introduction to Revelation 20, expressing some thoughts as we prepare to look more deeply into the period designated by John as “a thousand years,” popularly known as the Millennium. This post will also contain a mini outline. Here’s why:

Our Bible study group met last Wednesday (January 27, 2010), as we do on a weekly basis, and we completed our group study of Revelation 20 at that time. We generally take turns leading, so that each person only needs to lead the group study roughly every five weeks. This time, however, three of us each led a portion of the study. Dave presented on Revelation 20 from a postmillennial standpoint, Rod from a premillennial viewpoint, and myself from an amillennial viewpoint. All of us completely reject premillennialism, and find ourselves agreeing with some elements within amillennialism and postmillennialism. I personally, however, can’t help but believe that the truth of what John wrote in Revelation 20 goes beyond any of these three schools of thought.

Due to time constraints, we only presented a fraction of the material that we could have presented. Over time, we’ll be posting more than we prepared for our actual study time. On my part, at least, this will be a work in progress, and this post includes an outline of our posts on this topic. This same information can also be found on our Revelation page.

Here is the working outline for the posts on Revelation 20 (it may be expanded in the future). Following the outline are some preliminary thoughts on the topic of reigning with Christ for a thousand years:

Revelation Chapter 20 Outline

1. Revelation Chapter 20: Introduction and Outline (this post)
2. John Piper Hosts “An Evening of Eschatology” (Subject: “The Millennium”)
3. Revelation Chapter 20: Amillennial Viewpoint (Part 1: Verse-by-Verse Study)
4. Revelation Chapter 20: Amillennial Viewpoint (Part 2: Verse-by-Verse Study)
5. Revelation Chapter 20: Amillennial Viewpoint (Part 3: Two Articles)
6. Revelation Chapter 20: Amillennial Viewpoint (Part 4: Two More Articles)
7.
Revelation Chapter 20: Post-millennial Viewpoint
8.
Revelation Chapter 20: Pre-millennial Viewpoint
9. Revelation Chapter 20: Minority Viewpoints on the Millennium (Part 1)
10. Revelation Chapter 20: Minority Viewpoints on the Millennium (Part 2)
11. Revelation Chapter 20: Four Views on Gog and Magog
12. A Discussion of Two Ages: “This age and the age to come”

Preliminary Thoughts on Revelation 20

Anyone who has read through the previous studies which we have posted on the book of Revelation will have noticed that on the whole we favor what is known as the preterist interpretation. That is, we see a first-century fulfillment for the prophecies contained in the book of Revelation, John’s descriptions of God’s judgment about to be poured out upon unfaithful Israel and old covenant temple-based Judaism in 70 AD just as Jesus predicted (e.g. Luke 19:41-44, 23:28-31; Matthew 23:37-24:34). This is based not only on a wealth of internal evidence in Revelation, but also on John’s numerous statements announcing that the things he saw were soon to take place (e.g. Rev. 1:1, 3; 3:11; 22:7, 12, 20).

Now, I’ve also mentioned that, as a group, we seem to be leaning toward the amillennial interpretation, i.e. that the “1000 year reign of Christ” began in the first century and continues until today (whether this is taking place in heaven, on earth, or both, will be discussed in a couple of posts which are to follow). A combination of these two views—and it’s understood that many readers will not hold to this same combination—means that we (generally speaking) do not see the storyline of Revelation 20 as being parallel in time to the story-line of Revelation 1-19. In other words, Revelation 1-19 was completely fulfilled by 70 AD, though there is continued application for us today, but at least some portion(s) of Revelation 20 suggest an ongoing and even future fulfillment. (Check back with me in a couple of years – I might change by that time.)

Many amillennialists do see Revelation 20 as parallel in time to at least the events of Revelation 6-19, most notably those who are also Historicists. We do not – at this time. I offer up this explanation for the sake of clarity regarding what is to follow. In this regard, I would like to quote a few excerpts from a publication written by Kenneth Gentry titled “Recapitulation v Progress.” This is a primer for a full-length, verse-by-verse commentary on the book of Revelation which Gentry is currently working on. This particular publication is #13 among his Revelation Commentary Updates so far. The following selected excerpts are from pages 2-9 of that publication:

Revelation 20 is probably the best known and most hotly debated chapter in Revelation. This is the chapter (the only chapter in the Bible!) that mentions Christ’s ruling and reigning with His saints for 1000 years… An extremely important issue arises as we move from Revelation 19 into chapter 20. The question arises regarding the relationship between these two passages: Is it one of recapitulation (i.e., repetition of the same events) or sequence (two different episodes with one following as a result of the other)?

The prevailing scholarly (non-premillennial) consensus today holds that the relationship between these two chapters is one of recapitulation. The recapitulationist sees Rev 20:7–10 covering the same ground as and repeating 19:11–21. That is, they argue that the final eschatological battle at the second coming of Christ appears in both 19:11–21 and 20:7–10. This, of course, destroys the premillennial argument that sees the second coming (19:11–21) leading to Christ’s subsequently establishing his millennium (20:1–10). Consequently, premillennialists insist on sequence rather than recapitulation.

Oddly enough, my evangelical preterist view agrees with the premillennialist regarding the relationship between these two passages — though with quite different results. I hold that Christ’s coming from heaven to wage war in Revelation 19:11ff represents His judgment coming on Israel in AD 70. As such it reflects the theme of the book found in 1:7, where he comes against those tribes who pierced him (the Jews). Consequently, 20:1ff presents the consequence of Christ’s judgment of Israel, Christianity’s first major enemy: the binding of Satan, the vindication of the martyrs, and the spiritual rule of believers with Christ in the present age.

By way of illustration, Gentry later makes some statements on the mention of Gog and Magog in Revelation 20:

R. Fowler White notes [that Revelation] 19:17–18 is “virtually a verbatim quotation” of Ezekiel 39:17–20 (1989: 326), and [Revelation] 20:7–10 specifically mentions “Gog and Magog” (Ezekiel 38:2; 39:1, 6), showing God destroying them with fire from heaven (cp. Rev 20:7–10; Eze 38:22; 39:6). Clearly then, John bases both “the Armageddon revolt (19:17–21) and the Gog-Magog revolt (20:7–10) on the same prophetic passage” (1989: 327)… both [Revelation] 19:19–21 and [Revelation] 20:7–10 allude to the same OT eschatological battle prophecy (Ezekiel 38–39).

Gentry notes that there are those who draw from these facts the premise that the events of Revelation 19:19-21 and Revelation 20:7-10 must therefore refer to the same historical event. However, he adds:

Though “significant correspondence” of a “highly peculiar” nature exists between Rev. 19 and Ezekiel 39, problems confront this interpretation: First, similarity does not entail identity. Simply because John patterns both the battles of Rev. 19 and Rev. 20 on Eze. 38–39 does not mean they are the same battle. Similar language is used because similar fundamental realities prevail: God is catastrophically judging oppressive enemies of His people.

Many scholars see AD 70 as a microcosm of the final judgment. Consequently, we may expect the same imagery to apply to both AD 70 and the end. For instance, of those first century events, Bloesch states: “The catastrophe that befell the Jewish people in A.D. 70 is a sign of the final judgment.” Morris agrees: “…[We see that there is] a theological unity between the two judgments, and that some of what Jesus says [in the Olivet Discourse] could apply equally well to both.” Second, as Bøe notes, John often makes double use of Ezekiel’s images (Bøe, 275). The imagery from Ezekiel’s scroll vision in Eze. 2:8–33 applies both to Rev 5:1 and 10:8–11; Ezekiel’s measuring imagery in Eze 40–48 appears in quite distinct passages in Rev 11:1–2 and 21:10–27 (Bøe 371).

…If John had wanted us to understand recapitulation rather than sequence in this passage [Revelation 20], John “did us no favor” by: (a) recasting the beast and false prophet (19:20) as Gog and Magog (20:8); (b) inserting a thousand year period between the two battles (20:2–5); (c) representing the period of Christian history from the first century to the end as “a short time” (12:12) and as “a thousand years” (20:2–6)… (d) offering no hint that Satan is bound before Rev 19:11ff while emphasizing his being bound before Rev 20:7ff; and (e) telling us that Satan will be thrown into the lake of fire where the beast and false prophet already are (20:10).

…[The judgment of] AD 70 (in Rev. 19:11–21) anticipates the final eschatological battle (Rev. 20:8–10)… It even seems that the NT emphasizes AD 70 more frequently — probably because it was looming in the near future, directly relevant to first century Christians, and of catastrophic significance in re-orienting their thinking regarding the flow of redemptive history… Indeed, it seems that the NT knows of only two great battles remaining in redemptive history: AD 70 which closes the old covenant era (and inaugurates the new covenant) and the Second Advent which closes the new covenant era (and history). Jesus certainly seems to link AD 70 and the Second Advent in his large Olivet Discourse… In addition, John limits Revelation’s prophecies to the near term (1:1, 3; 22:6, 10), which suggests a strong emphasis on AD 70.

That’s one view, and it reflects the view that most of us in our Bible study group tentatively hold at this time. I’m not sure yet if it’s my own. Revelation 20 is one tough chapter to understand.

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Kim Riddlebarger has compiled a very good, clear, and concise “Comparison Chart” displaying the distinctives of:

[1] Dispensational Premillennialism
[2] Historic Premillennialism
[3] Postmillennialism
[4] Amillennialism.

For each viewpoint, Kim includes a brief overview, a list of distinctive features and emphases, and he also names the leading proponents for each view. This very informative comparison chart can be seen here:

http://www.fivesolas.com/esc_chrt.htm

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All of our Revelation chapter-by-chapter studies, and any other posts related to the book of Revelation, can be found here.