Gog/Magog War (the timing)
When will this happen?
The first observation as to when this attack will happen must be the conclusion that it has not already occurred in the past. For this battle to be prophetically accurate, several historical facts must come together perfectly, the first of which is the general description of the condition of Israel. The land is described in Ezekiel 38:8 as a “land that has recovered from war,” and “whose people were gathered from many nations to the mountains of Israel, which had long been desolate.” There has been no historical period in Israel’s history which fits this description prior to 1948. While Israel has been recovered from war, and has been gathered from captivity, she has not been gathered from “many nations” nor has she been gathered after a period of time where her mountains had long been desolate.
Additionally, Israel is said to “live in safety,” in verse 8, and is said to be made up of “unwalled villages” and “without gates and bars.” Categorically, these statements describe modern Israel, and no other historical version.
Additionally, there have been no battles against Israel which fit the description from the text. A coalition of numerous nations, led by Gog, of modern day Russian areas, which was thwarted by God’s hand via plagues of hail, fire and torrential rain, and conducted while the entire world watched. Clearly this fits no description afforded by recorded history.
Furthermore, the placement of the battle in the context of Ezekiel puts it in between God’s drawing Israel together in preparation for the reign of Messiah and the fulfillment of his reign. Thus, this is an event which must take place between the current date and the Messianic Kingdom. Chapter 39, however, further limits the possibilities of the timeline of this battle.
Ezekiel 39:9-12 9 “‘Then those who live in the towns of Israel will go out and use the weapons for fuel and burn them up–the small and large shields, the bows and arrows, the war clubs and spears. For seven years they will use them for fuel. 10 They will not need to gather wood from the fields or cut it from the forests, because they will use the weapons for fuel. And they will plunder those who plundered them and loot those who looted them, declares the Sovereign LORD.
11 “‘On that day I will give Gog a burial place in Israel, in the valley of those who travel east toward the Sea. It will block the way of travelers, because Gog and all his hordes will be buried there. So it will be called the Valley of Hamon Gog.
12 “‘For seven months the house of Israel will be burying them in order to cleanse the land. 13 All the people of the land will bury them, and the day I am glorified will be a memorable day for them, declares the Sovereign LORD.
Continuing the discourse on this battle, Ezekiel states that Israel will use the weapons for fuel for seven years. Specifically mentioned are shields, bows and arrows, war clubs and spears. This has led some to conclude that this army would attack with ancient weapons, and has led to all sorts of speculations as to why that would take place in a modern setting. It is inconclusive to the author if these weapons should be taken literally or if the reference is a general reference to weapons of war using the known comparisons of Ezekiel’s day. Obviously God is speaking here, and Ezekiel is simply the mouthpiece. However, it seems unlikely that God would speak the names of gunpowder, rocket fuel or diesel to Ezekiel’s generation, whom would have no idea what was being discussed. To that end, it seems likely that the reference could be generalized in Ezekiel’s world view to indicate an assortment of war weaponry.
Whether literal, or figurative, the weapons left behind by the invaders will be gathered and used for fuel for seven years. That insight itself lends more understanding to the timeline of this battle. It will be demonstrated later in this work that beginning at the mid-point of the tribulation, Israel will be under attack by the armies of Antichrist. And, beginning at that point, 3 1/2 years into the tribulation, Israel will be in flight or will be in a defensive posture. In such a position, they would not be wandering the mountains in search of fuel, as the armies of Antichrist will have Jerusalem surrounded, and will occupy a vast area in Israel, making it impossible for the Israelites to wander the open country in search of abandoned weapons for fuel.
Because Antichrist’s assault on Israel will begin 3 1/2 years into the tribulation and the collecting of the fuel from the weapons of the Gog-Magog war will last seven years, it can be concluded that the Gog-Magog war will complete at least 3 1/2 years before the beginning of the tribulation, which will allow the full seven years before Israel is shut into a defensive posture.
Lastly, it can be concluded from the text that this battle cannot be referring to the battle of Armageddon, as some have asserted. In Ezekiel 38:8, in the description of Israel prior to this attack, it is stated that “they had been brought out from the nations, and now all of them live in safety.” The Hebrew word for “safety” in the NIV is transliterated Heb. Betah, and indicates that the nation lives securely, or safely from oppression by enemies. As will be demonstrated later in this study, the battle of Armageddon (which may actually be best understood as several battles) will happen toward the end of the Great Tribulation. It will also be demonstrated that Antichrist will begin to bring hostilities upon Israel in the middle of the tribulation. To that end, they cannot be described as a people “living in safety” at the point of the Battle of Armageddon, as they will have been under siege for some time prior to that event.
In conclusion, the Gog-Magog war can be concluded to occur at least 3 1/2 years prior to the beginning of the tribulation, and is one of several pre-tribulational events which should be watched for.