The Millennium Part 3 – Gog and Magog

“There are more things in heaven and on earth, Horatio,
than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

William Shakespeare

Things seen and things unseen

Before proceeding to the concluding subjects of the study of Revelation chapter 20 – the battle of Gog and Magog and the final judgement which takes place before the new heaven and new earth is revealed – we must be reminded that everything we presently see with our physical eyes is temporary and passing away. An entire world exists beyond this earthly dimension which can only be perceived with spiritual eyes, and that world will remain for eternity. Jesus taught us to pray, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”.

It was only after eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, that Adam and Eve’s eyes were opened and they realized their nakedness (Genesis 3:7). From this we must assume that before the fall their eyes had not been opened in the same way to the things of this earthly realm. In the epistle to the church at Philippi, the apostle Paul referred to those who live as enemies of the cross of Jesus Christ, whose minds are on earthly things. Jesus cautioned his disciples not to be overly concerned with our physical needs as this will rob us of our faith in his word and his Kingdom (cf. Luke 21:34 and Matthew 13:21). He rebuked the Laodiceans because they failed to perceive their spiritual poverty, blindness and nakedness. The more carnal-minded we are it seems the less perception we have of the spiritual realm.
Elisha’s servant was given a glimpse into this unseen realm when the King of Aram surrounded the city where Elisha was staying. His servant was terrified when he saw that the city had been surrounded by a great army during the night, but Elisha told him not to fear, saying, “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” He then prayed that the LORD would open the eyes of his servant and his servant saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha (2 Kings 6:14-17).

Satan is referred to as the god of this age who has blinded the minds of unbelievers so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God (2 Corinthians 4:4). It is only when our minds are enlightened through the word of God and the revelation given to us by the Holy Spirit that we are able to perceive the things that the LORD has prepared for us beyond this temporary physical world (see 1 Corinthians 2:6-16). While we are in this mortal body the things that belong to the earthly realm often appear to be more real than the invisible world of the heavenly realm. To many people the idea of a heavenly realm is “unreal” while this world is considered “real”. Even among Christians there is a tendency to think of the spiritual realm as less real than the physical world.

Satan once held all of fallen mankind in slavery through their fear of death (see Hebrews 2:14-16). However, through the death and resurrection of Jesus, God has set us free from the fear of death and opened our eyes to the eternal heavenly realm. We are not to fear those who can kill the body but to rather fear the One who can destroy both body and soul in hell (Matthew 10:28). Jesus has gone ahead to prepare a place for the redeemed and he will return to take us to be with him (John 14:2). This is the new heaven and the new earth, the home of righteousness, the better, heavenly country which Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were looking for (see 2 Peter 3:13 and Hebrews 11:16).

Paul was both a Jew and a Roman citizen but he taught that we are really citizens of heaven where Christ is seated at the right hand of the Father (Philippians 3:20) – [i.e. if we are born again and led by the Holy Spirit].

Paul said that he had been sent by Jesus to the Gentiles to open their eyes and to turn them from the power of Satan to God through the preaching of the gospel. However, not everyone believes the good news and many thus remain subject to the sinful nature which is at enmity with God and opposed to his Kingdom (Romans 8:6-7). Jesus affirmed that throughout this period while the good news of the kingdom of God is going forth, kingdom will rise against kingdom, nation against nation and there will continue to be wars and rumours of war in this world.

Nevertheless, despite the continuation of hostilities Satan has been bound to keep him from deceiving the nations to the fullest extent possible while the gospel is being proclaimed to all nations and men are being given the opportunity to be set free from the power of darkness and to enter the Kingdom of light.

However, the apostle Paul also taught that a time will come when all who have refused to love the truth and to take hold of the opportunity of salvation will be handed over to a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lies of Satan which will lead to their final destruction and eternal condemnation (see 2 Thess. 2:9-12). This is also what was revealed to the apostle John when he wrote of Satan being released from his prison and being allowed to deceive the nations once more and to gather them for a final onslaught against the people of God.

The War of Gog and Magog

“When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth – Gog and Magog – to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore. They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God’s people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them. And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulphur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever” (Revelation 20:7-10).

“I will summon a sword against Gog on all my mountains, declares the Sovereign LORD. Every man’s sword will be against his brother. I will execute judgment upon him with plague and bloodshed; I will pour down torrents of rain, hailstones and burning sulphur on him and on his troops and on the many nations with him. And so I will show my greatness and my holiness, and I will make myself known in the sight of many nations. Then they will know that I am the LORD” (Ezekiel 38:21-23).

The words “Gog” and “Magog” literally mean “cover”, “top” “surmount” or “hoard”. The name given to this great army of people from all nations that oppose the kingdom of God is thus a play on the literal meaning of those words.

During the period of the preaching of the gospel a great spiritual battle is being waged over the minds and souls of mankind. Jesus Christ exposes the thoughts and attitudes of all men’s hearts (see Luke 2:35). Those who harden their heart when they hear the gospel reveal their hostility towards God and affirm their rebellion against his kingdom. Jesus said people are either for him or against him. There is no neutrality. We either remain in the darkness, captive to sin, or we respond to God’s call to come out of the darkness into his wonderful light (1 Peter 2:9). Those who listen to him are set free from the power of sin and Satan and are raised to new life by the Holy Spirit. Satan is restricted to the earthly realm where he blinds the minds of those who refuse to be reconciled to God through faith in Jesus Christ.

And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down–that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short” (Rev. 12:7-12).

This ongoing spiritual battle for the souls of men will culminate in a final onslaught by the powers of darkness against the church of Jesus Christ as unbelievers from all nations unite to oppose the church and the kingdom of God on earth. This final onslaught will occur after Satan is released and given the power to once again completely deceive everyone who has refused to love the truth and so be set free from the power of Satan. But as Elisha encouraged his servant, we are to take courage in the knowledge that the army of the LORD exists as a great cloud of witnesses beyond this earthly realm. We do not wage battle with the weapons of this world. This final great battle will also be the ultimate testing of the faith of true Christians just as the faith of the martyrs has been tested throughout the ages under the threat of death. We are not to fear the hoards of Gog and Magog who, at worst, can kill our mortal body, but who have no power beyond this temporary earthly realm.

The great battle at the close of the age was foreshadowed by the judgement that was poured out upon the earthly city of Jerusalem. The apostle Paul taught that there would be judgment upon unbelieving Israel first, (“the time of Jacob’s trouble”), before the final judgment upon all nations. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile (Romans 2:9). Jesus said that the judgement of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple would happen within that very generation as it indeed did. But he encouraged his disciples not to be overcome with fear in that period of great tribulation even if threatened with death.

Jesus said, “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28); and: “Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).

It is commonly understood that the revelation of the Messiah and the redemption of Israel would be accompanied by a time of great tribulation. This was the period of great tribulation for Jerusalem between AD 66 and AD 70, lasting three-and-a-half years. The tribulation , also referred to as “the birth-pangs of the Messiah” culminated in the utter desolation of the holy city and the sanctuary – fulfilling that which was prophesied in Daniel 12:7 concerning the complete shattering of the power of the holy people and the scattering of the surviving Jews throughout the world. The angel told Daniel: At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people – everyone whose name is found written in the book – will be delivered (Daniel 12:1).

As per Deuteronomy 18:19, the Jewish people were called to give account for rejecting Jesus the Messiah and the unbelieving Jews were completely cut off from the redeemed Israel of God, those who survived being scattered among the nations. But, even as the earthly city of Jerusalem was being made desolate it was “giving birth” to the eternal heavenly city, a “city without walls” as it expanded to include believers from all nations in fulfilment of Zechariah 2:4. There are no barriers or geographical borders in the Jerusalem that is above.

We are citizens of heaven even while we live in the tent of this mortal body within this earthly realm. As the writer to the Hebrews testified, we have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God (Hebrews 12:22). Using the imagery of the Roman armies surrounding the earthly city of Jerusalem, the apostle John described, in symbolic language, the surrounding of “the camp of God’s people.”

The siege of AD70 upon the earthly city of Jerusalem could not have been the attack of Gog and Magog spoken of by the prophet Ezekiel for he describes the invasion by Gog and Magog as being against a land of unwalled villages and an attack upon unsuspecting people – all of them living without walls and without gates and bars (Ezekiel 38:11). This does not describe conditions in Jerusalem in AD70 which was a strongly fortified city with walls which withstood the Roman siege for three-and-a-half years. But it certainly fits a figurative description of the peace-loving citizens of the unwalled and expanded city of the heavenly Jerusalem.

Those who are blindly led by the god of this age into the final onslaught against the church of Jesus Christ, (the citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem), will be completely destroyed when Jesus appears from heaven in his glory and majesty at which time he will finally overthrow all rebellion against the Kingdom of God. The pagan nations led by Satan at that time will be destroyed ‘by the splendour of Christ’s coming’ and thrown into the lake of fire. “They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God’s people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them.” The LORD described this same judgment upon Gog and Magog through the prophet Ezekiel as follows: “I will pour down torrents of rain, hailstones and burning sulphur on him and on his troops and on the many nations with him (which reminds us of the judgment that came upon Sodom and Gomorrah.)

The Scripture alludes to a great spiritual battle being waged in the heavenly realm even as the saints are engaged in a battle upon the earth. The archangel Michael fights the spiritual battle in the heavenly realm on behalf of the redeemed saints, the Israel of God. The archangel Michael is also, most likely, the one who prevents Satan from deceiving all the nations while the gospel is being proclaimed. When the one who is presently restraining Satan is taken out of the way, then the lawless one will be revealed. Paul’s teaching in his letter to the believers at Thessalonica should be read in tandem with the revelation of the millennium given to the apostle John and vice versa (Revelation 20:1-15). The apostle Paul’s description of the lawless one who is presently restrained (bound) and whose coming will be in accordance with the work of Satan is surely the same as what the apostle John describes as the releasing of Satan after the thousand years are over to go out and once again deceive the nations and gather them for battle against the redeemed people of God.

Don’t you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things? And now you know what is holding him back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time. For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendour of his coming. The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness (2 Thess. 2:5-12).

The Great White Throne and the Final Day of Judgment

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:11-15).

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad (2 Corinthians 5:10).

Every person who has ever been born will be raised to face judgment before the Lord Jesus Christ. The traditional greeting to celebrate Rosh Hashana (the Jewish New Year) is “May your name be inscribed in the book of life”. This also commences the ten day period of soul searching leading up to Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) at which time it is believed that God judges Israel. It is believed that at that time their sins and good deeds are weighed in the balance. Under the terms of the Old Covenant, anyone who did not deny himself by fasting on the Day of Atonement was to be cut off from the covenant people.

The tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement. Hold a sacred assembly anddeny yourselves, and present an offering made to the LORD by fire. Do no work on that day, because it is the Day of Atonement, when atonement is made for you before the LORD your God. Anyone who does not deny himself on that day must be cut off from his people. I will destroy from among his people anyone who does any work on that day (Lev. 23:27-30, cf. Lev. 16:29-31).

It is erroneously taught that every Jew has a part in the world to come simply by virtue of being born a Jew. But there are several commands contained within the Law of Moses for which offenders were to be cut off from the holy nation of Israel. People in general become very indignant when told that their sins separate them from God and Jewish people, in particular, become very indignant when it is suggested that they are cut off from God’s covenant people if they reject Jesus as the Anointed (Messiah) King. However, the Law itself confirms that anyone who refuses to listen to the word of God spoken through “the prophet like Moses” would be called to give account and would be completely cut off from among his people (see Deuteronomy 18:19 and Acts 3:23).

Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:24-26).

Jesus is the atoning sacrifice, not only for the sins of Israel, but also for the sins of thewhole world (1 John 2:22). There is only one sin for which all mankind will be held accountable – and that is the sin of rejecting the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ and of treating his blood as an unholy thing (see Hebrews 10:26-31). It is precisely the same concept taught in the old covenant Law for the Day of Atonement – a person who did not deny himself was to be cut off from the holy nation. Whoever does not deny himself and follow Jesus will find himself cut off from the people of God and will forfeit his life in world to come. His name will not be inscribed in the book of life.

The final Restoration at the appearing of Christ

Peter, preaching to the men of Israel said: “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you–even Jesus. He must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets” (Acts 3:19-21).

When Christ appears from heaven, his glory and splendour revealed, the rebellion led by Satan against the kingdom of God will be finally destroyed. According to the apostle Peter, it is then that we should expect the destruction of the old earth as the new heaven and earth, the home of righteousness is revealed. This does not permit a future thousand year reign of Christ upon the present (old) earth as pre-millennial teaching suggests, followed by another great rebellion against the kingdom of God as this would imply that he does not remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything. However, the apostles Peter, John and Paul taught that the rebellion against the kingdom of God is destroyed when Christ appears in his glory and splendour:

…the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendour of his coming (2 Thess. 2:7-8).

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness (2 Pe. 3:10-13).

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!'” (Rev. 21:1-5).