For God’s people, present sufferings are only that—present. They may test our faith now, but they do not in any way call into doubt the promises of God for a glorious future in His presence. Those promises are assured by our all-powerful God.
Around four thousand years ago the Lord promised to give to Abraham’s descendants forever the land we know as Israel. Well, at this point in our study through the book of Ezekiel, the Jewish people are no longer in that land. They are exiles in the land of Babylon. Their homeland has been decimated, and Jerusalem has been burned to the ground.
But as bad as it seems—and as unlikely as it seems for God’s promise to ever come to pass—Ezekiel begins to prophesy of a glorious future for Israel in the land of promise. The prophecy of Ezekiel 38 and 39 offers divine assurance that ultimately Israel will possess this land forever. These chapters describe a future invasion of Israel and God’s miraculous defense of His chosen people. This is an amazing prophecy, but it raises a number of questions.
And the first one is this: When does this take place? Well, down here in verse 8 of chapter 38, we are told it takes place in the “latter years,” and verse 16 says it’s in the “latter days.” This points us to the end times. And since nothing in history matches what is described here, we know that it is still in the future.
But when in the future? Verse 8 tells us it takes place when Israel will “dwell securely” in their land. So, does this reference to war here in this chapter describe the final battle of Armageddon? No, it does not. And neither is this the Satan-led rebellion described in Revelation 20, even though we find the names of Gog and Magog both there and here in Ezekiel 38.
Let me pull over for a few moments here and set forth what I believe is the proper chronology of God’s plan for the end times and where this battle of Ezekiel 38 fits into the picture. I have included a timeline below to help you visualize this.
Here’s the timeline: first, the Lord Jesus is going to come in the clouds for His church—that is, all born-again believers of this church age, which has been going on now for the past 2,000 years since the church was created on the Day of Pentecost in Acts chapter 2. Those believers who have died during this church age will have their bodies raised from the dead and reunited with their spirits, which have been with the Lord all this time.
Then, Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 4, all believers who are alive at that time will be snatched from the earth to join the Lord in the clouds and be taken to the Father’s house in heaven. We call this event the rapture, and it can happen at any time.
Following the rapture will be a seven-year period we call the tribulation. It will be a time when God brings terrifying judgments upon the earth and prepares the way for Christ’s millennial kingdom, which will follow, when Christ returns—not in the clouds, but to the earth. According to Revelation 20 the Lord does not return to earth for believers but withbelievers, and that is because we are already with Him.
Now the tribulation period, which follows the rapture, does not begin with war and destruction and suffering. It begins with a powerful world leader emerging on the scene. This is the Antichrist. He brings peace and makes a covenant that gives Israel security in their land. He will break his covenant midway through the tribulation; but during the early part of the tribulation, Israel is going to enjoy a period of time when they will “dwell securely” in their land.
I believe it is during this period of calm early in the tribulation when the attack described here in Ezekiel 38 takes place. By the way, this attack corresponds with the red horse mentioned in Revelation chapter 6 and verse 4—a horse that brings a brief time of war against Israel.
Now the next question is this: Who will attack Israel? The first six verses of Ezekiel chapter 38 give us the answer. It is a coalition of nations uniting to invade Israel. Most of these names are unfamiliar to us today. The leader will be “Gog, of the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal” (verse 2). The invaders will come out of the north, according to verse 6. I believe the land we know today as Russia is represented by Gog and Magog. Other nations joining in the invasion are Persia (modern Iran) and Cush (modern-day Sudan), along with modern-day Turkey.
Here is another question: What is the purpose of this invasion? Well, quite frankly, today the religion of Islam is predominant in many of these lands, and Islam has a long-standing animosity against Israel. Undoubtedly, they are driven by their religion, but there is more to it than that. Verse 12 says they want to “seize spoil and carry off plunder.” They covet the wealth of Israel, which even today, beloved, is far greater than the nations surrounding them.
But there is another reason for this attack that is revealed here in Ezekiel’s prophecy. The Lord says to these nations in verse 16, “I will bring you against my land.” This is all part of God’s plan, with the purpose being not only to draw Israel back to Himself, but also, as He says here in verse 16, “that the nations may know me, when through you, O Gog, I vindicate my holiness before their eyes.” Through God’s supernatural protection of Israel in this attack, these nations will be given an undeniable testimony of God’s power and holiness.
The fourth question is this: What is the outcome of this invasion? The text is very clear on this. Listen to what the Lord says here in verses 19-22:
“In my blazing wrath I declare, On that day there shall be a great earthquake in the land of Israel. . . . and all the people who are on the face of the earth, shall quake at my presence. And the mountains shall be thrown down, and the cliffs shall fall, and every wall shall tumble to the ground. I will summon a sword against Gog on all my mountains, declares the Lord God. Every man’s sword will be against his brother. With pestilence and bloodshed I will enter into judgment with him, and I will rain upon him and his hordes and the many peoples who are with him torrential rains and hailstones, fire and sulfur.”
The complete destruction of this enemy coalition is going to have a profound effect on Israel. We read in chapter 39, verse 22, “The house of Israel shall know that I am the Lord their God, from that day forward.” Israel will experience a national revival. They will come to trust the word of God, and believe the Son of God, Jesus Christ, is indeed their true Messiah.
So, chapter 39 ends with the final regathering of all Israel at the end of the tribulation—and this perfectly coincides with Christ’s return to earth to establish His millennial kingdom. God says in verse 29, “I will . . . pour out my Spirit upon the house of Israel.” Imagine that future scene when the nation welcomes their Messiah as He descends to earth to set up His kingdom. This is the glorious destiny of Israel described in chapters 34, 36, and 37.
In the meantime, Ezekiel prophesies that Israel will face still more suffering and scattering in the centuries ahead. But they can be certain that in the end God’s promise will finally and fully and forever come to pass.
God’s purpose in human history—past, present, and future—is to bring glory to Himself as people recognize that He is the Lord of the universe.
I don’t know what you are going through, my friend, but do not forget that coming day when every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Let’s make it our purpose, in all we do, to glorify Him and declare Him Lord of our lives today.
 (Genesis 12:7; 13:14-17; 15:18-21)