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Ezekiel 38 & 39: How Many Wars?

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With recent tension in the Middle East, much attention has recently been focused on the scriptures found in Ezekiel 38 and 39. This section of the bible talks about a future war which some have labeled the Gog/Magog war. People engage in vehement disagreement over these scriptures.

Some, noting the great similarity between this battle and the battle described as the battle of Armageddon in Revelation 16, have concluded that they are the same war. Others have concluded that this battle starts the day of the Lord and does not fall at the end at the time of our Lord's return. Both present some pretty good arguments.

Yesterday, we discussed who some of the potential participants might be. The question today is, how many battles are we talking about here?

Chapter 38, verse 8 indicates that Gog will come against "a land that has recovered from war". So, 1 war is spoken of here. The scripture is quite clear in verse 16 that Israel is being attacked. Some of the wording in verse 11 about "unwalled villages" have led people to think that America is indicated. In any event, there is a war that Israel has recovered from, prior to the time that Gog and its allies attack.

Then we have the problem of the number of times that Gog and allies attack. Yes, some of the wording and what is prophesied is identical to Revelation 16 and the battle of Armageddon. One can only conclude that they are one and the same. Yet, how can that fit with Chapter 39, verse 9, which says that "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 arrow, the war clubs and spears. For seven years they will use them for fuel. If this is the battle of Armageddon, there is no seven years for gathering: there will be a new heaven and a new Earth provided shortly by the Lord our God. How can this be?

Do we have any other parallel in scripture? How about the prophecies concerning the coming of the messiah? The Jews tried to make all the predictions fit. Some even concluded that there must be two messiahs: a suffering servant messiah and a ruling king messiah. I conclude something similar here.

My conclusion is that we have three wars spoken of here in this scripture. We have a first war where the parties are not identified, where Israel is attacked and damaged sufficiently that a recovery from it is notable. We may have already seen that war in 1973.

Second, we have a Gog/Magog attack that occurs on the first day of the day of the Lord. Rosh Hoshanah, or Tishri 1, is the most likely day for this to occur. I believe 24 nations will attack Israel. Currently, there are 22 members of the Arab League. Persia will join in, according to the scripture. That leaves one more. Turkey is a candidate. Turkey was the most probable location of the tribe of Magog in ancient times. Pakistan is also a candidate because of the shared Islamic religion. Russia is a possibility, but I feel not a likely participant in this first Gog/Magog war. This will be a severe war and will provide the weapons for fuel.

Then, we have the third war: Armageddon.

There are a couple of other indicators that this is so. First of all, there is the wording at the start of 38 and 39. It says that God will do the following to Gog: "I will turn you around and drag you along. I will bring you from the far north." This wording is found in 39:2. Also, we find the following in 38:4: "I will turn you around, put hooks in your jaws and bring you out with your whole army." There is a whole lot of turning around indicated here. Where else do we see something like this? In Jeremiah, it is recorded that the Babylonian Army came into Israel several times. Once, they laid siege to Jerusalem, but gave up the siege, only to return a couple of years later.

I can hear you saying it now. Steve, how can you say there are two Gog/Magog wars? You are really stretching. Well, I don't think that I am stretching any more than you have to stretch to see two comings of the messiah in Isaiah 49. Think about that one for awhile.

But really, I conclude that there must be two battles because that is the only way I can understand the scripture and make it to make sense. To me, it's pretty clear. If we are referring to Armageddon, there aren't going to be any seven years of bar-b-que over burning weapons. If we are referring to the Gog/Magog war at the beginning of the day of the Lord, well there are certainly seven years left, but God is not going to bare his holy arm in that war... not just yet.

Finally, I don't believe the participants in the two battles will be the same. In the first Gog/ Magog war, which we seem to be staring in the face right now, we will probably have 24 participants. Russia will probably not be among them, which will severely upset the applecarts of a lot of prophecy students. Then later, Russia will come along with all the nations of the world at the Battle of Armageddon. Zechariah 14:2 says that all nations will be gathered to Jerusalem to fight against it....not just 24 nations.

Stephen L. Bening

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