Now, at the commencement of the Millennium, Satan shall be bound, and cast into the bottomless pit, that he may no longer deceive the nations (Rev. 20: 1-3). And this accords with the predictions of which we previously made mention, those regarding worldwide peace. For it is the "nations," and not the saints, that have fallen under Satan's jurisdiction; although all will admit that the church has, to a certain extent, been subjected to heresies promulgated by false teachers. Nevertheless, there is a difference between "the church" and "the nations." The purpose of Satan's binding will be to free the nations from his deceptions, that all may acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord.
When Satan is cast into the bottomless pit, there will be a ruling and reigning of the saints for a thousand years. This period will be a realization of what would have occurred on the seventh day, had Adam and Eve kept God's holy law. It involves man's restoration of dominion over all the earth, and a removal of the curse which Adam brought upon the race, which blessing shall apply during this period to the saints only. It is the "first-fruits" of those eternal blessings which shall be conferred in whole, following the resurrection of the Genetic economy.
Again, this thousand year period is the last day of the seven; that is, the antitypical Sabbath. And thus the early church has been given to understand it. Even John of Damascus, not himself a Chiliast, perceived the validity of the diurnal typology. He wrote: "Seven ages of this world are spoken of, that is, from the creation of the heaven and earth till the general consummation and resurrection of men. For there is a partial consummation, viz., the death of each man: but there is also a general and complete consummation, when the general resurrection of men will come to pass. And the eighth age is the age to come." (De Fide Orthodoxa, II. i).
Thus, the Millennium must be viewed as the commencement, and not the completion, of the new creation. It will be an extended period of peace in which all nations shall be blessed in the seed of Abraham, when all peoples will participate in the blessings brought by the dominion of the righteous throughout the whole world. After the beast and false prophet are taken alive and cast into the lake of fire, and Satan himself bound and cast into the abyss, then the saints will reign from Jerusalem, and go forth to declare Christ's glory throughout the entire earth.
(Isaiah 65: 19-21) "And I will set a sign among them, and I will send those that escape of them unto the nations, to Tarshish, Pul, and Lud, that draw the bow, to Tubal, and Javan, to the isles afar off, that have not heard my fame, neither have seen my glory: and they shall declare my glory among the Gentiles. And they shall bring all your brethren for an offering unto the Lord, out of all nations, upon horses, and in chariots, and in litters, and upon mules, and upon swift beasts, to my holy mountain Jerusalem, saith the Lord, as the children of Israel bring an offering in a clean vessel into the house of the Lord. And I will also take of them for priests and for Levites, saith the Lord."
(Zech. 8: 22-23) "Yea, many people and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of Hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the Lord. Thus saith the Lord of Hosts; in those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold, out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you."
The Millennium will be the culmination of all the Messianic prophecies, and the focal point of all of God's temporal dispensations. It will be, as we've seen, a period of universal blessedness. And yet it will not comprise a total extirpation of all evil. There will still exist those who despise the Lord; and although their iniquity will be powerless to oppress the saints, it will nonetheless serve as a kernel of that latter day uprising that will issue in the invasion of Gog and Magog. When we read Ezekiel's vision of the living waters, we cannot help noticing that, although he describes their wide-reaching effect, he adds: "But the miry places thereof and the marshes thereof shall not be healed; they shall be given to salt" (Ezek. 47: 11).
That is, there will be a certain remnant of wickedness left in the earth, which shall not be affected by the healing waters. This remnant will be restrained from active evil during the Millennium, but will later rebel against Jesus Christ during the "little season" that Satan is unloosed (Rev. 20: 3). John writes: "And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, and shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea" (Rev. 20: 7-8). We cannot help noticing a correspondence between this last uprising and the earlier Battle of Armageddon. This ought to tell us that Satan's modus operandi is essentially the same whenever he is allowed to function with an open hand. His purpose is to incite the wicked against the righteous, for there is an implacable enmity between the two seeds that will not be eradicated until the final and general judgment.
What details can we give regarding the Gog and Magog invasion? Unfortunately, the Ante-Nicene fathers furnish us with few helps. We must fetch the greater part of our information from Lactantius, who gives us some sure exegetical footing by himself referring back to Ezekiel 38 and 39. We believe, in fact, that the best accounts of the Gog and Magog battle will be found in those two chapters. And it interesting that Ezekiel, from chapters 34 to 40, provides the student with something like a mini-textbook of last time events. We have, firstly, an account of the preliminary judgment of Christ's church, when the true and the false are separated (Ezek. 34: 1-22); then somewhat like an account of Armageddon (Ezek. 35), followed by a detailed description of the blessings which await the righteous (Ezek. 36). Next, the prophet gives us a depiction of the resurrection of the just (Ezek. 37), going on to show us what shall befall after the thousand years are completed (Ezek. 38-39; cf. Rev. 20: 7-9).
It is sometimes thought that Ezekiel's account of the Gog and Magog invasion is to be partially fulfilled in the Battle of Armageddon. Perhaps this is true. In any event, it ought to be discerned that many prophecies contain gradations of fulfillment, which are difficult to distinguish until the events themselves come to pass. Regardless, however, of whether we place Ezekiel's prophecy in its entirety after the Millennium, or only in part, we should readily acknowledge that all of the events described therein are still future: that is, the prophecies have never yet been fulfilled. If the Millennium is future, then so is the Gog and Magog battle.
Now, let us take a closer look at this battle. We don't require a great deal of discernment to figure out what will occur, for the language itself is plain. When the complete number of the elect of Israel have been gathered, and the cities of the world restored to peace, Satan will be loosed and shall go out to deceive the nations. In Ezekiel 38: 1-7 the prophet speaks of a general gathering of nations to battle. Then, he writes: "After many days thou shalt be visited;" that is, by Satan. "In the latter years thou shalt come into the land that is brought back from the sword, and is gathered out of many people, against the mountains of Israel, which have been always waste: but it is brought forth out of the nations, and they shall dwell safely all of them" (Ezek. 38: 8). This denotes the period following the close of the Millennium, when world peace is again shattered.
Ezekiel continues thus: "Thou shalt ascend and come like a storm, thou shalt be like a cloud to cover the land, thou, and all thy bands, and many people with thee. Thus saith the Lord God; It shall also come to pass, that at the same time shall things come into thy mind, and thou shalt think an evil thought: and thou shalt say, I will go up to the land of unwalled villages; I will go to them that are at rest, that dwell safely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having neither bars nor gates, to take a spoil, and to take a prey; to turn thine hand upon the desolate places that are now inhabited, and upon the people that are gathered out of all the nations, which have gotten cattle and goods, that dwell in the midst of the land. Sheba, and Dedan, and the merchants of Tarshish, with all the young lions thereof, shall say unto thee, Art thou come to take a spoil? Hast thou gathered thy company to take a prey? to carry away silver and gold, to take away cattle and goods, to take a great spoil?" (Ezek. 38: 9-13).
It is important that we pay close attention to the prophet's language. For he clearly implies that the invasion will take place after the land has been restored to peace, and the desolate places re-built. The Millennium, as we've already noticed, will be a time of re-gathering and rebuilding. Ezekiel writes: "Thus saith the Lord God; When I shall have gathered the house of Israel from the people among whom they are scattered, and shall be sanctified in them in the sight of the heathen, then shall they dwell in their land that I have given to my servant Jacob. And they shall dwell safely therein, and shall build houses and plant vineyards; yea, they shall dwell with confidence, when I have executed judgments upon all those that despise them round about them: and they shall know that I am the Lord their God" (Ezek. 28: 25-26).
But when these prophecies have been fulfilled, and the "Day of Lord" (the seventh millenary of years) is coming to a close, the blessedness of the saints shall once more be disrupted, by the coming of Gog and Magog. We sometimes wonder why, with Jesus Christ sitting on the throne, another uprising of the wicked should be permitted to occur. It is not easy to give an answer. However, let us keep in mind that "many people shall be joined to the Lord in that day" (Zech. 2: 11); and in order to have true communion with Christ, there must be an exercise of virtue, which demands trial and fellowship in the Lord's own sufferings. Thus is evil permitted to function during the Millennium, albeit on a much smaller scale. Yet when the thousand years are almost expired, the uprising of the wicked will once again force the world to go one way or another--to choose life or death. Thus, through tribulation are the godly purified, whilst the chaff are consigned to everlasting fire.
And the prophet predicts what shall occur during the last time. He writes: "And thou shalt come from thy place out of the north parts, thou, and many people with thee, all of them riding upon horses, a great company, and a mighty army: and thou shalt come up against my people of Israel, as a cloud to cover the land; it shall be in the latter days, and I will bring thee against my land, that the heathen may know me, when I shall be sanctified in thee, O Gog, before their eyes" (Ezek. 38: 15-16). The prophecy seems to imply that the saints will then no longer be dwelling in the cities, but shall have obtained refuge in Jerusalem. Satan, after gathering the armies to battle, shall, in the forces of Gog and Magog, make one final assault on God's people. But, he and his powers will be brought to nothing.
For then there will be a great shaking in the land of Israel. All nature will be convulsed, insomuch that the mountains shall be thrown down, the towers and stairs of the cities shall fall, and hailstones will rain down on those armies that defy God (Ezek. 38: 19-23). This will constitute the last temporal punishment of the wicked. The prophet writes: "Therefore, thou son of man, prophesy against Gog, and say, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I am against thee, O Gog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal: and I will turn thee back, and strike thee with six plagues, and will cause thee to come up from the sides of the north, and will bring thee upon the mountains of Israel: and I will smite the bow out of thy left hand, and will cause thine arrows to fall out of thy right hand. Thou shalt fall upon the mountains of Israel, thou, and all thy bands, and the people that is with thee: I will give thee unto the ravenous birds of every sort, and to the beasts of the field, to be devoured. Thou shalt fall upon the open field: for I have spoken it, saith the Lord God. And I will send a fire on Magog, and among them that dwell carelessly in the isles: and they shall know that I am the Lord" (Ezek. 39: 1-6).
Concerning the exact identity of this Gog and Magog, interpreters are at variance. Some believe that these are actual nations. Ambrose of Milan, writing to the emperor Gratian in 378 A.D., identified them as the Goths. (De Fide, II. xvi). His view evidently sees Ezekiel's prophecy as largely disconnected from that of the Apocalypse. But St. Augustine writes: "For these nations which he names Gog and Magog are not to be understood of some barbarous nations in some part of the world, whether the Getae and Massagetae, as some conclude from the initial letters, or some other foreign nations not under the Roman government. For John marks that they are spread over the whole earth, when he says, 'The nations which are in the four corners of the earth,' and he added that these are Gog and Magog. The meaning of these names we find to be, Gog, 'a roof,' Magog, 'from a roof,'-- a house, as it were, and he who comes out of the house. They are therefore the nations in which we found that the devil was shut up as in an abyss, and the devil himself coming out from them and going forth, so that they are the roof, he from the roof. Or if we refer both words to the nations, not one to them and one to the devil, then they are both the roof, because in them the old enemy is at present shut up, and as it were roofed in; and they shall be from the roof when they break forth from concealed to open hatred." (City of God, XX. xi).
Although we disagree with Augustine on the matter of timing, we allow that by "Gog and Magog" must be meant a collection (or rather collusion) of nations throughout the entire world. Thus a genealogical analysis of the names will hardly do us any good. Indeed, we've noticed that many expositors do consider the Apocalyptic reference to Gog and Magog as entirely spiritual, while that of Ezekiel they refer to a set of nations placed in past history. Since opinions, however, are so divided, we have maintained the unity between the two respective visions--that of John and Ezekiel coinciding in all essential respects. Once again, many passages (perhaps a large portion of chap. 39) seem to bear more logical reference to the battle of Armageddon. Nevertheless, of one thing we can be sure--that any interpretation we undertake must be maintained with caution. As a rule of thumb, all prophecies remain obscure until their fulfillment.
To be continued...