How to Live in a Threatening World

Explore the Bible Series

July 24, 2005

 

Background Passage: Ezekiel 38:1-39:29

Lesson Passage: Ezekiel 38:14-23 and 39:27-29

 

Introduction: The remaining chapters of the Book of Ezekiel require the conscientious Bible student to make some interpretive decisions. Basically, Bible-believing people have taken one of three options.

 

  1. Some interpreters have seen fulfillment of these prophecies in events that followed the life and ministry of Ezekiel. They identify Gog and Magog with political powers that rose in the aftermath of the Captivity, and, in turn, believe that Ezekielís description of the Temple was fulfilled in the construction efforts of Zerubbabel (completed c. 515 B.C.) and Herod the Great (renovation of the Temple structure began shortly after his ascension to power, in 37 B.C.).Those who hold to this view must face the difficulty of the restoration of the Davidic line and the considerable problem with identifying Gog and Magog.Furthermore, this position does not seem to deal effectively with the issue of Israelís return to prominence that is promised in this section.
  2. Other Bible students see the fulfillment of these prophecies in the Millennial Kingdom at the end of the world.Dispensational Premillennialists commonly believe that the nations, mentioned in this section, are indicative of future political powers that will arise at the end of the ages.Predictions concerning the Temple will literally come to pass during the millennial reign of Christ (See Revelation 20:1-10).Many who hold to this view assert that the Millennial Temple will meet the exact dimensional specifications of Ezekiel 40-48 and that the Jews will be reestablished in Jerusalem.Moreover, this view also teaches that the Old Testament sacrificial system will be restored, though many Dispensationalists acknowledge that the sacrifices will hold only a commemorative (not atoning) function.This view has gained great contemporary popularity.Respectable and capable expositors like John MacArthur and Gleason Archer hold to this position. The mention of Gog and Magog, in Revelation 20, lend support to this understanding of the text.However, this view has, in my judgment, some difficulties.The problems require detailed study (far beyond the scope of this outline), but people who want to explore the objections to Dispensational interpretation of Ezekiel 38-48 might consult The Momentous Event, W.J. Grier (Banner of Truth, reprinted 1976).
  3. Thirdly, some interpreters take Ezekiel 38-48 as symbolic of the Messianic Age. For instance, these scholars interpret the hostility of Gog and Magog toward Israel as indicative of the enmity that Godís people experience in every generation.Therefore, Gog and Magog, rather than being identifiable nations, represent the general hostility of the world toward the people of God during the Kingdom Era.

 

 

The third view, in my estimation, provides the most plausible interpretive framework for this section of Ezekiel.People feel strongly about these matters, and some may react to differences of opinion with a harsh, uncharitable spirit.This seems most unfortunate to me.Approach this study with an open Bible ands an open heart.

 

 

Annotated Outline of Text:

 

I.                    The Nations That Will Oppose Israel (38:1-9)

A.     The identity and destiny of Gog and Magog (vv. 1-4): The name Gog appears three times in Scripture (I Chronicles 5:4; Ezekiel 38; Revelation 20:8-15).The first reference seems to have little bearing on interpreting Ezekiel 38; however, there may be a connection between the Ezekiel passage and Revelation 20.In Ezekiel, the word seems to refer to a prince who ruled several tribal groups to the north of Israel.Magog is the land that Gog governed.Historically, Ezekiel may have had in mind the same nation that Jeremiah addressed in Chapter 4-6.Elaborate and imaginative efforts to identify Gog with contemporary individuals or states seem, in my judgment, unsatisfactory.Gog, in addition to ruling Magog, also governed Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal (v. 2). Rosh may be a term used to describe a ruler, and Mechesh and Tubal were located in Asia Minor.†††

B.     Allies of Gog (vv. 5-9)

1.      Persia: modern Iraq and Iran

2.      Ethiopia: region south of Egypt

3.      Put: region west of Egypt

4.      Gomer: modern Armenia in Turkey and Lebanon

5.      Beth-togarmah: also in modern Turkey

††††††††††††††††††

II.                 Godís Pledge to Protect Israel (38:10-23)

A.     Gogís plot, along with its allies, to attack the apparently defenseless people of God (vv. 10-13):The menacing enemies of God would rise up, Ezekiel predicted, like a great storm on the horizon.†† The Israelites seemed vulnerable to attack, and their enemies regarded them as an easy target.Greed and cruelty characterized these enemies, and they anticipated easily taking Israel as plunder.

B.     All of the forces of the world seemed to threaten Israel (vv. 14-16):Again, Ezekiel pointed out Israelís apparent innocence and vulnerability.The nations, it seemed, would militarily inundate Israel.

C.     God pledged to protect his people (vv. 17-23): The Lord expressed his fury against these belligerent nations.Ezekiel employed apocalyptic language to describe Godís judgment on Gog.Note the images he used: earthquakes, the creatures of the earth called to bear witness against Gog, pestilence, hailstones, fire, and brimstone.Godís purpose in all of this is to display his glory (v. 23).

 

 

III.               On Continued Prophecies Against Gog (39:1-29)

A.     God will raise up Gog to demonstrate his glory before his people (vv. 1-8): The Lord will display his sovereignty over the nations by bringing Gog to war against Israel (See v. 2).He will destroy the weapons of Gog, and bring her plot against Israel to naught (vv. 3-6).God will do all of this to make known his glory (See vv. 7-8).

B.     God predicted the utter destruction of Gog (vv 9-24):

1.      The people of Israel would burn the weapons of Gog (vv. 9-10).

2.      Gogís casualties will take seven months to bury (vv. 11-16).

3.      Ezekiel was to command the birds to feast on the carrion (vv. 17-20).

4.      God pledged to reveal his glory to Israel and the nations (vv. 21-24).

C.     God promised to bless and restore his people (vv. 25-29)

1.      He will have mercy on the house of Israel (v. 25).

2.      He will forget the disgrace and treachery of Israel (v. 26).

3.      He will bring the people back to their inheritance in the land (vv. 27-28).

4.      He will no longer hide his face from his people, and he will pour out his Spirit on Israel (v. 29).

 

 

Observations About the Lesson Passage:

 

  1. These chapters anticipate the great hostility of the world toward the people of God.This antagonism should never catch Christians off guard.Jesus often warned his disciples that the world would hate them, and he encouraged them to rejoice when they experienced persecution for the sake of Christ.The Sunday School (Explore the Bible) lesson provides information about the multitudes of people who have died for their faith.What should this passage (and these statistics) tell us about Christianity in the United States?
  2. This portion of Scripture reminds us of the faithfulness of God.Judah and Israel had disobeyed the Lord; yet, he remained faithful to his covenant with his people.He chastened them, but he also restored, forgave, and renewed them for the sake of his glory.Discuss the Lordís preserving work among his people.Why have Southern Baptists, historically, defended the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints?
  3. As stated earlier, what should this passage teach us about handling conflicts concerning eschatology (the study of Last Things)?Why do sincere, godly people disagree on the interpretation of Scripture?How can Christians properly strike the balance between conviction and humility?

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††