End-Times Geography: Specific or Symbolic?
Ezekiel was a priest and prophet of ancient Israel. He was born in Israel about 622 BC and died circa 570 BC in Babylon during the Babylonian captivity. He began to prophesy about 593 BC and foretold the siege of Jerusalem as God’s judgement. The siege actually occurred beginning about 588 BC. About 585 BC, in Ezekiel 37, God revealed to him that He would return the Jews to Israel. Also in 585 BC, in Ezekiel 38 and 39, he further prophesized a great future battle and God’s judgement on Israel’s enemies. The Book of Revelation is filled with references to Ezekiel. In fact, much of Revelation parallels Ezekiel.
Ezekiel 37: 1-6 English Standard Version (ESV). Prophesy of the Valley of Dry Bones.
“The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. And he said to me, ‘Son of man, can these bones live?’ And I answered, ‘O Lord God, you know.’ Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord.”
“Ezekiel 38: 1-3, ESV
“The word of the LORD came to me: ‘Son of man, set your face toward Gog of the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him and say, Thus says the LORD God: ‘Behold, I am against you, O Gog, chief prince of Meshech and Tubal.
Continuing the Lord’s prophesy in Ezekiel 39: 2-6:
“And I will turn you about and drive you forward and bring you up from the uttermost parts of the north and lead you against the mountains of Israel. Then I will strike your bow from your left hand and will make your arrows drop out of your right hand. You and all your hordes and peoples who are with you I will give to the birds of prey of every sort and to the beasts of the field to be devoured. You shall fall in the open field for I have spoken, declares the LORD God. I will send fire on Magog and on those who dwell securely in the coastlands, and they shall know that I am the LORD.”
Revelation 20:8 also mentions Gog and Magog in the end times. Quoted below are Revelation 20: 7-10:
“And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea. And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and consumed them, and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.”
I will not attempt to explain the thousand years and its controversies here. Readers should know that there are four major Christian interpretations: Classical Pre-millennial, Amillennial, Post-millennial, and Dispensational Pre-Millennial. The major controversy is in both the nature and sequential timing of the millennium in regard to Christ’s full and final reign, There is also a related controversy on the nature and time of the Great Tribulation spoken of in Matthew 24: 21-33. The Dispensational Pre-millennial interpretation originated with the Plymouth Brethren in Ireland less than 200 years ago, but it the most popular end-times influence among American and British Christians largely due the footnotes of the Scofield Reference Bible first published in 1909, Hal Lindsey’s 1970 best-seller, The Late Great Planet Earth, and the “Left Behind” book series first published in 1992 and movie series beginning in 2000. It is much less popular with Bible scholars.
Another controversy in Ezekiel, Matthew chapters 24-25, and Revelation is whether various prophesies forecast the End-Times, the fall of Jerusalem at the hands of the Romans in 70 AD, or Both. I will concentrate on the possible geographical significance and the sure spiritual significance of Gog and Magog.
The Reformation Study Bible, R. C. Sproul, General Editor, points out that while the reference to Magog the land of Gog its chief prince remains uncertain, “ the identification of Meshech and Tubal is not in doubt.”
“From the ancient historians Herodotus and Josephus, as well as Assyrian documents from the tenth to the eleventh centuries BC, they are known to be tribes from central and eastern Anatolia (modern Turkey)”
Some translations of Ezekiel 38 and 39 in the past have speculatively translated the Hebrew word rosh as Russia, when its meaning and context is clearly “prince.” Russia did not become a nation called Russia until Kievan-Rus state was founded in 889 AD. Beginning about 862 AD, Swedish Vikings settled along the Dnieper River from Novgorod to Kiev and assimilated into the predominantly Slavic peoples there. The Swedish Vikings were mainly from an area along the eastern coast of Sweden called Rus, which also extended into Lake Malaren, just North of the present city of Stockholm. Even today, the Finnish word for Swedes is Ruotsi. Judging from DNA results, many of these Rus Vikings were Finns. These same mistranslations also transferred Meshech into Moscow, which did not exist at that time. Moscow was no more than a wooden fortress before 1156 AD. Russian Tobolsk, founded in 1590 AD was forced into Tubal.
Meshech and Tubal are listed as sons of Japheth and grandsons of Noah in Genesis 10:2. They were apparently dominant provinces in the greater territory of Magog. According to D.D Luckenbill, Ancient Records of Assyria and Babylonia, 1960, Meshech and Tubal seem to represent all the anti-God forces in the world who are maliciously bent on destroying God’s people. Some believe Magog is a Babylonian captivity code name for Babylon. Both Meshech and Tubal were apparently Babylonian satraps and later Persian satraps beginning with Cyrus.
The Greek historian Herodotus, living just 150 years after Ezekiel, believed that Meshech and Tubal lived in the Pontus region of Turkey, south and east of the Black Sea. Several Bible Atlases now show Magog, Meshech, and Tubal on the Turkish map, but their locations of each are not consistent publisher to publisher: They are: Holman, Zondervan, and New Moody. The ESV Atlas shows only Meshech and Tubal. They may believe Magog is actually Babylon. The Catholic Encyclopedia identifies Magog with Lydia in western Turkey, as does the New Unger Bible Dictionary.
The ethnic, cultural, linguistic, and religious nature of Turkey began to change in 1071 with the Muslim Seljuk Turks’ victory over a Greek Christian Byzantine army at Manzkert in Byzantine Armenia.
Gog, Magog, Meshech, and Tubal were historical proto-types of what was to come. The geographic connections to future events may differ, but present circumstances seem foreboding.
Turkey became the heart of the much larger Ottoman Empire from 1299 until its demise following World War 1 in 1922. It had stretched from southeastern Europe to Iran. Many Turkish politicians would love to re-establish the glories of that empire. Turkey is strongly connected to the Muslim Brotherhood and has easily the second largest and best equipped armed forces in Europe.
But as to Israel, are its prophesies only for the geographical nation of Israel and the Jews? Or are they now something more?
1 Peter 2: 4-6
“As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture: ‘Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”
1 Peter 2: 9-10
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”
On end-times geography, my necessarily humble best guess is that Meshech and Tubal were among the most powerful, cruel, and ungodly of Gog’s satraps and were located on the central and southeastern shores of the Black Sea with their domain extending over much of central and eastern Turkey. These areas were closely associated with Magog, and Magog may have actually been the Neo-Babylonian Empire. The greatest danger to the nation of Israel today would be a coalition of Muslim nations led by Turkey, Iran, and Qatar.
“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!”—Psalm 122:6.