This month’s Prophecy Watchers magazine features an article I just wrote on the spiritual powers working behind the scenes in the current conflict in Syria and ultimately in the long-awaited Battle of Gog and Magog. The article is entitled, “Is Gog Just a Turk?” The double entendre references the fact that there are “princes and powers of the air”–the dark forces of principalities that stir up world events (and empower its leaders), which transcend human agents. It also plays on the current controversy regarding whether Gog from the land of Magog references Turkey and Islamic nations only, or whether Gog is in fact the prince (Rosh) of Meshech, Tubal, and the other entities listed in Ezekiel 38-39. Of course, the traditional position is that the leader of this confederation against Israel is none other than Russia. Is Gog just a Turk? Or is he much more?
Included here is the much longer version of the article. Do subscribe to Prophecy Watchers Magazine if you haven’t already. Some of the most scholarly thinkers around today in the prophetic community contribute to that monthly periodical and will stretch your thinking to the max! Click HERE to subscribe to Prophecy Watchers.
Is Gog Just a Turk?
“Son of man, set your face toward Gog of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meschech and Tubal, and prophesy against him and say, … Behold, I am against you, O Gog, prince of Rosh, Meschech and Tubal.” (Ezekiel 38:1-3)
Gog from the Land of Magog
The identity of the great enemy of Israel just before the Jewish Messiah comes in “the latter days” continues to be one of the most debated subjects in eschatology. Bible students know this enemy of Israel as “Gog from the land of Magog.” While these names are familiar to students of Bible prophecy, the meaning behind “Gog and Magog” constitutes a multi-layered reality and stretches beyond the recognition of most everyone. Why would this be so? Because many teachers of Bible prophecy seek to place these names on a map without acknowledging spiritual forces that act behind the scenes.
While we are dealing with human personages and nations, we are also encountering powers and principalities actively influencing the affairs of humankind. To assert Gog and Magog represent only human personages or simply specific nation-states falls short of an informed biblical perspective. Yes, the identity of Gog and Magog rightly includes “persons and territories.” Nevertheless, to plumb the meaning of scripture we must study more than people and places and look deeper to discern the puppet masters behind the marionettes.
The names, Gog and Magog, are mentioned in two distinct places in the Bible. Magog is a descendant of Noah’s son Japeth. “The sons of Japheth: Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech and Tiras.” (Genesis 10:2) Gog is mentioned as a descendant of Rueben son of Jacob through the line of Shem, son of Noah (1 Chronicles 5:4). Consequently, no genealogical relationship exists between this “Gog and Magog.”
Indeed, the tribes that descended from Noah’s offspring and where they settled geographically comprises quite a different investigation than what we intend to concern ourselves with here. If the opportunity presents itself, we will take that topic up another time.
Gog and Magog are Not Just on a Map
To understand the ultimate identity of Gog and Magog, we must recognize the “ultra-dimensional” nature of these entities. Recall the verse from Ephesians 6:12, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” The New Testament teaches that the world is ruled by unseen powers although Jesus Christ, through his atoning death, has already defeated them. “And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a [show] of them openly, triumphing over them in it.” (Colossians 2:14, see also Colossians 1:6 and 1 Peter 3:22) While defeated, these powers continue to act through human agents, as men and women permit them and obtain power from them.
The Bible mentions Gog and Magog only seven times (in 1 Chronicles 5:4, seven times in Ezekiel chapters 38-39, and in Revelation 20:8). Most scholars doubt Gog to be a proper name at all, but rather a title akin to Pharaoh, Caesar, King or Czar. They associate the word Gog with a high mountain, implying “one with great authority.” When Ezekiel references Gog, the Prince of Rosh, Meschech and Tubal, he speaks about a supernatural power, as well as a human agent.
From the Recesses of the North
The five “I wills” of Isaiah 14 come into play here. This passage references the adversary of the Lord God, i.e., Lucifer or Satan. He delivers five self-seeking proclamations to the God of gods—an apotheosis demanding ascension to the throne where God dwells. We read:
12 How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!
13 For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:
14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.
Two key Hebrew words in this passage must be considered in depth. The KJV reads “in the sides of the north” but their meaning surpasses this obscure phrase. The two words are yĕrekah (Strong’s 3411) and tsaphown (Strong’s H6828). Yĕrekah means the “extreme recesses or quarters,” while tsaphown means “north or northern.” Thus, the more accurate translation of this phrase would be: “I also will sit upon the mount of the congregation, in the extreme recesses of the northern most quarters (habitations).”
Regarding this passage, the Vines Bible dictionary comments that the Hebrews saw the north as dark, gloomy, and opaque whereas they considered the south to be clear, bright and sunny. Additionally, the north was exceedingly far away, foreboding, and to be feared. The passage from Isaiah hints that it might have been customary to consider God dwelling in the north. Given so much folklore and mythology associating the dwelling of pagan gods with the far north, the belief that deities dwelt there seems universal. However, while the ethereal hints at a distinct dimension where spiritual entities dwell, other biblical passages pull us back to locations where latitude and longitude apply. Indeed, Jeremiah uses the very same words:
22 Thus saith the Lord, Behold, a people cometh from the north country, and a great nation shall be raised from the sides of the earth.
23 They shall lay hold on bow and spear; they are cruel, and have no mercy; their voice roareth like the sea; and they ride upon horses, set in array as men for war against thee, O daughter of Zion.
According to Jeremiah the people that shall come are from the north, a great nation that shall arise from the extreme recesses of the earth. The judgment of Babylon prophesied in Jeremiah 25:9 uses the same language of Jeremiah 50-51 where the daughter of Babylon becomes the object of judgment. We read:
9 Behold, I will send and take all the families of the north, saith the Lord, and Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant, and will bring them against this land, and against the inhabitants thereof, and against all these nations round about, and will utterly destroy them, and make them an astonishment, and an hissing, and perpetual desolations.
Jeremiah repeats these predictions in chapters 50 and 51:
For out of the north there cometh up a nation against her, which shall make her land desolate, and none shall dwell therein: they shall remove, they shall depart, both man and beast. (50:3)
For, lo, I will raise and cause to come up against Babylon an assembly of great nations from the north country: and they shall set themselves in array against her; from thence she shall be taken: their arrows shall be as of a mighty expert man; none shall return in vain. (50:9)
Behold, a people shall come from the north, and a great nation, and many kings shall be raised up from the coasts of the earth. (50:41)
Then the heaven and the earth, and all that is therein, shall sing for Babylon: for the spoilers shall come unto her from the north, saith the LORD. (51:48)
Likewise, the prophet Joel references the northern army that shall come against both Israel and Babylon. The prophet assures Israel of God’s protection (unlike the daughter of Babylon that shall be utterly destroyed):
But I will remove far off from you the northern army, and will drive him into a land barren and desolate, with his face toward the east sea, and his hinder part toward the utmost sea, and his stink shall come up, and his ill savour shall come up, because he hath done great things. (Joel 2:20)
To grasp the implications of these prophecies, we should note that the physical, historical Babylon exists in Iraq and lies almost directly east of Jerusalem, and not from the north. Secondly, Babylon is not located in the most extreme or remote parts of the earth. Israelites knew the world was not bounded by Babylon. They knew that the Persians lay further east. Babylon was not from the extreme recesses of the east, let alone the north.
Therefore, the prophets appear to be implying more than just lands lying to the north of Israel. They appear to link these events with powers and principalities that lie behind the scenes. Otherworldly entities are being factored into the prophetic events when God battles His archenemies. Earthly powers will rise and fall—but paranormal “partners” will persist.
Daniel and the True World Powers
Assuming Jeremiah’s prophecies await fulfillment, the conclusion becomes apparent: the nations that come against Babylon are future to Daniel and Jeremiah. Babylon also must be a future incarnation reflecting its spirit (and by that I suggest the very same principality or power likely lurks behind the scenes). If America is the daughter of Babylon today, our leaders could be unwitting puppets for the Prince of Babylon.
In the Book of Daniel, we recall that Daniel talks with an angel about the Prince of Persia and the Prince of Grecia (Greece) that will come against Babylon. But the Prince of Babylon itself is not directly mentioned in Daniel’s exchange with the angel. First in his vision in Daniel 8:20-22, we learn that the beasts that Daniel sees are associated with kingdoms yet future to Daniel. The angel conveys to Daniel, by reference to their “princes,”
the Persians as well as the Greeks. A future beast, an exceedingly great beast, is not named but will be the beast that the Messiah himself will defeat at the end of days. (See Daniel 8:25)
Later, we encounter Daniel once again talking with the angel who answers Daniel’s prayer explains his vision. Through this conversation, we gain insight into what happens behind the curtain. In Chapter 10, Daniel relates his encounter this way:
11 And he said unto me, O Daniel, a man greatly beloved, understand the words that I speak unto thee, and stand upright: for unto thee am I now sent. And when he had spoken this word unto me, I stood trembling.
12 Then said he unto me, Fear not, Daniel: for from the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words.
13 But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days: but, lo, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me; and I remained there with the kings of Persia.
To summarize: Jeremiah, Joel, as well as Ezekiel predict a future kingdom identified as the daughter of Babylon. Just as with Israel, this great empire will be opposed by a collection of nations from the extreme northern recesses of the earth. This “northern exposure” suggests a nation as far north as one can go AND principalities that may dwell there (at least figuratively, but I wouldn’t rule out a literal location too). The prophecy of Ezekiel 38-39 references the very same set of nations, likely at the same time—despite the fact that Ezekiel does not mention Babylon by name. Gog “stirs up” the leaders of nations in the physical world, and leads these nations behind the scenes. Gog, like the Antichrist, becomes the instrument of a supernatural being. His mission is to attack and destroy the people of God.
The late scholar Donald Grey Barnhouse, who departed from the pure teaching of Dispensationalism in his latter years, made the same point as am I when he wrote:
That, then, which has satisfied our minds in this matter, is that some of Satan’s mighty angels, principalities, or powers which rule the darkness of this world (Eph. 6:12), TAKE HOLD OF EARTH DICTATORS, use them for their ends, and are defeated by God… The human instrumentalities are destroyed, but the demon forces live on, held back by the power of God until Satan is released after the thousand years. Whereupon they seize again some willing earthling and seek to lead the peoples against God in their final rebellion. (Revelation Commentary, pp. 387-8).
An Islamic Antichrist and an Islamic Gog?
Despite the supernatural forces behind Gog, we still must ask “Is Magog the land from which Gog arises? Is Gog just a Turk?”
Younger authors often assert, however, that the more sophisticated and educated position dismisses any region outside of the Middle East. From their perspective, Russian leadership of Gog’s hordes is a Cold War anachronism or a simpleminded acceptance of the Scofield Bibles’ dispensational footnotes. Likewise, many teachers identify Mystery Babylon and the Daughter of Babylon with Islam. An ascendant empire in the Middle East (usually Turkey, Saudi Arabia, possibly Iran or now, ISIS) will become the power base of Antichrist, when he claims to be the Mahdi. Oftentimes they also propose that the physical, historical city of Babylon will be the Babylon of Revelation. Even though that town exists now as little more than a tourist attraction, they espouse Babylon and the country of Iraq will grow to become a leading commercial, political and even military power.
In stark contrast, the conventional view has held for over a century that the “revived Roman Empire” (inferred from Daniel 9:24-27), from which Antichrist draws his earthly power, will arise from Western Europe (the “merchants of Tarshish”) or its “young lions” (their colonies in the Western Hemisphere—See Ezekiel 38:13). Alongside this conclusion, the traditional view sees Russia leading the alliance of Islamic nations (Iran, aka Persia). While there are historical, geographical, and genealogical rationales supporting the conventional view, there are also important geopolitical, military, and economic reasons to substantiate the traditional view. Indeed, a scenario that sees Islam in the leading role of either Gog or Antichrist appears implausible for a wide variety of reasons. Allow me to enumerate them for you here:
- The Middle East lacks unity. Islam seems unlikely to rule the world since Islamic nations have such a poor record acting together in a coordinated manner to oppose Israel or the United States (OPEC has a most uneven record when it comes to unified action). Until the 1,300-year contest between Sunni and Shiite is settled, Islam will remain divided into two distinctive and highly disordered spheres with conflicting religious views and competing political confederations. The predicted appearance of the so-called Mahdi may make this conflict worse, rather than unifying these rival factions.
- Other global powers must be decimated for Islam to become a domineering global power. Today, Russia’s Vladimir Putin dominates northern sections of this region, with the Iranian alliance now strengthened. To suppose he would implement a “hands off” approach that enables Turkey to assume leadership of the region overturns three centuries of Russian policy going all the way back to Catherine the Great. Likewise, the United States has exerted a dominating influence on the Middle East since WWII. There are vast oil reserves there, resources that we can be certain the U.S. will not relinquish access.
- Islamic nations do not possess global military capability able to project power. There are no countries with nuclear weapons in the Middle East besides Israel, although the current U.S. administration unfortunately has opened a door for Iran to produce such weapons in the not-too-distant future. Pakistan remains the only official member of “the nuclear club” of eight nations that have formally admitted to having such capabilities. Turkey can share nuclear weapons with several other countries according to the rules worked out among the “nuclear club” inside NATO but it cannot act unilaterally. Without autonomous nuclear capability, any nation or collection of nations cannot meaningfully assert its political will around the globe.
- Islamic nations do not possess the economic means to dictate terms as does the U.S., the U.K., China, and even Russia. Wall Street remains the economic center of the world. The City of London teamed with Wall Street appears irrepressible. The International Bank of Settlements, The International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the World Bank dictate globally almost all terms of debt and trade. And the United States dominates these institutions with secondary support from the U.K., Japan, France, and Germany. Make note also that the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the United States remains double that of China, and over 50 times that of Saudi Arabia.
Still, despite what I contend are irrefutable objections as I’ve just identified, the scenario that Muslims fulfill the mission of both the Antichrist and the lesser known figure, Gog, remains one many will continue to assert. This view, which sees Islam acting in the two leading roles against the people of God (both Jews and Christians), implicitly denies that America could be the incarnation of the daughter of Babylon as well as dismissing that the Russian bear might fulfill the role of Gog.
However, my considered opinion, alongside many others who have studied prophetic topics for over four decades, is that this Islamic-centric view will prove incorrect within a few short years. Many will object, but I will continue to advance the much more conventional position that Gog is not just a Turk.
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 We know the early Huns and Mongols were a nomadic Siberian horse-riding peoples who would eventually travel west to conquer, subsequently leaving Asian tribes to populate the region known today as Mongolia. We also know that the Huns became today’s Turks (Turkic peoples), and the Scythians are today’s Russians. As noted earlier, these people groups would eventually populate present-day Eurasia, including Russia, Siberia, the numerous republics north of Israel as precisely described in Ezekiel 38 and 39.” See http://www.soundchristian.com/magog/ for an extensive and compelling treatment of the racial dispersion throughout Asia of Japeth’s descendants.
 Here we think of Hitler and his interest in Nordic folk yore, of Thor, of Thule and Hyperborea.
 Regarding this possibility, but the inference seems biblically valid and stunning to consider.
 We should recognize that Scofield Bible was published before Russia’s Marxist revolution and it became the Soviet Union. The Russian Bear had been characterized as the enemy of the West during the so-called Great Game between Britain and Russia that began circa 1807 and continued until the First World War when the two empires became allies against Germany.