Harry Whittaker
The Last Days

Chapter 13 - The Gog-Magog Rebellion

At the end of the millennial reign of Christ there will be a mighty rebellion against his authority.

Such a conclusion seems to be perfectly clear and obvious from either a casual or a careful reading of Revelation 20. And for that reason in the minds of many it has taken on something of the character of a “First Principle” of the Faith.

Nevertheless there are big difficulties about such a conception. For instance:

  1. The prophecies of lasting peace in the kingdom of Christ are quite explicit: “they shall learn war no more”.
  2. Also, there is to be lasting godliness: “At that time they shall call Jerusalem the throne of the Lord; and all the nations shall be gathered unto it, to the name of the Lord, to Jerusalem: neither shall they walk any more after the imagination of their evil heart” (Jeremiah 3:17). “Violence shall no more be heard in thy land, wasting nor destruction within thy borders” (Isaiah 60: 18). “Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end” (Isaiah 9: 7).
  3. Rebellion against immortals is so palpably silly. By comparison modern nuclear armament, which every Bible reader can see to be a lunatic policy, has calm reason on its side. For, armed with the big bombs, there is always a thin chance that you will devastate the other half of the world before it does the same to you. But for nations, who have had a thousand years’ experience of divine power and immortality, to calculate that their puny strength can win against God presupposes a mental deterioration to kindergarten level during the millenium.
  4. The practical problem insists on obtruding itself — where will these rebel nations get their weapons from? Swords will have all been turned into ploughshares.
  5. “He must reign until he hath put all enemies under his feet” (1 Corinthians 15: 25). The words imply a steady progress towards complete godliness. The idea of a great boil-up of rebellion at the end is surely most difficult to reconcile with this.
  6. A massive rebellion at the end of the thousand years would stamp the reign of Christ as a failure. To think that the end of all his efforts in teaching, guidance, personal influence and benign rule (to say nothing of the immortal aid of men like Moses and Paul) is to be “We will not have this man to reign over us”—this is just incredible to any who settle down to consider it seriously.
  7. A rebellion such as is described in Revelation 20 does not arise in five minutes. Even a triviality like the Suez episode in 1957 called for weeks of detailed organization, which could not be kept secret from the rest of the world. Nevertheless one is asked to believe that Christ and his immortals will know nothing at all of this mighty Gog-Magog uprising until it bursts upon the world. The only alternative seems to be that, knowing all that is being secretly concocted, they will pretend to ignore it, so that the rebels may be lured to their own destruction. Would any reader be happy about the morality of such a proceeding?
  8. It is sometimes postulated that if the visible authority of Christ were to be withdrawn for a time, then — human nature being what it is — rebellion would be almost certain to ensue within a short while. But does Scripture speak of any such withdrawal of the Messiah’s authority? This seems to have been invented specially to cope with a big difficulty. On the other hand Isaiah is explicit that “thy sun shall no more go down; neither shall thy moon withdraw itself: for the Lord shall be thine everlasting light” (60:20).
  9. The coincidence of the names Gog and Magog in Revelation 20 with that of the leader of the great confederacy of Ezekiel 38 does not seem to have been given its proper weight. With any other Bible problem such a coincidence would shout for the two to be equated with each other. Then may it not be said that any interpretation which does line up these two prophecies as having the same fulfilment has a much stronger claim to acceptance than one which severs all connection between them and instead inserts a gap of a thousand years? Or is “Interpret Scripture by Scripture” to stand as a sound principle everywhere except in Revelation 20?
  10. Has the difficulty ever been properly faced that this amazing rising against all that is good and beneficent is spoken of in Scripture in one place only? Are Christadelphians to copy Mormons, “Jehovah’s Witnesses” and such, in their disreputable habit of confidently basing major beliefs on one passage of Scripture? Have we, the people of the Book, not yet learned the elementary lesson of mistrust in our own powers of Bible interpretation? We believe what we believe about our “First Principles” not because of one text of Scripture but because of the massive over-all testimony of many passages. Shall we then go back on this thoroughly sound attitude here, and this concerning verses in the Book of Revelation, of all places, the book about the interpretation of which there is less room for dogmatism than any other in the Bible?
To sum up so far, the position regarding the Gog-Magog rebellion of Revelation 20 is this:

On the one hand, the text is explicit that “when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, and shall go out to deceive the nations . . . Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle . . . and they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city (Jerusalem)”. Apparently nothing could be plainer.

Nevertheless, on the other hand there are copious Scriptures (already quoted) and various associated problems and difficulties, which seem to rule out the possibility of such a rebellion.

Can it be then, that Scripture contradicts itself? God forbid!

The only alternative, therefore, is that a re-scrutiny of the evidence will reveal reconciliation between the two. A harmonization must be possible. No Bible student worth his salt should be content to affirm adherence to either view without being prepared to give fair consideration to the other. Such a synthesis, the present writer believes, is possible by a re-interpretation of certain details in Revelation 20.

Familiarity with the phrases of the beloved King James Version often has the effect of hiding from students of Scripture the fact that quite a number of words in the original text have perfectly valid alternatives. “Exhortation” is also “consolation”; “hell” is “the grave”; “spirit” is “breath”, “tribe” in the Old Testament is also “rod”; “boy” is also “servant” (like the French “garcon”). The list is a long one.

In this Gog-Magog passage no less than three of these ambiguities occur. “Earth” may also be “the Land (of Israel)”; this double meaning is common in both Old and New Testaments. And “saints” may be “angels” or “Israel the holy people”. Also—and most important of all—the word “expired” or “finished” in the phrase “when the thousand years are expired” may also carry the sense of “accomplished, achieved”, thus giving this key phrase the meaning: “when Christ’s millenial kingdom has become fully established”.

This last point is so important that it is not to be accepted without substantial evidence. Here, then, are examples of the use of the same Greek word elsewhere in the New Testament or in the Septuagint Version of the Old Testament:

  1. Revelation 15: 1: “in the seven last plagues is filled up (i.e. accomplished) the wrath of God”. But the wrath of God is not finished when the seven vials are ended. The rest of Revelation goes on to tell of other manifestations of wrath.
  2. Galatians 5:16: “Walk ye in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh”. To read “finish” here is to make nonsense of the passage.
  3. James 2:8: “If ye fulfil the royal law . . . Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye shall do well”. Again, the substitution of “finish” makes the meaning ludicrous.
  4. Romans 2:27: “And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil (finish?) the law, judge thee who . . . dost transgress the law?”
  5. Ruth 3:18: “the man (Boaz) will not be in rest until he have finished (i.e. accomplished, achieved) the thing this day”.
  6. Isaiah 55: 11: “My word . . . shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish (but not “finish”) that which I please”.
  7. Daniel 4:30: “Is not this great Babylon that I have built”—here “achieved, fully established” are both appropriate; “finished” also is suitable in the sense of “finished building”, but certainly not in the sense of “ended”.
Coming back to Revelation 20, a possible meaning is now seen to be this: The power of Sin is restrained during the period (seven years? forty years?) of the establishment of the Kingdom. Then comes the great Gog-Magog rebellion. Here Revelation 20 is strictly parallel with Psalm 2: “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us (compare the “great chain” of Revelation 20:1) . . . Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion (the beloved city—Revelation 20:9)”.

Ezekiel 38 also can now be read as the precise equivalent of Revelation 20. In an earlier chapter Biblical reasons were advanced for applying the Gog-Magog invasion to a time after the enthronement of the Messiah. The details of Revelation 20:9 correspond exactly with those in Ezekiel: “And they went up on the breadth of the Land (Ezekiel 38:9) and compassed the camp of the saints about (‘my people of Israel dwelling safely’), and the beloved city; and fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them” (precisely as in Ezekiel 38:22).

This easy harmonization with other prophetic Scriptures provides additional confirmation of the validity of the interpretation proposed. Also, the picture now presented is entirely according to what might be expected. When a war-shattered world has licked its wounds and begins to realize that the Land of Israel is the headquarters of a new Power which now proclaims the hated Jews as the head of the nations and not the tail, there will be no great lapse of time before the authority of this King of the Jews is challenged. Ezekiel 38 and Revelation 20 tell of the fate of this last attempt, early in Christ’s reign, to proclaim “Glory to Man in the highest”.

If the reconstruction attempted here and in earlier chapters proves to be well-founded the general sequence of events may well be as follows:

  1. Jew-Arab war.
  2. 31 year’s down-treading, Elijah’s mission, The repentance of Israel.
  3. The Sign of the Son of Man in heaven, unnatural darkness over all the earth.
  4. The visible Coming of the Lord (no secret coming!!).
  5. Jesus King in Jerusalem.
  6. The Resurrection and call of the saints.
  7. The Judgement.
  8. The saints made immortal in Jerusalem.
  9. Nuclear war.
  10. The world-wide Kingdom proclaimed and established.
  11. The Gog-Magog rebellion.
  12. The Millenium.
All in this series of studies is offered without dogmatism. Mistakes have doubtless been made. Important factors may have been overlooked. However —if a more thorough search of the prophetic Scriptures concerning Christ and his imminent Kingdom is provoked, the labour of writing has not been in vain. One thing is certain—there yet remains much to be elucidated concerning these things. The half has not been told us!

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