1, 2. What great war is just ahead, and what questions arise concerning it? (See opening picture.)
FOR thousands of years, this earth has been stained with the blood of human warfare, including the bloodbath that marked the two world wars of the 20th century. But the greatest war of all human history is just ahead. This war, however, will not be merely a human conflict, with earthly nations fighting one another only for selfish reasons. Rather, this coming war will be “the war of the great day of God the Almighty.” (Rev. 16:14) Provoking this war, an arrogant enemy will invade a land precious to God; that invasion will cause the Sovereign Lord Jehovah to unleash the greatest demonstration of his destructive power ever seen on earth.
2 Some key questions naturally arise: Who is this enemy? What land will he invade? When, why, and how will he invade this land? Since these future events will involve us, Jehovah’s pure worshippers on earth, we need to know the answers. We can find them in a thrilling prophecy recorded in Ezekiel chapters 38 and 39.
The Enemy—Gog of Magog
3. Explain the gist of Ezekiel’s prophecy regarding Gog of Magog.
3 Read Ezekiel 38:1, 2, 8, 18; 39:4, 11. Here is the gist of the prophecy: “In the final part of the years,” an enemy called “Gog of . . . Magog” invades “the land” of God’s people. But that vicious attack causes Jehovah’s “great rage” to flare up, and Jehovah steps in and defeats Gog.* Victorious, Jehovah gives his defeated enemy and all those with him “as food to all kinds of birds of prey and the wild beasts.” Finally, Jehovah gives Gog “a burial place.” To understand how this prophecy will be fulfilled in the near future, we first need to identify Gog.
4. What may we conclude about Gog of Magog?
4 Who, then, is Gog of Magog? From Ezekiel’s description, we may conclude that Gog is an enemy of pure worshippers. Is Gog a prophetic name for Satan—the greatest of all enemies of true worship? For many decades, that is what our publications said. However, a further consideration of Ezekiel’s prophecy led to an adjustment in our understanding. The Watchtower explained that the title Gog of Magog refers, not to an invisible spirit creature, but to a visible human enemy—a coalition of nations that will fight against pure worship.* Before we review the basis for such a conclusion, let us first examine two clues in Ezekiel’s prophecy that indicate that Gog is not a spirit creature.
5, 6. What in Ezekiel’s prophecy suggests that Gog of Magog is not a spirit creature?
5 “I will give you as food to all kinds of birds of prey.” (Ezek. 39:4) The Scriptures often use the idea of birds of prey devouring a carcass as a warning of divine judgment. God gave such warnings to the nation of Israel as well as to non-Israelite nations. (Deut. 28:26; Jer. 7:33; Ezek. 29:3, 5) Note, though, that those divine warnings were given, not to spirit creatures, but to flesh-and-blood humans. After all, birds of prey and wild beasts eat flesh, not spirit. So this divine warning in Ezekiel’s prophecy suggests that Gog is not a spirit creature.
6 “I will give Gog a burial place . . . in Israel.” (Ezek. 39:11) The Scriptures do not speak of spirit creatures as being buried on earth. Rather, Satan and his demons will be abyssed for 1,000 years, and later they will be hurled into the symbolic lake of fire, signifying their everlasting destruction. (Luke 8:31; Rev. 20:1-3, 10) Since Gog is spoken of as being given “a burial place” on earth, we may conclude that he is not a spirit creature.
7, 8. When will “the king of the north” come to his end, and how is this similar to what will happen to Gog of Magog?
7 If not a spirit creature, then who or what is Gog, the enemy who will launch a final attack on pure worshippers? Consider two Bible prophecies that help us to identify Gog of Magog.
8 “The king of the north.” (Read Daniel 11:40-45.) Daniel foretold the march of world powers from his day down to our time. The prophecy also mentions rival political foes—“the king of the south” and “the king of the north”—each of them having changed identity over the centuries as various earthly nations have fought for supremacy. Regarding the final campaign of the king of the north in “the time of the end,” Daniel said: “He will go out in a great rage to annihilate and to devote many to destruction.” Jehovah’s worshippers are the primary target of the king of the north.* But like Gog of Magog, the king of the north comes “to his end” after failing in his attack on God’s people.
9. What similarity is there between what happens to Gog of Magog and what happens to “the kings of the entire inhabited earth”?
9 “The kings of the entire inhabited earth.” (Read Revelation 16:14, 16; 17:14; 19:19, 20.) The book of Revelation foretold an attack by “the kings of the earth” on the “King of kings,” the heavenly Jesus. But unable to reach into the heavens, the rebels attack the earthly supporters of the Kingdom. The kings of the earth then find themselves on the losing side in the battle at Armageddon. Notice that they come to their end after attacking Jehovah’s people. This is similar to what is said about Gog of Magog.*
10. What may we conclude about the identity of Gog of Magog?
10 In view of the foregoing, what may we conclude about the identity of Gog? First, Gog is not a spirit creature. Second, Gog refers to earthly nations that will attack God’s people in the near future. Those nations will undoubtedly form a coalition, that is, they will band together somehow. Why? Since God’s people are found earth wide, the nations will need to be united in purpose and action to attack them. (Matt. 24:9) Make no mistake, Satan will be the evil mastermind behind the attack. He has long influenced worldly nations to oppose true worship. (1 John 5:19; Rev. 12:17) But Ezekiel’s prophetic words about Gog of Magog focus on the role of the earthly nations that will attack Jehovah’s people.*
“The Land”—What Is It?
11. How does Ezekiel’s prophecy describe “the land” that Gog will invade?
11 As we learned in paragraph 3, Gog of Magog will provoke Jehovah’s great rage by invading a land that is precious to Jehovah. What land is this? Let us return to Ezekiel’s prophecy. (Read Ezekiel 38:8-12.) It says that Gog will “invade the land whose people have been restored” and “regathered from the nations.” Note, too, what it says about the restored worshippers who reside in this land: They “dwell in security”; their settlements are “unprotected by walls, bars, or gates”; and they “are accumulating wealth.” This is the land in which Jehovah’s pure worshippers earth wide reside. How can we identify it?
12. What restoration happened in the land of Israel in Bible times?
12 It is helpful to consider the restoration that happened in ancient Israel, the land where God’s chosen people lived, worked, and worshipped for centuries. When the Israelites proved unfaithful, Jehovah through Ezekiel foretold that their land would be devastated and left desolate. (Ezek. 33:27-29) But Jehovah also prophesied that a repentant remnant would later return from exile in Babylon and restore pure worship in the land. With Jehovah’s blessing, the land of Israel would be transformed, flourishing “like the garden of Eden.” (Ezek. 36:34-36) That restoration took place starting in 537 B.C.E. when Jewish exiles returned to Jerusalem to restore true worship in their beloved homeland.
13, 14. (a) What is the spiritual land? (b) Why is this land precious to Jehovah?
13 In modern times, God’s pure worshippers experienced a similar restoration. As we learned in Chapter 9 of this publication, by 1919, God’s people were freed from the long captivity in Babylon the Great. In that year, Jehovah brought his restored worshippers into a spiritual land. That land is the spiritual paradise—the secure, spiritually prosperous environment, or realm of activity, in which we worship the true God. In this land, we dwell together in security, with peace of mind and heart. (Prov. 1:33) We receive an abundance of spiritual food, and we have plenty of satisfying work to do in proclaiming God’s Kingdom. Indeed, we experience the truth of the proverb: “It is the blessing of Jehovah that makes one rich, and He adds no pain with it.” (Prov. 10:22) No matter where we may live on this earth, we are in this land—the spiritual paradise—as long as we are actively supporting pure worship in word and in deed.
14 This spiritual land is precious to Jehovah. Why? In his eyes, its inhabitants are “the precious things of all the nations,” individuals whom he has drawn to pure worship. (Hag. 2:7; John 6:44) They are earnestly endeavoring to put on a new personality, one that reflects God’s own lofty qualities. (Eph. 4:23, 24; 5:1, 2) As pure worshippers, they offer themselves fully in his service, doing so in ways that glorify him and prove their love for him. (Rom. 12:1, 2; 1 John 5:3) We can only imagine the joy that must fill Jehovah’s heart as he sees his worshippers working hard to beautify the spiritual land. Just think: By giving pure worship priority in your life, you not only beautify the spiritual paradise but also make Jehovah’s heart rejoice!—Prov. 27:11.
The Land—When, Why, and How Will Gog Invade It?
15, 16. When will Gog of Magog invade our restored spiritual land?
15 It is sobering to think that soon a coalition of earthly nations will invade our precious spiritual land. Since this foretold attack will involve us as Jehovah’s pure worshippers, we want to know more about it. Consider three questions that naturally arise.
16 When will Gog of Magog invade our restored spiritual land? The prophecy answers: “In the final part of the years you will invade the land.” (Ezek. 38:8) This suggests a time close to the end of this system of things. Remember that the great tribulation will begin with the destruction of Babylon the Great, the world empire of false religion. After false religious institutions have been destroyed and before Armageddon begins, Gog will launch a final, all-out attack on true worshippers.
17, 18. How will Jehovah guide matters during the great tribulation?
17 Why will Gog invade the restored land of Jehovah’s pure worshippers? Ezekiel’s prophecy reveals two factors—first, Jehovah’s guiding hand and, second, Gog’s evil motives.
18 Jehovah’s guiding hand. (Read Ezekiel 38:4, 16.) Notice what Jehovah says to Gog: “I will . . . put hooks in your jaws” and, “I will bring you against my land.” Do those words mean that Jehovah will force the nations to attack his own worshippers? Of course not! He would never cause evil to befall his people. (Job 34:12) But Jehovah knows his enemies—that they will hate pure worshippers and will not be able to resist an opportunity to try to wipe them out. (1 John 3:13) As if putting hooks in Gog’s jaws and leading him along, Jehovah will guide matters so that events will unfold according to His will and timetable. At some point following the destruction of Babylon the Great, Jehovah may in some way lure the nations into carrying out what is already in their hearts. Jehovah will thus set the stage for the attack that leads to Armageddon, earth’s greatest war. Then he will deliver his people, magnify his sovereignty, and sanctify his holy name.—Ezek. 38:23.
The nations will seek to plunder pure worship because they hate it and all who promote it
19. What will motivate Gog to try to plunder pure worship?
19 Gog’s evil motives. The nations will “devise an evil plan.” They will seek to vent their long-standing rage and hatred on Jehovah’s worshippers, who will seem vulnerable, as if “living in settlements unprotected by walls, bars, or gates.” The nations will also be eager to “take much spoil and plunder” from those “who are accumulating wealth.” (Ezek. 38:10-12) What “wealth”? Jehovah’s people have great spiritual wealth; our most precious possession is our pure worship, which we give to Jehovah alone. The nations will seek to plunder pure worship, not because they value it, but because they hate it and all who promote it.
20. How will Gog invade the spiritual land, or paradise?
20 How will Gog invade the spiritual land, or paradise? The nations may try to disrupt our way of life and stop us from carrying out our worship. To that end, perhaps they will try to interrupt the flow of spiritual food, prevent us from meeting together, break up the unity we enjoy, and stop us from zealously proclaiming God’s message. All of those are elements of the spiritual paradise. Egged on by Satan, the nations will try to efface true worshippers—and along with them pure worship—from the earth.
21. Why are you thankful that Jehovah has warned us about what is just ahead?
21 The coming attack by Gog of Magog will affect all true worshippers in the God-given spiritual land. How thankful we are that Jehovah has warned us about what is just ahead! Meanwhile, as we await the great tribulation, may we be determined to uphold pure worship, giving it priority in our lives. By so doing, we will contribute to the beauty of the restored land now. And we will put ourselves in line to witness something truly spectacular in the near future: How Jehovah will stand up for his people and his holy name at Armageddon, as the next chapter will explain.
In the next chapter of this publication, we will discuss how and when Jehovah’s great rage will flare up against Gog of Magog and what this will mean for pure worshippers.
See “Questions From Readers” in The Watchtower, May 15, 2015, pp. 29-30.
Daniel 11:45 indicates that the king of the north will target God’s people, for it says that this king “will plant his royal tents between the grand sea [Mediterranean] and the holy mountain of Decoration [where God’s temple once stood and where God’s people worshipped].”
The Bible also speaks of an attack by the modern-day “Assyrian,” who will seek to wipe out God’s people. (Mic. 5:5) The four attacks foretold to come upon God’s people—by Gog of Magog, by the king of the north, by the kings of the earth, and by the Assyrian—may refer to the same attack under different names.