Who or what are Gog and Magog?

Gog and Magog are two names in the Bible that refer either to a person, Magog the grandson of Noah (Genesis 10), or Magog, the person that comes from the nation of Gog (Ezekiel 38—39), or to two hostile nations referred to as Gog and Magog (Revelation 20:7-8). It seems that these names were originally the names of concrete people and places, but came to represent Gentile nations that are hostile to the nation of Israel.

The name Magog was first and foremost the name of one of Noah's grandsons. Magog was a son of Japheth, whose descendants migrated north of Israel, probably settling in Europe and Northern Asia. Because of this, some have postulated that Gog and Magog refer to Russia (Gog) and a ruler of Russia (Magog) who will come against Israel in the end times. This is speculation, based both on the ancestry of the Russian people, and the fact that they are the only powerful nation directly to the north of Israel (Ezekiel 38:15). This view is supported by biblical scholars and was popularized during the Cold War, but in the end it is still speculation based on inferences drawn from Scripture.

The battle of Gog and Magog that is described in Ezekiel comes during a time of peace for Israel. This is thought to be during the time when Israel has made a pact with the Antichrist, during the first 3 ½ years of the tribulation (Ezekiel 38:8-9, 14-15; Daniel 9:27a). Ezekiel prophesied that a mighty nation from the North would come against Israel and that God would utterly defeat them, to show His power and to show Israel's enemies that He was their God and would protect them (Ezekiel 39:1-7).

The Gog and Magog referred to in Revelation, however, is not one nation but represents hostile nations from all over the world that Satan stirs up to rebel against God after the 1,000 years of peace during the millennial kingdom. They will come against and surround the city of God, but their defeat will be swift and Satan consequently will be thrown into the lake of fire and defeated. This will occur just before the Great White Throne judgment, also spoken of in Revelation (Revelation 20:7-11).

Many prophecies in the Bible are fulfilled once during human history and then again during the millennial kingdom. It is possible that the Revelation account refers to the antagonist in this millennial battle as "Gog and Magog" because of the similarities between the two battles. In the Ezekiel account, Gog and Magog have evil thoughts against Israel (Ezekiel 38:10-11), they surround Israel with great power and enlist the help of allies from other nations (38:9), and they are eventually destroyed by God Himself (39:5). The same three details are apparent in the battle described in the Revelation account. Gog and Magog are deceived by Satan and follow him into battle (Revelation 20:7-8), they are a great number that includes many nations (20:8), and are eventually destroyed by God Himself (20:9).

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