22 Nov Gog as Antichrist: A Historical Survey
The primary purpose of this article is to catalogue a partial list of historians, Bible scholars, commentators, and teachers, both Jewish and Christian, whose interpretations of “Gog of Magog” of Ezekiel 38-39 support the view that Gog is one and the same with the Antichrist / Beast of the New Testament. We will also identify the scholars who identify Gog and his hordes as coming from the region of modern day Turkey or the Turkish border in Syria, as opposed to modern day Russia. In this survey, it will become apparent that the widely popular modern view of Gog as an eschatological character distinct from the Antichrist, who comes from Russia, is largely a modern novelty, representing a significant minority position within Church history.
Pliny the Elder was a first-century Roman military commander, author, naturalist, and philosopher. He spoke of a city called, “Bambyce, otherwise called Hierapolis; but of the Syrians, Magog [or Mabog].” Ancient Heirapolis sat on the border of modern-day Turkey and Syria. Thus, according to Pliny, Magog, the home of Gog, was on the modern day of Turkey and Syria.
Hippolytus of Rome, (170—235), an early Christian theologian, in his Chronicon, written in the early third century, rejected the now well-known claim by Josephus, who identified Magog with the Scythians north of the Black Sea. Instead, Hippolytus connected Magog with the Galatians in Asia Minor or modern-day Turkey.
Moses Ben Maimonides, (aka., Rambam) (1135—1204), the revered Jewish sage, in Hichot Terumot, also identified Magog as being on the border of Syria and modern day Turkey.
Rabbi David Kimchi, (aka., Radak) (1160–1235), another famous medieval Jewish rabbi, commenting on Zechariah 14, says this portion of Scripture—which virtually all Christians affirm refers to the Antichrist—is a reference to the war of Gog of Magog.
Nicholas of Lyra (1270—1349), a Franciscan scholar of Hebrew, and renowned Biblical exegete from the University of Paris. Lyra’s works were greatly influential among the reformers. Lyra believed that Gog was another title of the Antichrist. Lyra argued that Gog means “covered” which is a reference to the Antichrist as Satan covering himself with the shape of a man. According to 17th century exegete John Mayer, Lyra’s view of Gog as the Antichrist “is most generally received”. Lyra also affirmed that the religion of the “Turks”, a term used to refer to Muslims in general, was the religion of the Antichrist.
Martin Luther (1483—1546), the German monk, priest and iconic reformer, understood Gog to be a reference to the Turks, whom God had sent as a scourge to chastise Christians.
Franciscus Junius (1545—1602), a French Huguenot scholar and theologian. Junius saw Gog as a people from Asia Minor, or modern day Turkey, who would persecute the Jews in the latter days.
Sir Walter Raleigh (1554—1618), in his History of the World, also placed Magog in Asia Minor or modern day Turkey:
“Yet it is not to be denied, that the Scythians in old times coming out of the north-east, wasted the better part of Asia the Less, and possessed Coelesyria, where they built both Scythopolis and Hierapolis, which the Syrians call Magog. And that to this Magog Ezekiel had reference, it is very plain; for this city Hierapolis, or Magog, standeth due north from Judea, according to the words of Ezekiel, that from the north quarters those nations should come.”
John Mayer (1583—1638), an Anglican priest and biblical exegete, agrees with Nicholas of Lyra, understanding Gog to be a reference to the Antichrist.
John Wesley (1703—1755), in his Explanatory Notes on Ezekiel 38 and 39, identified the hoards of Gog and Magog with “the Antichristian forces” who would come from the region of modern day Turkey.
Jonathan Edwards (1703—1758), one of American history’s most renowned intellectuals, philosophers and theologians who was highly instrumental in forming the First Great Awakening. Edwards also viewed modern day Turkey as the nation from which the coming Gog Magog invasion would come forth from:
“We do read in Pliny that the city in Syria (the region of ancient Syria included much of modern day Turkey) was called Hierapolis, was by the Syrians called Magog”
C.F. Keil (1807—1888), the renowned German hebraist and commentator, also identified Gog of Magog as the ultimate and final enemy of God’s people before the return of Christ. In his classic Commentary on the Old Testament, Keil states:
“…in the destruction of Gog and his gathering of peoples, the last attack of the heathen world-power upon the kingdom of God will be judged and overthrown, so that from that time forth the people of God wil no more have to fear a foe who can disturb its peace and its blessedness in the everlasting possession of the inheritance given to it by the Lord. Gog is… depicted as the last foe…”
John Nelson Darby (1800—1882), The British-Irish evangelist and a father of modern Dispensationalism and Futurism, in his Synopsis of the Books of the Bible, views Gog as the final antichristian forces that God will bring against Israel:
“Gog is the end of all the dealings of God with respect to Israel, and that God brings up this haughty power in order to manifest on earth, by a final judgment, His dealings with Israel and with the Gentiles, and to plant His blessing, His sanctuary, and His glory in the midst of Israel.”
C.I. Scofield (1843—1921) an American theologian, minister and author of the Scofield Reference Bible, viewed the oracle of Gog of Magog in Ezekiel 38, 39 as speaking of the Battle of Armageddon, led by Russia and including European, north African and Middle Eastern nations. Scofield, spoke of Ezekiel’s oracle thusly:
“[T]hat destruction should fall at the climax of the last mad attempt to exterminate the remnant of Israel in Jerusalem. The whole prophecy belongs to the yet future ‘day of Jehovah’; Isaiah 2:10-22; Revelation 19:11-21 and to the Battle of Armageddon (Revelation 16:14)”
Arthur W. Pink (1886—1952), the English author and biblical expositor, referred to Gog as one of the titles of Antichrist.
G.H. Lang (1874—1958), one of the foremost latter plymouth brethren / dispensational biblical scholars of his day, spent much time arguing that Gog and the Antichrist were one and the same. Of Gog, Lang stated that he was: “…the last head of the fourth kingdom of the image of Dan. 2, the little horn of the fourth beast of Dan. 7…”
F.F. Bruce (1910—1990), the celebrated biblical scholar, who greatly contributed to the modern evangelical understanding of the Bible, in the forward to G.H Lang’s above mentioned commentary on Daniel, wholeheartedly endorsed Lang’s Middle Eastern interpretation and emphasis. Writing only two years after Israel become a new nation, Bruce commended Lang’s work thusly:
“It would at any time be my pleasure to commend this work… [Lang’s] exposition of the prophetic chapters is largely new, forming as original and independent contribution to their study… Mr. Lang’s emphasis on the eastern Mediterranean in prophetic geography loses none of its force in view of the increasing importance of that region today.”
Walther Theodor Zimmerli (1907—1983), the German expositor, in the Hermeneia Commentary series on Ezekiel, identifies the Gog of Magog oracle with the final and ultimate judgment against the enemies of God’s people.
Finis Jennings Dake (1902–1987), an American Pentecostal minister and evangelist known primarily for his writings on Premillennial Dispensationalism, in several of his writings, including the Dake Annotated Reference Bible, refers to Gog as the Antichrist.
Charles Lee Feinberg (1909—1995), a prominent Dispensationalist, Messianic Jewish expositor in his commentary on Ezekiel, The Glory of the Lord, states that: “The armies of chapter 38-39 would appear to be included in the universal confederacies seen in Zechariah 12 and 14.” Feinberg goes on to state that the oracle of Gog of Magog is the same as that which was predicted in Psalm 2:1-3; Isaiah 29:1-8; Joel 2:2:20; 3:9-21; Zechariah 12:1 ff.; 14:2-3)
Robert D. Van Kampen (1938–1999), the author of The Sign and The Rapture Question Answered, repeatedly refers to Gog as “Ezekiel’s name for the Antichrist”.
James Montgomery Boise (1938—2000), Reformed theologian, Bible teacher, pastor, in his commentary on Daniel affirmed the prophecy of Ezekiel 38 & 39 as a parallel prophecy to Armageddon as described in Revelation 16 & 19.
Charles Ryrie, the well known Dispensationalist scholar, in his Ryrie Study Bible views Gog and his hordes as one and the same with the Antichrist and his armies:
“The consummation of the battle involves birds and beasts eating the flesh of warriors , a scene similar to the description of Armageddon at the end of the Tribulation (39:17-20; Rev. 19:17-18). Also, at the conclusion of the conflict the nations will understand the judging hand of God, and Israel will know that the LORD (YAHWEH) is their God (Ezek. 39:21-22). Perhaps the first thrust will begin just before the middle of the Tribulation, with successive waves of the invasion continuing throughout the last part of that period and building up to Armageddon.”
Dave Hunt, apologist, author, radio commentator, identifies the Gog of Magog Battle with other antichristic prophecies and views it as a reference to the ultimate battle of Armageddon:
“Ezekiel 38 and 39 refer to Armageddon and not to some earlier World War III… There is no doubt, from both Zechariah 12 and Revelation 1 and 19, that this personal coming of Yahweh to rescue His people and to destroy Antichrist and his armies takes place at Armageddon. It is significant, then, that similar language concerning the personal presence of God is found in Ezekiel 38 and 39, thus identifying the event described there as Armageddon also” (pp. 414-415, Dave Hunt, “Cup of Trembling”).
Sverre Bøe, the Norwegian theologian and author of the exhaustive and authoritative monograph, Gog and Magog, recounts numerous connections between Ezekiel 38-39 and Revelation 19, commonly referred to as “the Battle of Armageddon”.
Ralph H. Alexander, a biblical scholar from Western Conservative Baptist Seminary, and the contributing commentator on Ezekiel in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary identifies the invaders of Ezekiel 38-39 with the prophecy of Revelation 19 (Battle of Armageddon) and other antichristic prophecies.
Lamar Eugene Cooper, Sr., the Senior Professor of Old Testament and Archeology and Graduate Dean Emeritus at Criswell College and the author of the New American Commentary on Ezekiel, identifies Gog and his hordes with the Antichrist and his hordes and also places them in Asia Minor.
Daniel I. Block, Old Testament scholar and perhaps the world’s leading expert on the Book of Ezekiel, in the New International Commentary on Ezekiel, says,
“It seems best to interpret Magog as a contraction of an original māt Gūgi, ‘land of Gog,’ and to see here a reference to the territory of Lydia in western Anatolia [Turkey].”
The Zondervan Illustrated Bible Dictionary states, “Magog, possibly meaning ‘the land of Gog,’ was no doubt in Asia Minor [Turkey] and may refer to Lydia.”
The IVP Bible Background Commentary lists Magog, Meshech, Tubal, and Togarmah as “sections or peoples in Asia Minor” [Turkey].
The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary, under the entry for “Magog,” states, “It is clear that Lydia [Turkey] is meant, and that by ‘Magog,’ we must understand, ‘the land of Gog.’”
The Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary places Magog in Anatolia, or modern-day Turkey.
The Catholic Encyclopedia states,
“It seems more probable that . . . Magog should be identified with Lydia [Turkey]. On the other hand, as Mosoch and Thubal were nations belonging to Asia Minor, it would seem from the text of Ezechiel that Magog must be in that part of the world. Finally, others with Josephus identify Magog with Scythia, but in antiquity this name was used to designate vaguely any northern population.”
The Holman Bible Atlas places Magog in Turkey.
The New Moody Atlas of the Bible places Magog in Turkey.
The Zondervan Atlas of the Bible places Magog in Turkey.
The IVP Atlas of Bible History places Magog in Turkey.
The Modern View:
The most popular view today among many students of prophecy is that Gog is a Russian leader whose invasion of Israel is other than the invasion of the Antichrist. But having now surveyed a broad range of sources spanning Church history, it is clear that the popular modern view, when weighed against this larger historical backdrop, is largely a novelty, and certainly a minority view.