Cleansing the land
The prophecy of Ezekiel 39:11-16 describes the burial of the slain corpses of the armies of Gog and Magog. The following particulars are given:
- Burial location: east of the sea, in the valley of Hamongog
- Identity of those who are burying: the whole house of Israel
- Duration of the work: seven months
- Results: God is glorified, and the land is cleansed
In this prophecy, as explained in a post on The knowledge of God, a better promised land, the land to be cleansed is not the earthly Canaan, but the better country of the saints, their spiritual inheritance, which is the land invaded by the armies of Gog and Magog. As an example, if the land represents the truth of the gospel, the invaders would include those who introduce pagan traditions, such as those associated with Christmas, or beliefs that are darker and more sinister, which tend to obscure the gospel, such as the doctrine of infernal torment of unbelievers.
Frederic Gardiner viewed the prophecy of Ezekiel 38-39 as a parable, depicting the struggle of the world with the kingdom of God. In a post on Burying Gog and Magog, and how the serpent’s flood is swallowed up, I discussed the possible connection between burying the slain armies of Gog and Magog, and the land swallowing up the flood from the mouth of the serpent in Revelation 12:15.
In Ezekiel 38-39, the manner in which the invading armies are slain is not explicit, suggesting that these are armies promoting interpretations and doctrines that are not really living. Although Ezekiel 38:21 says, “And I will call for a sword against him throughout all my mountains, saith the Lord God: every man’s sword shall be against his brother,” the next verse says: “And I will plead against him with pestilence and with blood; and I will rain upon him, and upon his bands, and upon the many people that are with him, an overflowing rain, and great hailstones, fire, and brimstone.” If the sword in Ezekiel 38:21 had killed the people involved, there would be no point in God’s pleading with them afterwards. I suggest these armies represent an invasion of the church by those who bring in flawed opinions and interpretations of Scriptures, which are dead in a spiritual sense. Dead interpretations have replaced living ones; as Jesus said to the Pharisees, “ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition.” [Matthew 15:6]
It may be noted that there are continuing heated controversies between various interpretative schools, and sectarian views, which could be represented by the spectacle of the invaders fighting each other.
The two witnesses are described in Revelation 11:7-8 as being overcome, and killed by the beast who ascends from the bottomless pit, and their dead bodies lie unburied in the street. Here the Spirit of God is represented as being slain, due to apostasy. The death of belief in God’s word, and unbelief, are evidently represented by a corpse, which is an apt symbol of a Bible that is not believed. The corpses reviving represents the revival of faith and belief in the church, and a renewed understanding.
In Revelation 20:8-9, deceived people who come against the church, the “camp of the saints” and the “beloved city,” are identified with Gog and Magog. Paul said, 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.” [Ephesians 6:12]
In 2nd Corinthians Paul described spiritual warfare of the saints, who are involved in bringing into captivity thoughts that oppose the knowledge of God.
2 Corinthians 10:3-5
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.
Theological arguments, traditions of men, theories, flawed interpretations, etc., are among the things that must be brought into captivity. Paul said of the false teachers in the church, “their mouths must be stopped.”
For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision: Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake.
Ezekiel wrote that the armies of Gog and Magog “think an evil thought;” they aspire to “go up to the land of unwalled villages,” to “take a spoil, and to take a prey,” and “to carry away silver and gold,” and “take a great spoil.” [Ezekiel 38:10-13]
They are like a cloud that covers the land, he said. [Ezekiel 38:9] Similarly, Peter associated the false teachers in the church with clouds. And he said they seek a reward. He said that they “have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; But was rebuked for his iniquity: the dumb ass speaking with man’s voice forbad the madness of the prophet. These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever.” [2 Peter 2:17]
Ezekiel said the armies of Gog and Magog come against “the land that is brought back from the sword,” and against “the mountains of Israel,” and against the prophets of Israel.
The sword is the sword of the Spirit, and the land is the knowledge of God revealed in the word of God, and the mountains of Israel represent the promises of God, as in Genesis 49:26, Jacob compared his blessings with “the everlasting hills,” because they were high and spiritual in nature, and also eternal.
The horses they ride may represent people who lack understanding. [Psalm 32:9] The armies of Christ follow him on white horses, clothed in fine linen. [Revelation 19:14]
The land that is to be be cleansed is the heavenly country. As the land of Canaan was inhabited by seven nations of the Canaanites, and was subject to invasion by neighboring nations, the spiritual inheritance of the saints is invaded by the hordes of Gog and Magog, representing the human view of scripture, the views of those whose minds are unenlightened, represented by the little horn of Daniel 7, which has eyes like the eyes of a man, or the human viewpoint which contrasts with the divine one. Literal views, and many of the doctrines of higher criticism are no doubt included.
In the warfare of Revelation 12, the conflict is between angels. Angels of Satan war against the angels of Michael, which are the holy angels, which represent spiritual concepts and beliefs. There is “no place” found for Satan and his angels, and they are cast out into the earth.
If the corpses of the slain armies in Ezekiel’s prophecy represent dead works and false opinions, that exalt themselves against the knowledge of God, then perhaps their burial means bringing those flawed opinions into captivity, so they have no more influence upon the saints. The seven months in which they are buried is seven times, which possibly alludes to the seven times of the 70th week, when Christ confirms his covenant. The prophecy depicts the saints identifying and exposing false views and making them subject to God and his word; they understand and overcome them, and the truth swallows them up.