Ezekiel’s visionary armies compared
Ezekiel describes two armies, one in chapter 37, and another in chapters 38-39. These may be connected, like the wheat and the tares growing together in the same field, in the parable of Jesus. One is destroyed by various judgments, and the other one is revived.
The army described in the prophecy of Joel is said to be “a great people and a strong; there hath not been ever the like, neither shall be any more after it, even to the years of many generations.” [Joel 2:2] In Joel’s prophecy, there is only one army, and verse 11 says, “And the LORD shall utter his voice before his army: for his camp is very great.” The army is identified as God’s army. After the description given in verses 1-11, the prophet calls for repentance. [Verses 12-20]
In Joel 2:17, the prophet says, “Spare thy people, O LORD, and give not thine heritage to reproach, that the heathen should rule over them.”
In Zech. 14:1-2, the holy city is taken, and half of it goes into captivity. This applies to the church today, where many of the saints are “captive” to various flawed interpretations, sects, cults, denominations, etc. Each of these prophecies needs to be considered, to aid us in understanding the current condition of the church.
In the table below, Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of bones is compared to his prophecy concerning Gog and Magog.
|Valley of bones Ezekiel 37||Gog & Magog Ezekiel 38-39|
|a great many bones [Ez. 37:2]||a great multitude [Ez. 38:4]|
|bones connect to each other [Ez. 37:7]||bones are searched for and flagged for burial [Ez. 39:12-15]|
|sinews and flesh and skin are added [Ez. 37:8]||flesh is devoured by the birds and beasts [Ez. 39:18]|
|when Ezekiel prophesies to the wind, the breath of life comes into them [Ez. 37:10]||the invaders come against the prophets of Israel [Ez. 38:17]|
|an army is created from bones [Ez. 37:10]||invading armies of Gog and Magog are reduced to bones [Ez. 39:15]|
|a great army comes to life in a valley [Ez. 37:10]||corpses of the slain are buried in a valley [Ez. 39:15]|
|God’s people are brought into their own land [Ez. 37:12]||Israel is gathered from the lands of their enemies, and settled in their own land [Ez. 39:28]|
|God’s spirit is put in them [Ez. 37:14]||God’s spirit is poured out on the house of Israel [Ez. 39:29]|
John shows that the assault is spiritual, and his interpretation implies that Ezekiel 38-39 does not mean that armies riding on horses, armed with bows and arrows, and clubs, and spears, will gather against the earthly Jerusalem either in the near future, or at the end of a thousand year millennial reign.
Rather, Ezekiel’s prophecy is about an assault on the church, that involves things of a spiritual nature, such as correctly understanding the Gospel, and correctly interpreting prophecy. These are spiritual things promised to the church. They are represented by the “promised land” in the Old Testament. Those who get the Gospel wrong, and misinterpret the prophets, may be among those who assault the camp of the saints.
Ezekiel identifies Gog & Magog as Gentiles, [Ez. 38:2, 3, 5, 6] and in Zechariah, the warfare involves all the people of the earth; [Zech. 12:3] all nations gather against Jerusalem to battle. [Zech. 14:2]
In Ezekiel, these armies are a great company, [Ez. 38:3] and similarly, in Revelation, John says they number as the sand of the sea. [Rev. 20:8]
God brings them forth; [Ez. 38:4] and God gathers the invading armies in Zechariah. [Zech. 14:2]
Ezekiel said they are armed with swords, spears, bucklers, and shields. [Ez. 38:4] No such weapons are mentioned by Zechariah. But Joel said, they are not wounded, when they fall upon the sword. [Joel 2:8] This implies the sword is not one that is meant to cut flesh; it is a spiritual sword.
They come against the mountains of Israel; [Ez. 38:8] in Joel, they leap upon the tops of mountains. [Joel 2:5] Zechariah said the mount of Olives is cleaved in the midst. [Zech. 14:4] Mountains are symbolic of the promises and blessings of God for the saints. [See this post for more.]
They come against the land brought back from the sword. [Ez. 38:8] Joel said the land is as the garden of Eden before them. [Joel 2:3] The sword is God’s word, and the “land brought back from the sword” alludes to Eden. In Zechariah they are in a siege against Judah and against Jerusalem. [Zech. 12:2] These are figures of the heavenly city, and “a better country.” [Heb. 11:16]
They come in the latter years; [Ez. 38:8, 16] in both Joel and Ezekiel, the time frame is the day of the Lord. [Joel 2:1; Zech. 14:1]
Ezekiel said they are like a cloud that covers the land. [Ez. 38:9] Joel described “a day of clouds and of thick darkness.” [Joel 2:2] Zechariah said it is a day that is “neither clear, nor dark.” [Zech. 14:6] The prophet Hosea described men who were “as the morning cloud and as the early dew that passeth away,” … “and as the smoke out of the chimney.” [Hosea 13:3] Peter said the false prophets were “clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever.” [2 Peter 2:17] The above references suggest the invading hordes of Gog and Magog may be identified with flawed teaching and beliefs so prevalent today, or “dead” churches.
They invade the land of unwalled villages. [Ez. 38:11] In Zechariah, Jerusalem is as “towns without walls.” [Zech. 2:4] Neither of these statements fit the earthly Jerusalem, where there is a 700 km long wall or fence of concrete and barbed wire.
They seek to take away a great spoil, silver and gold, and a prey. [Ez. 38:12] Similarly, Zechariah said the spoil is divided in your midst. [Zech. 14:1] Spiritual things that belong to the Church are taken away. One of these is the name “Israel,” that most news reporters apply to the Jewish state, but “pseudo-Israel” might be a better name for it. Tens of thousands of denominations and sects take away the unity of the church. Many other examples could be given.
Ezekiel said they all ride upon horses; [Ez. 38:15] in Joel, they appear like horses; [Joel 2:4, Rev. 9:17] Zechariah said every horse will be smitten with astonishment, [Zech 12:4] and horses, asses, mules and camels suffer the plague. [Zech. 14:15] In Psalm 32:9, those who have no understanding are compared to horses.
Ezekiel said they come against the prophets of Israel; [Ez. 38:17] no modern military force would come against the prophets of Israel, (i.e., Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Joel, Zechariah, etc.) but those who misinterpret the prophets may do so. Joel said, “The earth shall quake before them; the heavens shall tremble: the sun and the moon shall be dark, and the stars shall withdraw their shining.” [Joel 2:10] In the New Testament, the sun represents the Gospel. [Matt. 13:43; Rev. 12:1] The sun becoming dark pictures the Gospel being obscured by false teachings, tares sown by an enemy, including pagan ideas about the immortality of the soul, and the unending infernal torment of unbelievers introduced in the early centuries of the church. [Origen, Tertullian, Augustine are examples.]