The war of Gog and Magog and the saints’ rest
The armies of Gog and Magog in Ezekiel 38 come against “the mountains of Israel.”
“After many days thou shalt be visited: in the latter years thou shalt come into the land that is brought back from the sword, and is gathered out of many people, against the mountains of Israel, which have been always waste: but it is brought forth out of the nations, and they shall dwell safely all of them.” [Ezek. 38:8]
In Ezekiel’s prophecies, the mountains of Israel are metaphors representing God’s promises to his saints. When Jacob blessed Joseph, he said, “The blessings of thy father have prevailed above the blessings of my progenitors unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hills: they shall be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him that was separate from his brethren.” [Gen. 49:26] God’s promises are eternal, and have a lofty spiritual meaning, so they are compared to high mountains in prophecy.
God says to Gog and Magog:
“Thou shalt ascend and come like a storm, thou shalt be like a cloud to cover the land, thou, and all thy bands, and many people with thee.” [Ezek. 38:9]
Jude refers to false teachers who “crept in unawares” and calls them “clouds without water.” [Jude 12] God’s word is like unto rain, [Isa. 55:10-11] and those who preach it are “clouds.” Those who lack spiritual understanding are “clouds without water.”
“Thus saith the Lord God; It shall also come to pass, that at the same time shall things come into thy mind, and thou shalt think an evil thought: And thou shalt say, I will go up to the land of unwalled villages; I will go to them that are at rest, that dwell safely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having neither bars nor gates, To take a spoil, and to take a prey; to turn thine hand upon the desolate places that are now inhabited, and upon the people that are gathered out of the nations, which have gotten cattle and goods, that dwell in the midst of the land. [Ezek. 38:10-12]
In Zechariah 2, an angel described Jerusalem as “towns without walls.”
“And, behold, the angel that talked with me went forth, and another angel went out to meet him, And said unto him, Run, speak to this young man, saying, Jerusalem shall be inhabited as towns without walls for the multitude of men and cattle therein. For I, saith the Lord, will be unto her a wall of fire round about, and will be the glory in the midst of her.” [Zech. 2:3-5]
None of this applies to the earthly Jerusalem of today, which is defaced by the infamous 8 m high West Bank Separation Wall, with sniper towers like a prison. The modern Jewish state cannot be described as “towns without walls.” Zechariah’s prophecy applies to the Church, the heavenly Jerusalem, not the earthly city. The Church has no literal walls, but a spiritual one. Similarly the rest of the chapter applies to the Church, those who are called out of Babylon:
“Ho, ho, come forth, and flee from the land of the north, saith the Lord: for I have spread you abroad as the four winds of the heaven, saith the Lord. Deliver thyself, O Zion, that dwellest with the daughter of Babylon. For thus saith the Lord of hosts; After the glory hath he sent me unto the nations which spoiled you: for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye. For, behold, I will shake mine hand upon them, and they shall be a spoil to their servants: and ye shall know that the Lord of hosts hath sent me.” [Zech. 2:6-9]
Christ promises to dwell in the midst of his saints, who have come to the heavenly Zion, and the heavenly Jerusalem. [Heb. 12:22]
Christ says to his Church:
“Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion: for, lo, I come, and I will dwell in the midst of thee, saith the Lord. And many nations shall be joined to the Lord in that day, and shall be my people: and I will dwell in the midst of thee, and thou shalt know that the Lord of hosts hath sent me unto thee. And the Lord shall inherit Judah his portion in the holy land, and shall choose Jerusalem again. Be silent, O all flesh, before the Lord: for he is raised up out of his holy habitation. [Zech. 2:10-13]
The saints dwelling in their land is a spiritual concept, that depicts the Church possessing the truth, to which Jesus promised to guide them by his Spirit. Jesus said, “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.” [John 16:13]
Construction of the West Bank separation wall in Palestine in the past decade thwarts interpretations of Ezekiel 38 by dispensationalists who apply the prophecy to the modern Jewish state in Palestine. That land is not a “land of unwalled villages.”
Ezekiel’s prophecy applies to the “better land” of the saints, of which the literal Canaan was a type and a figure.
“But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.” [Heb. 11:16]
In Ezekiel 38, the land which is invaded by Gog and Magog is called “the land brought back from the sword;” and “the land of unwalled villages, having neither bars nor gates.” Those who dwell in it are “them that are at rest, that dwell safely.” Their “rest” is a spiritual one.
“For we which have believed do enter into rest.” [Heb. 4:3]
Rest is entered by faith in the word of God. The saints are encouraged to labour to enter it. This requires coming to the knowledge of God through study of the Scriptures.
“There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” [Heb. 4:9-12]
Those who reject the teachings of Jesus and His apostles about the identity of Israel do not enter into the true “rest.” Peter said that those of Israel who reject Jesus Christ are cut off, and “destroyed from among the people.” [Acts 3:22-23] They are no longer Israel. The true Israel is those who believe in Christ. [Rom. 9:6-8; Eph. 2:11-13]